Carleton Kendrick Ed.M., LCSW"/>
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Let's Talk About Sex

When the Pressure Is On

Today's teens become sexually active considerably earlier than teens from past generations. The everpresent media portrayals of sex between teens are shown as risk-free, normal, and a way to gain popularity: "Hey, if everybody's having sex, why not me?"

Ask your kids if many kids their age feel pressured to have sex. Who do they think applies the most pressure? Is it TV? Peers? Boyfriends or girlfriends?

Teens also pressure each other to have sex: "If you really loved me you'd have sex with me. Do you want to be the only virgin in high school?" Acquaintance (date) rape is a growing problem among teenagers. Your teen needs to know that "NO always means NO" and that nobody has the right to pressure him or her in any way to have sex. You might also mention that teens are more apt to have sex when they are drinking or using drugs.

To broach the subject of homosexuality and bisexuality, ask your teen how he thinks his peers feel about different sexual preferences. As a parent, you should know that many teens become confused about their own preferences as they search for their sexual identity. Teenagers who become troubled about their confusion or gender preferences are at an increased risk for committing suicide. Almost one-third of all suicides are committed by gay kids.

By the same token, your teen needs to know that it's normal to experience an attraction to someone of the same sex or both sexes. Sexual attraction and confusion about sexual identity doesn't automatically mean that a person is gay or bisexual. If your teen is gay or bisexual, they must know that their sexual orientation will never cause you to love him or her less.

Wrapping Up

Remember that informal sex talks with your teen shouldn't center on "sexual plumbing" facts and scare tactics. Your talks should focus more on the emotional and social factors of teenage sex and sexuality, as well as your own values regarding sex within a committed, caring, and mature relationship.

Don't be put off by your teen's attempts to shut down your overtures. Many adolescents have told me that even though they acted embarrassed and uninterested in their parents' efforts to engage them in sexual discussions, they appreciated their parents' concerns and efforts to guide them in this confusing area. Several teens acknowledged that their parents'advice saved them from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancies.

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