Raising teens today can be a difficult feat. Our kids deal with huge topics and temptations such as drugs, alcohol and sex on a daily basis. As parents, we struggle to ensure they are safe, have a positive self image, and know they are loved. We compete with friends, movies, television shows, music, and a variety of other outside forces when it comes to how to raise our kids. They are regularly surrounded and bombarded with hundreds of images, many of which we wish they had never seen. Knowing they are growing up at an alarmingly fast rate, we have to be equipped to protect them and allow them to make their own decisions all at the same time; we have to be prepared to raise them in the hypersexual culture that surrounds them.
We are adults and we know about sex. But, just as we knew about drugs when we were kids does not mean we know about the drugs of today; the same can be said for sex. The things our teens are exposed to and know about during their formative years have the potential to blow the minds of even the most liberally minded parents. It is not that we as adults do not know these topics and ideas exist; we are just not prepared for the fact that our children know about them. As parents, we have a responsibility to be educated about sex in today’s culture. We should read the books our teens do, follow the TV shows and watch the movies. This is not in effort to live like a teenager, but to understand them. If we do not know where they are coming from, what they know, and what they are exposed to, there is no way we can steer them through tumultuous waters.
Don’t Have the Talk
Everyone knows that embarrassing moment. One of the parents walks into the teen’s bedroom and says, "Honey, I think we need to talk about the birds and the bees." Immediately, the teen looks up in horror, the parent stumbles through an interesting and often graphic conversation, and both are too mortified to ever mention the moment again. It is an iconic moment that is portrayed in movies, discussed in music, and laughed about for years to come. It is a rite of passage for many teens and it does absolutely no good. By the time many parents get around to having this conversation, their teen either already knows more than they do or has already experienced many of the things their parent talks about. The only way to educate your children is to removed that one specific conversation from the equation altogether. Instead, you must be prepared to have numerous conversations with your teen starting from the time they are children. Doing so not only informs your teen of important topics from the perspective you want them to have but it also establishes a pattern that you are willing to talk about difficult topics.
Almost as critical as having regular conversations is your involvement in your child’s life. It is imperative they know you are around and that you care about the things that are going on with them. Teens are constantly looking for acceptance, love, and a sense of belonging; they will seek it out no matter the cost. What better way to receive those things than from the person who should be guiding them the most. You need to know who their friends are, where they plan to hang out on the weekends, and what activities they are involved in. This does not mean you should be so involved to the point where your teen has little to no freedom. Balance must be found between knowing your child and smothering them; but that balance is crucial to their success in navigating difficult waters.
Keep Communication Lines Open
No matter what your teen is going through, they must feel you are approachable enough to talk to at any given time and about any subject and unfortunately, this is more difficult than it seems. You have to prepare yourself to have an honest conversation with your daughter when she comes home and tells you she has had sex. What will you do when your son comes to you to ask you about oral sex? How will you respond when your teen informs you they need help in remaining abstinent? These are very real scenarios that might occur and it is difficult to prepare yourself for those moments. And if your teen does not talk to you about these questions, they are receiving their answers somewhere. The reality is, those opportunities will only present themselves if you have created an environment where your child can regularly visit with you. Make them feel secure in your love. Do not judge them, but listen to them and offer honest input.
Helping your teen navigate the difficult waters of life can be a struggle. But, it does not have to drown either of you. If you are prepared, talk honestly, openly, and regularly with your child, and stay involved in their lives, you have the chance to help keep them above water and successfully move to adulthood.