It’s 2018 and talking about sex to your children is still scary and awkward… and that’s just for us parents! But, talk we must and not just about that cute ‘birds and the bees’ story. Because the modern teen probably knows more than you ever did at that age and that’s enough to give us parents panic attacks.
When I had my first child 16 years ago, I never thought I would wake up one day and see that my baby boy had become a strapping young man. Yes, it sounds so cliché and yes, we all want our children to remain little. But, they don’t. They grow up and before you know it they’re bigger than you, think they know more than you and have raging hormones to back them up.
When I was growing up, the sex talk was a serious, straightforward discussion and honestly, it was the best form of birth control ever. Particularly when a gruff father made all teenage boys sound like unhygienic sacks of cheeky hormones. There was still a sense of innocence back then and lots of giggling and shy stares when a cute boy walked past.
The Internet has irreversibly changed the way we raise and view children. The unhindered access to literally anything online has transformed the way parents deal with talking about sex, and more importantly, values. Young people are constantly exposed to overt sexuality from music videos and TV series to all platforms of social media.
Be honest, talk plainly
The more secretive you are about anything, the more children want to know. If you’re not talking to them about it, you can be sure they’re getting their information from friends who probably know less than them or online, where porn is so readily available. Yes, teenagers watch porn… even your lovely obedient teens.
I decided years ago that no matter how strange or embarrassed the children felt when I mentioned certain things that I would forge ahead. I would not make sex a taboo, nasty subject; and I would try and teach them about respect (extremely important in this day and age for sons), being non-judgemental and knowing that having good morals is for life.
We can read all the books, get advice from other parents, follow the rules; but, in the end it’s about honesty and trust. In Malaysia, a critical factor is culture and religion – the two things prohibiting sex before marriage. Statistics from the Ministry of Health are alarming – approximately 51 teens fall pregnant every day and these are the ones that are reported.
What is even scarier is that these girls are aged between 10 and 19 and baby dumping (or worse) has become a real problem. The root of this is the lack of sex education and the inability of teens to confide in their parents due to fear and the fact that many parents refuse to address the issue or even admit their teen children are having sex.
Here’s what I learnt:
- Make sure your teens understand that sex does not equate love unless they are in a loving long-term relationship.
- The hook-up culture is real, especially as they get older. Clearly define what a healthy relationship should be.
- Teens are unprepared and anxious about developing romantic relationships and it’s the job of parents and educators to gently guide them through this.
- Sexual harassment is a real problem and on the rise amongst teens. Teach them that this is wrong, how to stand up for themselves and to talk to a trusted adult if they’ve been targeted in any way.
- Talk about consent and the absolute right to say ‘no’ and have that decision respected.
- Bring up methods of contraception and safe sex. It’s not just about pregnancy, but STDs. Teens may sometimes be impulsive and logic is not their friend in the heat of the moment, so talk about condoms.
- Help them understand the difference between lust, love, physical attraction and that it’s fine if they don’t want to get involved with anyone if they’re not ready.
- Most importantly, be available and aware of their behaviour, and remember you were young once and made many mistakes!