Communicating your Families Beliefs
In my last post, The Birds and the Bees, Part 1, I covered the idea that Parents are the Model for their children. Parents are the number one influence on future decisions teenagers will make regarding their sexuality. As parents how do we guide them through this phase of their lives?
The message that most kids get from their parents about sex is simple:
Rule #1 Don’t do it!
Rule #2 Follow rule number one.
It is important for parents to communicate with their kids what their family believes about sex.
I can not tell you what that belief should be. That is up to you and your spouse but this step is crucial —-Tell your kids. Communicate your beliefs. Express your views, tell your kids what your family believes, whatever that is. If your family believes no sex until marriage— great. Communicate that. If your family believes no sex until you are in love —- fine. If your family believes something different—-no problem; they’re your kids, not mine. Discuss your family’s morals and values. I’m not going to tell you what to say, but you should tell them what your family believes. The morals and values of the family lays the foundation for your children. Once you have done that step now comes the harder question —- If I ask your kids, what does your family believe? Could your kids tell me? It’s a little harder. Many parents feel like they have communicated very clearly, but if I ask their kids “What does your family believe about sex?” The kids don’t know the answer. …… Something to think about…If you have communicated something to your children and they can not repeat it back then the message has not truly been received. It has not been internalized.
When your children are young they will accept the parental views and make them their own. As your child transitions to the teen years, things get more complicated…
As children become teenagers things change.
While the family belief system will still serve as the foundation, your child will begin to develop their own beliefs about sexuality. Parental influence is still a factor but it is no longer the only factor in their decision making. The determining factor is actually what is in their own minds ——-Your child beliefs (not yours) will guide their decisions. This is hard to swallow but crucial for parents to understand.
The average age of the first sexual encounter is 16.5 years old. The average age for marriage is 29.5. That’s a long time to wait and if the only information a child has is “wait until marriage” then that answer may not be enough when they are 27 years old. I grew up in a Christian home. I remember being involved in Young Life and we were taught no sex until marriage. I remember many serious debates around the age of 15 on where exactly was the line? Where’s the loophole? How far can we go? I also remember a funny episode of Seinfeld where they debated what exactly defines when sex has occurred. We wondered about that too at that age.
Using data from the CDC YRBSS before age 13 only 3.5% of kids have had sex. But by ninth grade, it jumps to 20%. By twelfth grade, slightly over half of kids have been sexually active.
As your children transition from elementary to the teen years, our parental communication must evolve.
We must transition from a monologue — telling kids what to believe– to a dialogue. When they are young, you tell them very specifically what to do and your kids do what you say. As they get into junior high, this paradigm shifts. They are still very much influenced by what you say, but their actions are more determined by what they think—what they believe. Our children are growing up and they’re becoming independent. If I ask your children what do they believe about sex would their answer surprise you?
In the next post we discuss some specific communication techniques you can use to improve the dialogue with your child.
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