Helping kids avoid sex is no longer a moral or religious issue; it is a medical one. If I didn’t believe that we can be effective in helping our kids delay their sexual debut, I would stay silent. But we can help. You can help.
Here are seven crucial ways to protect your kids from the deadly epidemic that has claimed too many young lives already.
- Know the data. Teens today face greater threats than we did, with the twin (and related) epidemics of sexually transmitted infections and depression. Know the facts to prevent your teen from becoming a victim.
- Get to know your teen’s friends. The best way to find out what your teen is involved in is to ask what his friends are up to. You can bet that whatever your kids’ friends are doing, your own children are doing as well.
- Don’t just talk. Listen. If you really want to get closer to your kids and get them to open up, just gently ask questions and then listen without responding or interrupting. You must wait (sometimes days) to give your opinion—if you want it to make an impression on your teen.
- Engage, don’t bail. Teens need—and want-parental involvement even more than toddlers do, even though they’ll likely deny it. (An angry 16-year-old with a set of car keys is more dangerous to himself than a 2-year-old running towards the street). Stay connected and stay present.
- Persevere and never take kids personally. Always remember that your job is to raise healthy adults, and screaming 13-year olds aren’t there yet. Never take juvenile hissy fits personally. Even if it seems you’re not making progress, keep at it. Persistent parenting pays off in the long run.
- Stick to your instincts. Most parents don’t like skimpy clothing, vile music or inappropriate tv shows, but they let it go because if other parents allow these things, they should too, right? Wrong. Healthy parental protection actually makes teens more secure and builds higher self-esteem. Adults’ instincts are more mature than teens’ instincts. Seventeen-year-olds don’t have full cognitive development. She may not understand why she shouldn’t wear a tiny top that leaves nothing to the imagination, but you do. If you tell her that you care about how she presents herself, she’ll know how much you love her and her self-esteem will grow.
- Let your kids know you are not the enemy. Often parents and kids fall into the trap of thinking they’re on opposing teams. You’re not. In the great culture war for our kids, you’re on the same team. The opposing team is not you and your spouse—it’s the toxic popular culture that markets sex to make money off kids. That culture doesn’t care about your kids safety, health or future. You do.
What do you think, parents? Did any of these resonate with you?