February is the month of love, but in today’s world, many so easily confuse love and sex — including our kids. I’m about to get very honest about why it’s so important for you to talk to your child about sex and what you need to tell him.
I’ve been a physician for over 30 years. I’ve seen what happens to kids who have sex too early in life. Depression, sexually transmitted infections, anxiety, and other emotional, physical, and psychological problems are all a product of teen sex.
I’ve done a lot of research in this area (I wrote a book on the subject), and I can tell you, the numbers are terrifying:
- In the 1960s, there were two sexually transmitted diseases: syphilis and gonorrhea. By the turn of the century, there were 30. And today, there are well over 35 known STDs.
- Teenagers make up one-third of the U.S. population, but they carry 50 percent of STDs.
- One in four teens has an STD. (Over 80 percent of those infections have no symptoms, so they can go undetected — which is dangerous for the teen, their future sexual partners, and their future children.)
Teen sex truly is threatening our sons and daughters. STDs are actually at an epidemic level.
I don’t give all of this information to scare you or to shame you. I want to educate you because, parents, you have the power to stop this epidemic. You can be the positive influence your child needs to not have sex at a young age and, therefore, not suffer the physical and emotional consequences that follow. It is crucial that you be the one your kids view as a trusted go-to for their sex-related questions.
The key is talking to your child honestly and openly about sex. When you do, keep the following points in mind. They will ensure you give your child a healthy and accurate perspective on sex, what it is, and what it isn’t.
1.) Teach your child to respect sex.
Many kids today get the message that sex is simply recreation; it doesn’t involve heart or intellect or feelings. If you don’t train your kids to think differently than this, they will think about sex as a mechanical activity — something that is simply animalistic instead of precious.
Parents, you understand the personal, emotional, and cultural complexities of sex. Your child doesn’t. So you must teach him. Sex isn’t a game. It’s beautiful and it’s meant for a specific time and purpose. Teach your child to view sex as something to be respected, not a game to be played.
2.) The sexual landscape for your child is very different from the one you grew up in.
I’ve already given you some of the statistics, but the truth is — and this is something that is very hard for me to get across to most parents — your child is growing up in a completely different sexual landscape than you did.
I hear from my 13-year-old patients that they think if they don’t have sex by the end of high school, something is wrong with them. The pressure for your teen to have sex is higher than you can imagine. It is your job to help them navigate the landmines. They don’t know that sexting isn’t OK. You do. They don’t know that they have a choice if their boyfriend is pressuring them to have sex. You do.
The best chance of kids avoiding sex, drugs and alcohol as teens is a strong connection with a parent.
Dads, teach your sons how to live with sexual temptation and not act on it. Help them get around the obstacles. Show them the right way. They need your guidance in this area of their lives more than any other.
3.) The best chance that your child has of staying away from sex in their teen years is you.
A research study done on over 90,000 kids in the U.S. showed that the best chance of kids avoiding sex, drugs, and alcohol as teens is a strong connection with a parent.
Chances are you probably think your teen wants nothing to do with you. But I’ve seen an entire generation of kids grow up in my pediatrics practice and I can tell you, that is not true. Every child wants to know what his parent thinks and feels about him, no matter his age. They internalize what they think you believe, about them and about the world. If they know how you feel about them and their sex lives, they will be much more likely to make their decisions based on what you think.
So let them know. Tell them how you feel about them and why you want them to wait to have sex. Tell them what you believe about them and their potential and that you want good things for them.
Teen sex may be an epidemic, but with your help, parents, it is not a hopeless one. We can do better for this generation of kids. Talk to your child about sex. Don’t force them to navigate the landmines alone. Show them the way, and show them hope.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project.
Last Modified: February 15, 2017, 9:30 am