There is often spirited debate among teens when they are asked if kissing is a big deal. The final answer is…it depends. More girls than guys seem to think it “means something.” And with regard to where it leads, well that seems to depend on what KIND of kissing. Is it the kiss on the cheek at the end of a date, or the kind where you are rolling around on the sofa with lips locked and limbs entwined? It seems, according to teens, that one is a lot closer to sex than the other.
A blog by a friend, Dave McDowell, described some of the history of kissing this way: “Up until the 18th century in Europe, everyone kissed everybody all the time–like shaking hands–but apparently it created a real problem between men and women. Still does. In 1837, an Englishman, Thomas Saverland, brought suit against Caroline Newton for biting his nose after he had jokingly tried to kiss her. The judge ruled in her favor. In Puritan New England, Boston’s Captain Kemble was forced to spend two hours in the stocks as a punishment for his “lewd and unseemly behavior” of kissing his wife in public on the Sabbath after three years at sea. My how things have changed!”
Both of my children at some point have made conscious decisions not to kiss in a dating relationship. One of them managed to have two high school boyfriends, lasting more than 8 months each, without kissing. She had no regrets, and said that it enabled her to keep her commitment to abstinence. To find out how kissing can affect the body, and the emotions, click here for some interesting facts. Besides the fact that kissing causes elevated levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, this article points out new facts you might use to open up a conversation with your son or daughter. Maybe you could start by asking them this question: “Do your friends consider kissing a big deal?” It might lead to an interesting conversation during which you can encourage them to consider holding off on this intimate behavior in the interest of maintaining a clear head, an unscathed heart, and the ability to keep a relationship from going farther than planned.
One of the most important things we at Amplify try to get across to teens is the need to take time to get to know someone well before any physical or emotional involvement. There’s good reason for this, because someone who is in that irrational phase of “love” that we might better term “infatuation” is…well…a bit crazy. According to an article in the New York Times reporting on brain research using MRI technology: “New love can look for all the world like mental illness, a blend of mania, dementia and obsession that cuts people off from friends and family and prompts out-of-character behavior – compulsive phone calling, serenades, yelling from rooftops – that could almost be mistaken for psychosis.” All of us remember what that feels like. I’ve often said that if I kept that crazy-in-love feeling for my soon-to-be husband much longer than I did, I would not have been able to graduate college, my brain was so addled. Unfortunately, some young people make rash commitments (like marrying in a month), or decisions (like hopping in bed with someone) before the rational part of their brain gets a chance to weigh in. Knowing this, when one of my daughters wanted to date for the first time in high school, we required that the two go through an initial period in their relationship where they group dated first…hanging out with friends or family rather than going on one-on-one dates. That gave them time to get to know each other better, and find out about each others’ character. I just put this strategy out there as something to consider as you think through helping your teens make good dating decisions.
There’s an excellent resource out there, one that’s fairly new on the bookshelves. It’s a book called Hooked, written by Dr. Joe Mcilhaney and Dr. Freda Bush. It’s a study on how casual sex (i.e. the rampant “hook up” culture that exists today) affects teenagers and young adults.
These doctors study the brain’s activity, specifically in relation to what happens to people as they engage in sexual activity. The results are rather astounding.
It’s an easy read, something you should definitely check out. If you are curious to hear more, check out this article here that lists other books written along the same line.
I found a great article today from the Fuller Youth Institute that talks about teenage girls and body image. Here’s an excerpt:
“‘See Jane Try to Be More Sexy
The Damage Done. Those of us who care about girls have intuitively sensed that the pressure to be “sexy” damages the way they view themselves and others. A 2007 report by the American Psychological Association (APA) spells out the destruction more explicitly. Whether it’s a five year-old girl walking through a shopping mall in a short T-shirt that says “Juicy”, or a magazine article that virtually promises teenage girls that losing 10 pounds will get them the boyfriend…'”
The article talks directly to parents about what we can do to help “Jane” fight back against these pressures. Check out the complete article here.
Looking for a good summer read? Check out the book, The Primal Teen, by Barbara Strauch. If you’ve ever wondered what was going on inside your teenager’s head (literally), you’ll find some answers here. A mother of two teens, Strauch became interested in adolescent brain research. Her witty, informational, and very straightforward writing style gives her readers a medical look inside the teenager’s brain to see how it works – and is still developing. What she learned may give you some peace of mind.