Teenagers are masters of rebellion, especially when it comes to sex. Their hormones are in high gear and their fear of cooties has newly faded. It’s easy to chalk up their obsession with sexual behavior to peer influence or a typical teenage phase, but the real cause is often difficult to recognize and even harder to admit for some parents. Truthfully speaking, sometimes it might be you, Mom or Dad.
Though Millennials are the start of a huge change in attitudes toward sex, some outdated morals still remain from the less-than-golden years of our own parents’ misguided sex education. An abstinence-only approach is still prevalent in many schools and homes despite evidence that reveals its worthlessness. Even more disturbing, much of what is taught isn’t even medically accurate and is used as a scare tactic on young, impressionable minds.
When parents or teachers paint sex and everything that comes with it, like porn, sex toys, and contraception, as taboo and forbidden, sexuality becomes a wildly misled conquest instead of a gradually introduced natural part of life. Though raising kids has parents on their last nerve for myriad reasons, there actually is a way to navigate those hectic teenage years so you can turn curious kids and teens into sexually stable adults. Here are five ways you can help lead the way.
Before a parent even delves into the topic of taking off one’s clothes, it’s important to stop the shame for what people choose to wear. There is, of course, a way to dress to earn sexual attention, but kids need to learn they can never pre-judge a person’s intentions or personal views based on their outfit. It’s also good to point out that when a person reaches the age of consent, it’s perfectly OK to dress sexy, and this shouldn’t warrant cat-calling or otherwise abusive language from others. However someone wants to dress, they should be respected for how they treat the people and world around them. Kids will encounter enough teasing and bullying as they work their way into adulthood. Teach them to always rise above negativity and baseless put-downs.
Break the Taboos
It doesn’t matter whether the topic at hand is sex or a new puppy for Christmas. When you make something off-limits or taboo to kids and teens, their need and curiosity for it strengthens a thousandfold. If a family pet just isn’t into the cards considering the family budget or work schedules, most parents won’t think twice about explaining this to kids in an honest fashion. This is exactly how sexual topics should be approached. Certain questions might be more harrowing to answer than others, but it’s important to always tell the truth. On top of the potentially dangerous consequences of offering false information, kids can usually tell when you’re lying and will seek out the answer elsewhere. Would you rather teach your child about the nuances of pornography, or should they be compelled to look it up online while unsupervised at a friend’s house? Show your kids that no topic is off-limits and that they can always get a reliable, judgment-free answer from people they can trust.
Teach that Sex is Primarily About Pleasure
One of the most confusing and naive things you can explain to a kid or teen is that sex is mostly about making babies. Sure, that’s the biological function of sex, but the role it plays in our relationships and overall wellness is much broader than that. Orgasm is largely what drives humans to consider procreation in the first place, and sex isn’t the only way to get it, especially if you don’t feel ready.
Masturbation should always be encouraged in a private setting and can almost never become a negative sexual outlet for teens. Self-pleasure is a teens’ first experience with the meaning and motivation behind sex. It also breaks down the stigmas imposed upon our bodies by the media and teaches us that we’re capable of sexual happiness all by ourselves. Without inducing too much blushing, and if they’re at an appropriate age, direct kids to simple vibrators or masturbators, or sneak a surprise beginner sex toy into their bedside drawer. It might sound awkward, but they’ll thank you later.
Talk About Having Responsible Sex
Birth control and STI protection are of equal importance, but teens need to clearly understand the difference between preventing pregnancy and preventing infection. Keeping teens from accessing either method has never stopped them from having sex. Creating taboos will only increase their curiosity for the wrong reasons. Teach them that seeking pleasure with a partner is healthy and normal, but it takes the right tools and emotional intelligence to do so without hurting themselves or their peers. Explain the different options in birth control and STI barriers for all sexual preferences and gender identities. Partner sex is a big responsibility, and consent and emotions play just as large a role as physical consequences. Both mind and body require proper care before, during, and after sex regardless of age or experience.
Lead with Honesty and Heart
We know, parents – there is no instruction manual for raising kids, and every child needs an educational experience that is tailored to their personality and learning style. No matter what topic you’re discussing, always be honest and show your kids that you’re teaching from the heart. It can sometimes be embarrassing or even intimidating to reveal the truths of human sexuality to impressionable young minds, especially when they’re your own. When you’re unafraid to bear your soul and approach everything from a place of love, kids pick up on that. Even if they don’t always say it, they’ll gain a new-found respect for their parent as a wise, guiding sage, and will forever seek to maintain your trust.
Talking about these issues with your child can be hard but rewarding. Introducing them to a sex toy at the right age can be a big step in their learning to respect and cherish their bodies…
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