Empowering Teens to Make Healthy Choices

Written by Harriet Fagan. Posted in Health & Wellness

Published on December 12, 2012 with No Comments

Empowering Teens to Make Healthy Choices

"You may be surprised to learn that studies show that teens actually want parental input." - Harriet Fagan, Empowering Teens to Make Healthy Choices

“The Talk” and when to have it, It’s never too early or too late.

They always catch you off guard. Our children’s first inquiries about sex, that is. The often dreaded question invariably comes up when the topic is furthest from our mind.

I, for one, recall assisting my curious three and half year- old daughter with a dinosaur sticker book one hot summer day. One moment she was babbling on rapidly (as little girls so often do) when suddenly an innocent little dinosaur egg sticker sparked the question, “Where do babies come from anyway?” The moment had come and there was no going back. I summoned up a simple and apparently acceptable answer, and she continued her rambling discourse on building sandcastles and her favorite nursery school songs or some such thing. Considerable time passed, maybe even years, before the topic came up again, giving me opportunity to prepare for further age-appropriate conversations on sex.

Why is it so hard to talk to your children about sex? Perhaps you find it challenging because you know it’s one of the most important conversations you’ll ever have with your child and want to get it absolutely right. Maybe you’re embarrassed, maybe you feel a bit guilty about your own choices, or perhaps you don’t have clarity on what you want to say. Whatever the reason, you need to be your child’s primary source of sex information and you need to begin informing them early.

You may be surprised to learn that studies show that teens actually want parental input. A 2007 study by the National Campaign to Prevent Pregnancy found that parents, not peers or the media, are the number one influence on children ‘s decision making when it comes to sex, love, and relationships.

Because your conversations on the topic should be ongoing, you don’t have to do a flawless job the first time it comes up. You don’t want to tell them too much too soon , yet you don’t want to wait until they’ve been exposed to too many negative outside sources either.

In the early years, your conversation will probably focus on simple biology. From ages 9 to 11, you’ll want to discuss the changes related to puberty and to b.

Ask middle schoolers, for example, if anyone in their class is “going out” with someone. Ask them, “Where do they go and what do they do?” What does your child think of it? Really listen to the responses without immediate judgment and answer any questions they have. What if you haven’t yet talked to your pre-teen or teen about sex? Then now is the time. It’s never too early or too late.

Of course, you’ll need to clarify your own sexual values in order to communicate clearly with your child. Do you believe that sexual restraint and responsibility increase your child’s chances for successful and lasting long-term commitment and a happy family? Then you’ll want to stress delayed gratification throughout your child’s development and to always reinforce the message that sex is a beautiful thing when linked to love and commitment. Oprah’s favorite sex educator and relationship therapist, Dr. Laura Berman, contends that today’s children know a lot more about sex than we think they do.

Berman said, “Children are being forced to make sexual decisions by middle school, from receiving sexually explicit text messages (sexting) to feeling pressured to perform acts like oral sex. What you need to do as a parent, is arm them with knowledge that will guide them well into adulthood.

You want to start these conversations early with your kids-before they find themselves in the circumstances where they have to make those healthy sexual decisions.” Are you in need of some personal guidance on this oh-so-important topic? Do you want to know what to include in the conversation? How to start the conversation? The educators at A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH) are waiting to help you. They’d even be happy to hold a group session in your home or at your church or other organization. Give PATH a call at 219-548-9598 and get some answers and get the conversation going.

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About Harriet Fagan


All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Harriet Fagan is a mother, grandmother, freelance writer and former educator; she creates this column under the auspices of A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH, Inc.).

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