My teen years are ever fresh in my mind. It feels just like yesterday, partly because I kept journals which I still have to this day and read regularly, and partly because I have worked with younger teens from my late teen years.
It is true that many teenagers will go ahead to have sex regardless of what their parents think, but does this mean parents should be resigned to their fate and not make any effort in this regard? No; when it comes to the wellbeing of children, parents should never give up. Trying your best to help them handle their sexuality is always worth the effort. Here are 5 tips for parents of teenagers:
- Be close to your children: You don’t need to be their best friend — you’re a parent, that’s not your role — but you should maintain an intimate, loving relationship with them from the beginning and all through their teenage years. When they have a strong sense that you care, it frees them to talk to you about anything, including sex. Create an atmosphere that is supportive and free of judgment, such that you’re the first person they reach out to always. It will pay off beyond your imagination.
- Know their friends: Peer pressure is REAL when you’re a teen. Just the thought of how powerful it is makes me shudder. If your teenager has friends who want to abstain from sexual activity until they’re adults or until marriage, this goes a long way in strengthening their resolve to do same. If they have the kinds of friends who want to experiment and push boundaries, or who simply have no scruples, you want to discourage such friendships because it will have a negative effect. Know your kids’ friends (and the families of their friends) right from when they’re little so that you can encourage only friendships that build them up. As they grow older, stay interested in their friendships and let them know their friends are welcome in your home.
- Discourage teen dating: Discouraging teenage dating is a huge part of my life’s work; I strongly believe in it. Teens, especially girls, typically don’t have consensual sex with random people. The first sexual encounter is usually with someone they’re dating and spending time with. Dating has also been known to affect academic performance. Encourage your kids to hang out in groups of boys and girls instead of “belonging” to anybody at this age. They will have crushes and even deep infatuations. Help them understand what’s happening. When it’s time to date, be there to help them understand the dynamics of dating and courtship.
- Make sure they understand the why: Merely telling teens they shouldn’t have sex isn’t enough. Simply ordering them not to do it will not work, and may even lead them to rebel. Having an understanding of WHY will equip them to withstand the pressures even when you’re not around. Lay the cards on the table. Explain to your teens and remind them regularly that their energies and attention at this time needs to be focused on being excellent students and building a strong foundation for their careers. Let them understand that having a boyfriend or girlfriend is not only a distraction but increases the chances of premature sexual activity, STIs, teenage pregnancy and abortions.
- Monitor their entertainment: As a parent, you should know what your children are watching, listening to and reading…and your teenagers are still your children no matter how tall they are. These aren’t the days when porn and erotica were mainly in magazines, books and video cassettes. Thanks to the internet, pornography and erotica are just a click away. Sex is EVERYWHERE around us. Even in “regular” movies and TV series, the sexual content is ever present and sometimes heavy. Teenagers are bombarded with these every day, so you want to use your parental control options, and also make sure that your children know why they should choose wholesome entertainment even when you’re not with them; you won’t always be there.
Finally, if you believe in the power of prayer, you want to do lots of that. Pray that God Himself will teach your children and watch over them so that your labour will not be in vain and your children will bring you pride and joy all your days.