"Make sure you are being safe", a dad says to his teen son.
"What's your body count?" one teens asks another.
"He wanted to have sex but I didn't so I gave him a bj", a teen tells her best friend.
The first comment seems appropriate. It is good for a parent to talk to their teens about sex safe practices. But that should not be the only conversation parents should be having. We also need to talk to our teens about respect, consent, and values. I know there are many different views and values regarding sex but not having a conversation with our kids at all is hurting them. We need to be talking to our teens about the emotional effects of sex.
I recently learned that the second and third comments are happening and more often than we think. More and more teens are taking pride in their "body count." For those that may not feel ready for intercourse, they engage in other forms of sex thinking that they have to do something. Many teens do not feel oral sex (especially a female giving to a male) is a big deal. No one can become pregnant, so why not. I know that in high school health class, teens are informed of some of the dangers of oral sex but a class lecture one time is not enough.
I encourage parents to talk to their tweens and teens about all forms of sex. Talk to them about what they hope for them, how they feel sex impacts a relationship, and how to handle themselves if they are not ready or their partner is not ready.
I had this conversation with my sixth grader on a very basic level that was appropriate for her age. As she ages, I will have additional conversations with more detail and depth. She already knows, though, my values. I hope she waits until she is married but, at the least, until she is in love (and obviously that no form of sex is okay at her age). It is okay if those are not your values, I'm not trying to push my values on you. But you must take time to think about your values and what you want for your children. If we don't share this with our children, they seek guidance elsewhere.
I'm not foolish enough to believe that talking to our kids about our values will mean there will be no more talk of body count and no more hook-ups. I do think, though, that it will help many teens find a better path.
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!