Talking to teenagers about sexual relationships
Talking to teenagers about sexual relationships As a parent of an adolescent child or young person, is your first response to sexuality education, “Help, I don’t know what I’m doing!” “How much do I tell them?” “They will learn what they need to know at school” “It isn’t happening for my child, so I don’t […]
Talking to teenagers about sexual relationships
As a parent of an adolescent child or young person, is your first response to sexuality education, “Help, I don’t know what I’m doing!” “How much do I tell them?” “They will learn what they need to know at school” “It isn’t happening for my child, so I don’t need to think or worry about it just yet.”
Pressures on young people
The pressure on a young person to perform is not only high within the education system, but also within their social peer groups.
As an adolescent girl at school, I can remember within my female peer group, the fine line between being in awe of the young woman who had done “it”, and thoughts that they had “gone too far”. My views are very different now, after working in the area of sexual assault, and realising that in most cases, these young women had not even given consent, but that’s another story….. Within the wider peer group that included boys, these young women were viewed as ‘sluts’, ‘easy game’, and the list goes on. Boys who engaged in sexual activity were viewed as ‘the stud’, popular, and ‘cool’.
Young people are able to access information at the touch of a screen, and the information they are accessing is not always the most helpful when working out how to negotiate sexual relationships. Young people are often misguided by the “perfect” images and commercially produced sex they may have accessed, and again, there is a sense of pressure to be able to “perform”, or look like the images they may have viewed.
Concerns of parents
As parents, we may come to this stage of our children’s lives with concern. The concerns can be focussed on:
•The age that young people become sexually active – are they too
•Sexually transmitted infection risks;
The concerns of pregnancy risk are often expressed as “we need to stop her going out.” “Make sure you use these condoms.” In the expression of this concern, panic and fear often take over from exploring the feelings about the young person’s first sexual experience. For the young person, there are often feelings of disappointment, feelings about virginity, regret, positivity, experiences of abuse, same-sex-attracted young people, and conforming to the dominant heterosexual culture, to name but a few.
Checking in on our own discomfort
When viewing such experiences and feelings associated with young people’s sexuality, as parents we need to look deeper than taking comfort that sexuality education is in the safe hands of the education system and our child’s school. Giving the ‘talk’ or ‘advice’ about contraception, taking care of yourself, biology, or imparting values is not enough when young people are experiencing the pressures to do ‘it’, perform certain ‘acts’ at a younger age. Young people need to be supported and guided by their parents and caregivers as they try to navigate their way through the many pressures, changes, social conformities, cultural messages, and often conflicting parental messages.
As domestic, family and sexual violence is given media airing in more recent times, young people and families may still hold beliefs that it won’t happen to them. Whilst there are some great Violence Prevention Programs out there, it is often left to schools to promote them within their already time-pressured curriculums. Education about sexuality and violence prevention needs to be embraced from the individual, to the family, to the wider community. As individuals we cannot afford to miss one second of time in communicating with our children. We need to sit with our discomfort, and have these conversations and discussions with our young people. The overarching themes for such conversations include:
• What is consent?
• How to communicate sexuality education;
• Exploring values, competing ideas and needs;
• Is it okay for young people to watch porn?
• What does an ethical intimate relationship look like?
• How do we challenge violence?
• How do we support victims of violence?
• How do we take care of ourselves or how do young people take
care of themselves?
We can reflect on these themes and ask the questions as parents of young people, and offer them informed guidance and support as they negotiate the often bumpy road that is sexuality and intimate relationships. Even though we may as parents, be scared of possible outcomes for our adolescent children, we may need to take many deep breaths, and we can offer a healthy explanation to them such as:
• Acknowledging that they can make choices about whether or not to be sexually active, and this is a normal and healthy part of adolescence;
• Recognising that a part of adolescent development can be experimenting;
• Having positive discussions about sexual preferences;
• Noticing your own values regarding sexual relationships, and supporting respectful and consensual relationships for your children.
If you are worried or concerned about how to have these conversations, interested in a workshop for your child, or are seeking support for your adolescent child in negotiating this area of their life, please consider contacting me via www.papillonwellness.com.au or by phone on 0403 848 398.