I’ve sometimes wondered about the profanity-laced conversations teens are having these days. Where is it coming from? Yes, I know that teens have always been tempted to add a little swagger to their social presence with a shocking word or two. But why has it become so much more socially acceptable to youth? Could it be their role models? A study of adolescent bestsellers revealed that there were 38 swear words on average in the 40 top-selling adolescent novels. This includes words coming out of the mouths of the some of the most popular characters in the Twilight and Harry Potter novels. The article revealing this states: “While bad language has been studied in film and on TV extensively this is the first to document its use in books aged at teens – which unlike over media have no content warning or age restriction.” It also points out that “From a social learning standpoint, this is really important because adolescents are more likely to imitate media characters portrayed in positive, desirable ways.”
The recommendation? “Parents should talk with their children about the books they are reading.”
A documentary has been getting a lot of buzz, and hits on some very important topics for parents to consider. Miss Representation is an award-winning film (shown on the Oprah Network last October) that looks at the portrayal of females in media, and how it affects not just girls and women, but boys and men as well. This important documentary is being shown free to the public at Glenbard West High School Tuesday, May 8 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., followed by a discussion with the film’s director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. The film’s website says, “In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. ” Click HERE to see an 8-minute trailer for the movie, or HERE for a shorter one. WARNING: There are some graphic images of partially clad women in these trailers in sexual situations. If you try to keep your eyes from these kinds of images, you should perhaps NOT watch the trailers or the movie. The message in the movie is mixed in with a particular political stance that you may or may not agree with, but the focus on media and its portrayal of women is undeniably powerful and important…and could lead to some good discussion. I would consider especially taking daughters to this movie.
After again perusing the literature about teen sexual activity, I’ve culled out a few bits of helpful information in list form. These facts may help you as a parent, as you guide your teen:
- Most teen sexual activity happens in the boy’s home, the girl’s home, or a friend’s home.
- Teens who date earlier, have sex earlier, and have more partners. They also are more likely to contract STDs and get pregnant.
- A teen who dates someone 2 years or more older is much more likely to have sex, and get pregnant.
- More teens lose their virginity in December and June than other months. (Lack of supervision? Prom?)
And finally, to give you some ideas for positive “action items,”
- Teens whose parents monitored them more closely were less likely to become sexually active.
- Teens who had more family activities (including family dinners) per week were more likely to abstain from sex.
- Teens whose parents communicated the risks of sexual activity and expressed the expectation that their teen would wait, were less likely to have sex.
For more helpful facts about parental influence on teens’ sexual choices, click HERE
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.
Oh, please! Really? Parents who invite their teens to “do it” at home so they can be “safer”?
When I read an article about a parent who appeared on Good Morning America in June to extol the benefits of allowing her 17-year-old daughter to have sex with her boyfriend at home, I had to shake my head. Her reasoning included the fact that it was “clean” and there were condoms in the bedside table drawer.
We’ve known for years that teens who think their parents disapprove of sexual activity are more likely to choose abstinence. It was telling that two teens invited to be panelists on the show had serious misgivings about the idea: “If your boyfriend knows or whoever knows that there is a perfectly open available house I think that takes away one of your big excuses,” Kelly Lund, 17, said. Grace McVey added, “You’re like, ‘No, I can’t. My parents would kill me.’ But if that whole thing is gone, like, what do you say?”
It is sad when parents not only fail to protect their teens, but instead are giving a push toward risky behavior (both emotionally and physically) that some young people secretly may not even want.
By now, most people are aware of the challenges particular to girls in today’s cutthroat world. A worthy organization based in Downers Grove is doing something to equip parents to raise confident, strong, happy girls. HGNA (which stands for Helping Girls Navigate Adolescence), describes its mission this way: “HGNA understands the challenges and frustrations facing today’s girls—everything from narrowly defined attributes of “beauty” to the groaning pressures of grades, extracurricular activities and boys. Our goal is to provide resources, guidance and support to the girls of our community, helping them withstand the unhealthy pressures of the culture as they grow in strength and maturity.”
If you are a parent of an adolescent girl, check out HGNA’s website to find out about their upcoming events (which are very reasonably priced), such as the upcoming March 12 event, called “Chick Chat,” and a concurrent shorter workshop for parents, “Mom and Dad Chat.” This is just one of many events and workshops they offer, including some for older teens, parents, and even one that includes boys.
Even if you aren’t interested in these events, their website is worth visiting for its great resource page, which has information on relational aggression (bullying) and an excellent booklist for parents on raising girls.
