When I get teens talking about situations to avoid, one of the ideas they come up with is “Don’t be home alone.” Indeed, this is a WISE idea. One study of urban teens showed that “Among the respondents who had had intercourse, 91% said that the last time had been in a home setting.” More often it was at the boy’s house. So teens on a Saturday night date making out in the back seat of the car may NOT be the most common impetus to sex. Instead, it’s an overabundance of unsupervised time…after school…during the summer…when parents are at work. “The likelihood of intercourse, the number of partners for intercourse, and substance use increased as the amount of unsupervised time increased.”
This is not surprising, of course. But what the researchers pondered about this bears thinking about. It might not JUST be a lack of opportunity that keeps some kids from having sex. It could be that parents whose children have less unsupervised time consequently have more time relating to their parents and siblings. They may be pursuing clubs, sports or other activities that give them a sense of purpose and self-esteem…and keep them occupied. Two teens, with hormones, and too many hours with nothing fun to do might just be bored. And that’s a recipe for a pregnancy or an STD. If the summer is stretching on, help your teen keep out of trouble by helping him or her come up with some plans to do something fun and productive.
My daughter told me today that everyone is talking (and Twittering too apparently) about a certain popular sports hero. Is he the real deal? Some cynically expect a fall, sooner or later. In a world full of heroes, most of whom have indeed fallen off their pedestals (think Tiger Woods, or Miley Cyrus), is there anyone we can point our youth to as a person of character to emulate? Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos’ star quarterback, appears to be a public figure who has the maturity and strength to be who he is, even when ridiculed. He stands pretty boldly for his values, including his commitment to abstinence. If your son (or daughter) is looking for a mature role model, steer them toward Tim Tebow, who answered a reporter’s question (see this YouTube link), “Are you saving yourself for marriage,” with a clear “Yes.” He acknowledged how “shocking” this was, but seemed to be quite comfortable in his skin, as he publicly made a stand for abstinence. May our children have the courage to make good choices, without embarrassment, like Tim Tebow.
You would think, the way that they juggle cell phones, internet and TV…all while doing homework, that the answer would be “Yes.” But if you were wondering how it is that they can’t both clear the dishes AND remember to take the laundry up the stairs (while walking right around the basket), you might say “No.”
The actual answer is closer to “No,” but it really depends on your son’ or daughter’s age. An interesting study, linked right here, sheds some light on what’s going on in teen brain development, and when we can expect things to get better. The article says, “The ability to remember multiple bits of information developed through age 13 to 15, the study found. But strategic self-organized thinking, the type that demands a high level of multi-tasking skill, continues to develop until ages 16 to 17.” No answers, though, on how to manage parental frustration while we are waiting!
At the last parent presentation I did, a parent asked for advice on how to talk to a VERY reluctant teen. It seemed that this teen stonewalled, disappeared…in short did anything possible to avoid having any talks about sex and dating. I remembered an insight from the article, referred to in past blogs, about parent-teen conversations about sex. The authors pointed out that some teens may be “embarrassed, uncomfortable, are afraid of tarnishing their parent’s image of them, and do not want to be judged or looked down upon.” With that in mind, and remembering the tactics of some parents in the study, I suggested this strategy: Talk about someone else. It is much easier to discuss “that poor girl who was drinking and driving and killed her best friend who was in the passenger seat” or to mention “Remember Danny, who you used to play with when you were in grade school? I heard his girlfriend had to drop out of school because she’s pregnant.” The conversation (and parental input) can then continue in the context of someone else’s poor choices, in a much less direct way. It is assuredly best to be direct, but for those teens who just can’t bear the embarrassment of talking about such things with Mom or Dad…give the indirect route a shot.
- Teens rank parents as the #1 influence on their sexual decisions.
- 88 percent of teens say it would be easier to postpone sexual activity if they were able to have more open, honest conversations with their parents.
- 6 out of 10 teens say their parents are their role models for healthy, responsible relationships.
What do you believe? Is this truth?
Do you have what it takes to answer the tough questions your son or daughter has for you?
After examining my own life as a father, I can’t stress enough parental involvement in the lives of our children. This means every area, especially the tough ones. Where is your child getting their information? You have the power to lead, guide and direct? But are you really making a difference?
We want to hear form you, for a lot of reasons. We want to hear what challenges you are facing, we want to hear success stories and also the stories that are heartbreaking. We want you to know we are here to help. Write us back, I am curious to see your responses.
A few posts ago I blogged about a recent study that talked about teens’ moral practices and their sense of self. Today I found another article that expanded on that topic a bit, focusing specifically on how teens’ brains develop morality in the first place. Here’s an excerpt:
“What has gone wrong? The commission began with a vital question: How do human beings develop a moral compass and strong character in the first place? Instead of answering from a therapeutic or “treatment” perspective, it started by examining the latest brain science.
According to the report, recent brain research indicates that children require two kinds of connections to flourish. First, they need strong, stable bonds with family and adults in the larger community. Second, they need a vision of life that offers meaning and purpose.
Our kids are failing to thrive, in good measure, because the social institutions that used to provide both kinds of connections have weakened in recent decades.”
What do you think? To see the whole article, click here.
Parents, what do you think?
Check out this article I read today, which says that several schools in D.C. have set aside $2.7 million as a motivational tactic for student achievement. Yup, they want to pay kids to come to class.
I don’t know about you, but I was never one of those students who was rewarded for getting high grades. I was told to work for them, expect them, and then be proud of what was written on my report card. Seeing that A or B was enough for me.
Are things so different today? Do our students really lack that much motivation to attend class (and be on time)? Send us your comments, parents. Should schools be paying students to attend class or not? Is this a brilliant example of “thinking outside the box”, or is it just… crazy?
I’ve been thinking about goals a lot, lately. I found out the other day that my 18 year old cousin, a very intelligent, hardworking kid, has decided to take a “gap year” before college. He’s going to South Africa to work with orphan baboons. Yup. You read that right. His choice is actually listed as one of the Top 10 Most Unusual Gap Year Programs. Go figure.
At W4YM, in an effort to encourage teens to take their focus off the pressures about sex, and that “everybody’s doing it” mentality, we try to encourage students to pursue goals they set for themselves – academically, relationally, or experientially. We know that helping them set and reach goals refocuses them, and encourages the discipline of delayed gratification, which may ultimately help them save sex for marriage.
Perhaps you parents, or some of you teachers out there, know of a teen who is a little lost in the “future goals” area. He’s not sure what kind of degree he wants, she’s not sure if she’s even ready for college right now. Maybe a gap year or a 2-year degree is what your teen needs.
This website has set itself up to help you with life’s toughest conversations. It also includes a quiz to help you identify your conversation pitfalls!
When we discuss the reasons why teens have sex and the reasons why they wait, one aspect of teen decision-making that frequently comes up is being “goal-oriented.” Teens that believe they have a lot to look forward to in life are much more likely to wait to have sex (and to make countless other positive choices!).
So…dream with your child! Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- When your child wants something, give them a short-term goal to work towards as they “earn” the gift. (Not for every gift, but for some!)
- Ask “dreaming” questions: not just “where do you want to be in 15 years?” but also “What would be the coolest thing that could happen to you at school this year?”
- Teach your child to plan and anticipate by planning and anticipating together. For a daughter, you might plan and shop for a special outfit to wear to a concert, holiday, or event. For a son, you might consider putting together a project to complete, or planning and executing a special meal for the family.
There are endless possibilities. Just keep in mind I want to help my child realize there are tons of things to look forward to in life. You just have to look for them!