I’m not talking military here, and I’m not talking weapons. I’m talking puberty and the dreaded idea that your child may have sex!
I haven’t reached it yet with my kids, but three blinks and a twitch of the right foot and they’re going to be there. Sex ed has been important to me for a long time. I know my schools didn’t have one worth much of anything, and it’s a really hard thing to change. A lot of people don’t want to see comprehensive sex education in schools, and these same people don’t want to talk about sex with their kids.
So puberty hits, nobody tells these kids what’s going on with their bodies or really about sex properly and suddenly you have this emotionally turbulent internal battlefield and absolutely no ammo for one of the biggest skirmishes they’re going to have.
Decisions on sex.
Those decisions are going to be made whether you like it or not, and to pretend otherwise is putting your kid at risk of pregnancy and STDs. Neither of which a kid needs. So, even if you don’t want it to happen, buck up and listen.
Kids need to know what’s going on, and they need have all the information. Is sex fun? Yes. Can it be dangerous? Yes. Can it change your life? Yes. Is there anything they can do to lower the possibilities of it being dangerous or life changing? Yes.
So parents, what can we do?
Teach them about bodily autonomy and consent. Teach them that masturbation is okay, and a great way to stave off the overwhelming urges to have sex if they don’t want to and birth control rocks, because that whole lack of babies thing is great when you’re still growing up. Teach them that abstinence is the only way to 100% guarantee not getting pregnant, but through safe sex practices you can get really damn close to that 100%. Teach them that they should still use condoms when on birth control, be it the pill or an IUD.
Give them access, one way or another, to some form of birth control. Let it be there if they make the choice to have sex. You don’t have to like it, but you have no right to keep them from being as safe as they can be.
The idea of informed consent should be ubiquitous in our decisions. It isn’t something that should be left in the medical field. When you bullshit your way through explanations on sex, you don’t allow your children to have informed consent. You are forcing them be in a position of uninformed consent to something that could alter their entire life.
There are a couple of plus sides to informing your kid about sex, one of them is that teen pregnancies drop dramatically when implemented on a large scale. Another, even more interesting thing happens. When you give kids full information on the bad and the good, and you give them access to birth control…
They are less likely to have sex.
There’s this weird thing called autonomy, and we are all fond of it. If you can’t remember being a teenager, it was the unending quest for the holy grail. We don’t allow our kids enough personal autonomy. If you can make sure that they can give fully informed consent to their decisions, regardless of what those decisions are, then you have done your job. You can not take away their autonomy and expect them to listen.
Kids aren’t sub-adult people. They have their own thoughts, feelings, wishes, desires, everything that adults have, teenagers are entering the physiological adult realm and it’s damn hard. Teens have it hard, whether we like to think so or not. The fact that her best friend Trish isn’t talking to her anymore, that Aiden is afraid he doesn’t grow enough facial hair for his age, that Mark broke up with him after a week and it’s heart breaking because they were in love… those are all real, and those are all just as hard to deal with as problems in adult life. They produce the same powerful emotions as big things in our lives. To chide them on it and call it no big deal, or it’s only a little thing or anything that’s under rating and under valuing their experiences and emotions, is going to push them away and make them feel like shit.
This is so important to remember when you think about kids and the decisions they face when it comes to sex.
I’m not exactly a model citizen for this talk. I’ve got 5 kids, my first one came when I was 19. Two were from not having safe sex, two from… something else entirely and one from a birth control failure, but I also know that I don’t want my kids to be in this position when they grow up. I want them to be able to be responsible, to know what to do, what to use. To have access to birth control and an understanding of STDs.
If I would have had any of that, things may have been different. I think there’s probably a lot of people that can echo that same sentiment. So let’s cut this kids shouldn’t bone crap. Let’s give them the ability to make informed decisions about things we don’t like, as if they were autonomous people. It’s not exactly a revolutionary idea.
You love your children and you want the best for them, and I get that. Shielding them from necessary information in hopes that it will quell their wants for naughty touching isn’t helping. It’s hurting, and you may very well have a hand in making their life a whole lot harder, and even possibly destroying future plans because you were too scared to talk about sex to your kid. Step up. Stop dwelling in old ideas that are proven to be full of crap. Abstinence only doesn’t work. Plain and simple. Stop being blind to it. Look at one of the best known proponents of it, Ms. Bristol Palin. Who is a shining example of how well that education works. It amazes me that she still harps on abstinence only to prevent sex and teen pregnancy, considering her situation.
“…abstinence education in the U.S. does not cause abstinence behavior. To the contrary, teens in states that prescribe more abstinence education are actually more likely to become pregnant.”
— a quote from the results of the study: Stanger-Hall KF, Hall DW. Abstinence-Only Education and Teen Pregnancy Rates: Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Education in the U.S. Vitzthum VJ, ed. PLoS ONE. 2011;6(10):e24658. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024658.
First and foremost, talk to your kids. Let them tell you what they think and know, tell them what you think and know. Just be honest, give the good with the bad, and don’t over emphasize the negatives. Let your kids have personal autonomy and good information.
Second, comment below. What do you think needs to be said? What do you wish you could have known when you were a teenager?