Children want to learn what’s "right." Parents teach within their families the moral principles on which our multi-cultural society is based. In general, these are principles that protect the common good and help us live together.
But in today’s society, our children are exposed to so much information and so many experiences that we are justified in our concern for their development. Along with unprecedented threats and opportunities comes less time for experimentation to pass on important values. How can parents do it. . . and do it well?
The key is in teaching our children how to make choices that are right for them as individuals, with high regard for how the consequences affect others. Their skill is acquired mostly from our own approach to life—our examples, our justice, our respect for them and for others. Their success is also dependent on the sense of self-worth we give them, to serve as protection in a tough world.
Teenagers today know so much more about sex than any other generation. Now they are sexually active with more partners at a younger age. Yet many parents are still uncomfortable about talking to their children about sex.
Naturally, it’s more uncomfortable to deal with a teen pregnancy, or with a sexually transmitted disease. It’s very important for children to learn to rely on parents for sexual information. Parents begin by understanding their own ideas about sexuality, and decide what they want to teach their children.
When should you start talking about sex?
Let’s talk about boys. Start when he is young. Talk about body parts and call them by their correct names. Use the word "sex" over the years, in a matter-of-fact manner, so he gets used to talking about it.
We know that boys and girls develop at different rates. What are some special concerns that parents should keep in mind when talking about sex with their son?
A boy’s sexual identity usually begins between 11 & 13 years old. Boys tend to want to appear "sexual" or "experienced" in order to fit in with their peer group. Boys also tend to be more goal oriented and aggressive—they don’t worry as much about the consequences of sex as girls do. Their view of what it is to be a "man" is greatly influenced by society.
Well, how important are role models for boys?
Doesn’t have to be the Dad. In many intact families it is the mother who takes the responsibility of communicating with the son. Appropriate role models are very necessary to offset the negative images of male sexuality which are so prevalent. Children are exposed to more "unhealthy" sexual attitudes than ever before—from television, movies, music and of course, the internet.
So what can parents do to "safeguard" their son?
Start relaying your family’s values while they’re young. Be open to discussing sex and love. Monitor their television viewing and their time on the internet—"cybersitter" software is available to block pornography, but remember there are ways of getting around them. Don’t be afraid to set limits. Recent polls have shown that many children want their parents to set boundaries for them—it shows that the parent does care.
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Reprinted with the permission of the Heartland Family Service. © 2008 Heartland Family Service