Abstinence was expected from teens for generations. Then the cultural revolution of the sixties tried to convince young people—especially women—that sex should be shared without emotional attachment. Over the last few decades sex education has become the norm in public schools, even over the objections of parents that it might be too much information too soon. Today, movies and TV shows make it sound like life is not complete unless you have regular sexual encounters, and your woes will be more tolerable with random sex. Most sitcoms have at least an underlying reference to sex in every episode.
The reality is considerably more complicated. Casual sex, even if you practice safe sex, is far more complicated than the media portrays. The emotional connection between men and women when they engage in sex creates a bond that does devastating damage when it is treated in a casual fashion like a paper cup thrown in the trash when the milk shake has been consumed.
Talk to your teens
While educators explain sexuality to your children and encourage them that it is a normal part of their human persona, you have a responsibility to be honest with them about the emotional levels of these kinds of sexual encounters. Knowing the facts about STD and pregnancy prevention in no way prepares them for the heartbreak and low self-esteem that comes from engaging in casual sex. Each individual longs to find that one person they can spend their life with. Teenagers are anxious to experience mature love. Crushes do not a lifetime partner make. Taking a relationship to the intimate level without any permanent commitment is like having lifesaving surgery but the incision is never sutured. The wound is open to the elements and heals improperly.
As old-fashion as it may sound to our modern sensibilities, sex was designed for procreation. All of creation procreates. Humans having the unique ability to enjoy intercourse without procreation taking place. That said intimacy is most fulfilling in a monogamous long term relationship. Teens are emotionally unprepared for the many facets of this kind of relationship. Experimenting with sex puts an inordinate amount of pressure on young people to perform.
Maturity changes our views
Have you noticed the young men who brag about sexual conquests tends to be the overprotective fathers once they have daughters. Their perspective is to protect their daughters from the kind of creep they were in their youth. Why is that? These boys have matured into men. A committed relationship has shown them there is more to relationships than sex. Finding that special someone created a connectivity that makes sex special. And the fathering instinct to protect their young make dad’s radar to creeps extra sensitive.
Parents want to protect their children from the mistakes and heartaches they experienced. But it can be hard to talk about the road you went down sexually. All of us don’t like the thought of picturing our parents having sex. Adding the vague possibility that they might have had a relationship with others boggles the mind. Yet, that conversation may be the one thing that will keep your son or daughter from a lifetime of regret.
Abstinence needs to be clearly defined
Abstinence is the only real solution for keeping young people safe from STD and unplanned pregnancies. Abstinence helps them avoid the emotional damage as well. This damage can skew their view on relationships in the future and create anxiety over surrendering their virginity. True abstinence goes beyond avoiding intercourse. There is still emotional damage as well as chances of contracting STDs if they engage in oral and anal sex. They may not technically lose their virginity but these kinds of sexual experimentation leaves the same emotional damage in its wake. So, as uncomfortable as it may be talk to your kids about it, make the effort.
One important factor to help your child succeed in abstinence is to keep them engaged in other activities. Focusing all that hormonal energy into art, sports, academics or community outreach projects can build positive affirmation that gives their self-esteem a boost.
Once the sexual experiment box is open, it is hard to repack—like the returned item that doesn’t fit back in the box exactly the same. Premature sex can ruin the joy of sharing intimacy with that one special someone. Comparisons and competition to perform better than a previous lover is something no one wants to deal with especially a teen.
Remove the shame
Encourage your teens that there is no shame in saving that experience. Explain that humiliation from peer pressure for being a virgin is small thing compared to the humiliation of being too promiscuous. As progressive as this modern world tries to be in regards to sex, the reality boils down to feelings of worth. The more sexual partners, the less self-esteem. Love is no longer a part of the formula. Instead it is replaced by friends with benefits, nailing, banging and other crude references. The warm fuzzies of romance have been replaced with dates ending in out-of-control passion. At least that is what teens see in the movies.
On a recent episode of Bunheads (the title referring to the ballet school and students) sexual encounters was the subject. The character Sasha did extensive research to prepare herself for sex with her boyfriend while insisting her friend Boo do the same, as she had a boyfriend. Sasha became confused: Boo refused to go along with Sasha’s plan. But the surprising twist in the plot was Ginny’s confession. She had given up her virginity to a boy she barely knew because in her words—he was so beautiful. This left her feeling used and full of shame.
If you still find the idea of discussing this subject with your child uncomfortable here are some suggestions.
- Use the plots from TV and movies as segues into a discussion—the aforementioned episode of Bunheads for example.
- Find books on the subject.
- Get your teen involved in a youth group that focuses on abstinence
- Find another family member or close friend your child would be comfortable talking to who you feel would be a good fit for this type of discussion.
- Check out crisis pregnancy centers to see if they have staff members who would have a conversation with your young person.
- click here and here for conversation helps.
Even if your efforts are awkward and words faltering, don’t worry. Teens appreciate your willingness to keep the lines of communication open on such a sensitive topic. Your best efforts and all the education and facts given to your child may still not keep them from making a wrong choice. Be there to help rebuild their self-esteem. Your support can make all the difference in helping them make better decisions in the future.
Have you discussed the emotional ramifications of sex with your teens? Leave a comment below.
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