“I can’t talk to my mom; we always fight.” “Dad would kill me if he knew.” “Mom and I used to be close, but not since she remarried.” “I can’t talk to my parents about this.” These are all things teens have said or written to me in the last year. To be honest, my own children have had occasions when they felt they could not talk to me or their dad honestly about some significant struggle they were facing. As an adult who seems pretty approachable (at least to other people’s kids), I’ve had conversations with young people who are floundering, wondering how to answer the major questions of life that they are facing, struggling with how to handle the feelings of hurt and devastation that come in the course of human relationships. These teens too often feel unequipped and unsupported, left to navigate adult worries and stresses alone. How can we as adults come alongside our own teens, and the friends of our teens that come into our homes and our lives? First, we have to understand their inner world.
I read a book a while back that I recommend to parents, educators, and youth leaders, called “Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers.” It really opened my eyes to the sense of abandonment that many teens have. Adults are often too busy with their own jobs, concerns, and relationships to really make time to listen with an open heart and mind to teens.
I am guessing that parents reading this blog care deeply about their kids, and want to have a close relationship with them. Maybe the cares of life have indeed robbed you that all-important building block of relationship: TIME with them. It happens without us realizing it. Or maybe you, like me, have been through periods where you are shut out by your teen. That doesn’t remove their need for mentors and role models. In short, they need to know that they matter in this stressful, driven, achievement-oriented world. Keep loving, caring, and listening. Don’t give up. Try to understand their world. And consider being that caring adult to someone else’s child. Maybe an adult will be that person in your child’s life: a respected teacher, caring neighbor, the mom or dad of a friend, a youth leader.
Walt Mueller, expert on youth culture, recently chronicled his thoughts while watching the MTV Video Music Awards on September 12: “One theme that seems to have run through the VMA’s and a load of pop music in recent years is the audience of adoring, objectified women. Did you see Drake and the gallery of girls that served as his background? What are we teaching our girls about what makes them valuable and worthwhile? What are we teaching them about how to relate to men? And what are we teaching our boys about how to treat and relate to a woman?”
These are all good questions. Amplify Youth Development spends a significant amount of time talking with teens about how to recognize, and build, healthy relationships. But adult mentors and role models can do more that we can in a few days. How are you doing in communicating these values to your teen? Do you model what a healthy relationship looks like? We parents know we aren’t perfect, but do they get to see what it looks like to disagree respectfully…and see us make up with an apology to each other when we don’t? Perhaps there are examples of good relationships that you could point out to your teen: “Did you notice how Grandpa and Grandma do the dishes together?” “Deacon Jones talked to the adult Sunday School class about how he and his wife never miss their weekly date.” Meanwhile, on the negative side, what kind of input are they getting from media…and are you taking advantage of the opportunity to discuss the messages of the latest songs, or TV shows? For example, Billboard.com’s #1 song for 7 weeks this summer, Love the Way You Lie, by Eminem, takes the message “love hurts” to an appalling level. After describing the physical abuse in detail, the song says “Maybe our relationship isn’t as crazy as it seems. Maybe that’s what happens when a tornado meets a volcano…All I know is I love you too much to walk away.” It ends with a threat to tie her to the bed and burn the house down. When young people get the message that love that’s REALLY passionate ends up in jealousy, possessiveness and abuse, they are being set up for a very sad set of expectations about what is “normal” in a love relationship.
With respect to a teen’s ability to postpone sexual activity, it turns out that dads may have up to TWICE the influence of moms. (If you are a mom reading this, you might want to forward this to your child’s father!) A study published in 2009 in the journal Child Development showed that dads’ knowledge of teens’ friends translated to less teen sexual activity. Even more influential was time spent together: “The impact of family time overall was even more striking. One additional family activity per week predicted a 9 percent drop in sexual activity.” What about Mom’s influence? The study hypothesized that Dad’s effect on Mom, supporting childrearing, may be a significant key to understanding these findings. That brings up the question: What if a father is absent or uninvolved? It just means that a mother has to be extra aware of her teens’ vulnerability, and encourage other positive influences such as involvement in sports or church (or other religious group), enlisting mentors, etc.
Hey parents ! Just wanted to take a moment to share something inspiring that took place the other week. It’s not to often that we receive feedback from students or see the fruit of our labor. In this line of work… it is truly awesome to get a response like this.
“you came to my school last week with your wife and told us your story I’d rather not give my name, but thank you so much you and your wife’s story changed my life. To see every cause happen to real people was amazing. I’m sorry all of this happened but thank you both for sharing your story!! It honestly did change my life … Thanks again 🙂 “
Wow! I hope that this lifts your spirits and gives you hope that there are kids out there who are watching and listening to what we are saying. If you have an inspiring story you would like to share, please contact us @