But they are still my baby?! Your children will always be your babies, but sexual attraction does not cease with age and it is advantageous to be aware of this fact. Sexual attraction is normal. It is part of life. Are you keeping yourself educated as the parents and are you intentionally engaging with your children about topics including dating, crushes, school dances, and healthy boundaries? More than these outward manifestations, are you engaging with your child’s heart? Are you purposefully spending time with each child and making yourself available as a safe space for your children to share information and ask questions? These are important questions to ponder throughout the rest of your child’s life. Presently, however, there are some things that you may want to be aware of as your child journeys through high school.
Gone are the days when boys called the parents home phone in order to ask the daughter out on a date. Cell phones have taken the place of the family phone and texting has been substituted for calls. As such, it is wise to talk to your children about sexting. For those that don’t know, sexting is the modern equivalent of what we used to call phone sex. You don’t think that sexting is a real issue? Let me share some statistics that might change your mind. The percent of teenagers who have sent or posted nude/ semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves:
- 20% of teenagers overall
- 22% of teen girls
- 18% of teen boys
- 11% of young teen girls ages 13-16
The percent of teenagers sending or posting sexually suggestive messages:
- 39% of all teenagers
- 37% of teen girls
- 40% of teen boys
While it is extremely important for parents to teach their children about Internet and phone/texting safety, such as online privacy, it is also important to discuss more tangible activities like school dances. Before school dances, it is wise to talk about physical boundaries. In today’s day and age, school dances look a lot more like sex with clothes on than innocent fun. Remind your children that they are powerful and don’t have do things simply because everyone else is doing it. One way to bring this up is to talk to your children about twerking, the new dance move that is common amongst teens and is seen in Miley Cyrus’ new music video. Essentially, this dance move involves hip thrusting movements in a low squatting position. This style of dancing is not uncommon at school dances and is helpful to discuss before your children attend these dances.
As a family, it is important to have open communication regarding what age you feel it is appropriate for your children to date. There is no magical age, but it is wise to have some basic ground rules and convictions set in place before another young girl or boy comes into the picture and infatuation matures. Our family, for instance, encouraged our daughters to wait until they were at a marrying age to date. We often talked about the purpose of dating, which we decided to view with a bit more intentionality than most people. As such, our girls decided to not date until after high school. In the meantime, we encouraged them to form friendships with the opposite sex and learn how to appreciate others likes, dislikes, and values. This helped our daughters begin to establish their own values and recognize their own persona.
While our daughters decided to wait to date until they were out of high school, it is important to reiterate with your children what purity is and discuss topics such as STD’s regardless of what your family decides about dating. Obviously, the purpose of this isn’t to scare your children but to make them aware that the notion of “safe sex” simply isn’t true. Have you ever looked at the statistics on STD’s? It is shocking! As such, it is better to over communicate with your children than assume that they understand these things. This should include bringing up topics such as oral sex. Many children are led to believe that oral sex is safe because it doesn’t produce a baby, but what they don’t know is that it can lead to sexually transmitted diseases. In return, this is often where teens draw the line because no one talks to them about sex or the consequences of their choices. Here are some statistics to be aware of:
- Although 15–24-year-olds represent only one-quarter of the sexually active population, they account for nearly half (9.1 million) of the 18.9 million new cases of STI’s each year.
- Each year, almost 750,000 U.S. women aged 15–19 become pregnant.
- The US has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world.
- Each year in the United States, about 750,000 adolescent females become pregnant, 20,000 young people are newly infected with HIV, and nearly four million new STI infections occur among 15- to 19-year-olds.
- By their 19th birthday, seven out of ten teens have engaged in sexual intercourse.
Boundaries are an important thing to discuss with both your sons and daughters. Teach your daughters how to practically say “no” to sexual advances and teach your sons how to respect a woman and how to handle advances from girls. Show your teens how to reinforce physical limits, maintain their personal boundaries, and use their voices. Practically, this might look like encouraging them to not enter into the opposite sex’s bedroom when alone or even home if the parents are not there. Teaching your children these things at a young age, and giving them tools to avoid advances, can help prevent date rape. Sadly, studies show that nearly one in four college women are sexually assaulted. Of those, about 70% knew their attacker. Before your teens go to parties, talk to them about the importance of not accepting a drink from a stranger. One of the best practical protections against date rape is to not allow your teens to go to parties alone and remind them to always trust their gut instincts. While this may be a scary talk to have, especially with your daughters, remind them that they can call you at anytime and you will pick them up.
Clearly there is a lot of information to discuss with your children as they enter into adulthood. The key is to encourage open communication and be engaged in your children’s lives. For parents, this might look like keeping up to date with chat acronyms, text message shorthand, new movies, and popular music. While it is a lot of information, relax and don’t be so serious. Ask your teens questions and take them out on fun dates for goodness sake! Get to know their friends and make your home a place that they will want to come home to and invite their friends to.
More statistics to be aware of:
A resource for understanding teen slang: