How can a parent prepare their teen for the sexualized environment of high school and college? As you know, not only students but teachers and administrators encourage attitudes about sex, or even impose state-mandated curricula which are genuinely harmful and depressing for your kids.
In my opinion, before your kid’s first day, you should address the issue head on: pointedly, confidently and realistically.
Here are a few thoughts – speaking as a parent and as a consumer of way too much information on this subject.
1. Explain what their school DOESN’T know.
Tell them that a lot of schools are pretty obsessed with uninformed (and even harmful) ideas about what makes for happiness and freedom when it comes to sex. Explain that this is nothing new. Even academic institutions are made up of fallible human beings who get caught up in fads. When they stage “sexual health” presentations for incoming students, they regularly err on the side of trying to look “hip” and fail to give students the information they really need.
2. Explain that you, and not the school, are invested in their well-being over a lifetime.
Remind them you didn’t start this fight, but that you’re not going to sit quietly while a bunch of people who don’t even know your kid and don’t love them heart and soul like you do start pretending to tell them what’s what! You as a parent know better (and care more!) when it comes to their living as a free and happy person over the long run.
3. Give them the facts that prove not everyone is sexually active.
Educate them that news sites claiming that sex is no big deal among teens and college students are in the business of making money from sensational headlines; they’re not in the business of caring what happens to you. In fact, there’s tons of studies, and first-person accounts by teens and twenty-somethings showing that almost 60% of high school kids have chosen not to have sex. (See the Federal Centers for Disease Control Report here: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/sexualbehaviors/).
There’s also plenty of evidence that perhaps 40% of college students are not having sex outside of marriage.
Many others have far fewer sexual partners than the media would have you believe.
4. Teach them about their greatest opportunity for love that lasts a lifetime.
Remind them that the evidence is in on what it takes to boost your chances for a genuinely happy and long-lasting marriage: and staying away from premarital sex and cohabitation are important building blocks.
5. Encourage them to connect with a like-minded community- and help them find it.
Help your kids to have communities of friends who can strengthen each other. I never visited a college, for example, without visiting the campus ministry/Newman center offices (calling ahead to make sure they were in) and introducing my kid to the director. Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or some other faith, there’s a center or a person for you. These can become a second home for kids away from home, and an important source of like-minded friends!
Freitas, Donna. Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
Freitas, Donna. The end of sex: how hookup culture is leaving a generation unhappy, sexually unfulfilled, and confused about intimacy. Basic Books, 2013.
Smith, Christian. Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Grossman, Miriam. Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student. USA: Penguin Group, 2007.
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