There's No Place Like Home for Sex Education: 10th Grade
Talkin to Teens
"I've never really talked much with my daughter about sex. But look she's in 10th grade … it's a little late now, don't you think? She'll learn what she needs to in health class."
Parents, it's never too late to talk with your child about sex. True, the ideal is to begin when they're small. Still, your input is valuable at all stages of your child's development. And while health class is an important source of factual information about sex, you are the source of family values.
Teens need to know more than just sexual facts. They want answers about the intangibles of sex. They're curious about the emotions, about values and morals; they want support with dating pressures and expectations; they're confused about sexual feelings and urges; they wonder about love.
Much of what they'd really like to know is highly personal … not health class material. Surveys show that teens wish they could ask mom and dad.
So what keeps teens from approaching parents with their concern? A major obstacle is fear of being judged:
- "If I asked my dad about sex, he'd think I was doing it!"
- "I'm still trying to figure out my own feelings about sex.. like when is the right time, who's the right person, and all that. My folks have pretty set ideas: you have sex if you're married. Period. I'm not sure if I agree with that, but I wouldn't try to talk to them about it. They'd just get mad."
- "I think my parents would really be hurt if I didn't agree with their views about sex. So I don't talk about it."
Other teens avoid the subject because they think parents won't take them seriously:
- "My folks still think I'm a little kid, and that little kids don't need to know this stuff."
- "If I even hint that I think some guy at school is cute, mom teases me. No way could I have a serious discussion with her about sex."
Might some of these concerns be getting in the way for your teen? Imagine sitting down with your 10th grader and saying something like this:
"I really do care how you feel about things, and I understand we won't always agree. That's ok. Just because we have different views doesn't mean our relationship is going to fall apart. I love you. I hope you can come to me with your questions, concerns, ideas—no matter what the subject: sex, drugs, relationships, school. I'll do my best to listen, to understand, and help if I can. I don't often talk to you about these sorts of things because I wouldn't want you to think I'm grilling you. But I am interested, and I'm here if you need me."Opening doors. No matter what your child's age, it's never too late to open doors. There may be disagreements on important issues. Can you accept that … and still keep the doors open? Seen through adult eyes of experience, your teenager's concerns may seem trivial. Can you accept that, and still treat those concerns seriously? While your input is wanted and needed, ultimately your teenager has to take charge, be allowed to grow, and trusted to make personal decisions. Can you accept that, knowing that in the process s/he may choose differently from you, or that s/he will make mistakes?
It takes effort to open doors and keep them open—extra effort if parents and kids have not talked much about these personal issues in the past. But do try now. Parents have so much to offer … and children are so eager to know.
Reprinted with the permission of Advocates for Youth.
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