This summer I read a great book that I want to share with you. The book is "The Real Truth About Teens & Sex," published in 2005, and written by Sabrina Weill. I loved this book and believe all parents with teenaged children should read it! Ms. Weill had my complete attention when she started out by saying that “teens nationwide are suffering from a lack of honest communication from their parents and other pivotal adults around them…” She later says that it is dangerous to rely on schools to provide sex education and that parents have to be the primary sexuality educators of their children. She is confident that despite the horrified looks on their faces when we bring it up, teens want to talk about sexuality with adults they trust – and that they want adults to know what is going on. Teens are vulnerable emotionally and physically and susceptible to regret as their feelings emerge after sex. We can help them avoid those situations in which “sex just happens” and the consequences that follow, including pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Far from inducing fear, Ms. Weill constantly reassures parents that research shows talking to kids about sexuality does not make them have sex earlier and that there are positive trends reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggesting youth are having less intercourse as well as using more contraception, and that there was 30% less teen pregnancy between 1994 and 2004. She is matter of fact about the risks of the Internet, early sex, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, but never lets parents off the hook. The more parents know, the better equipped they will be to help their teens avoid “sexual risks" associated with teen relationships.
Ms. Weill reminds parents throughout this book that we [adults] have the power to have an enormous influence on the behavior of our teens and although I cannot endorse her statement that “teens should be pulling away from adults” I do agree that they need to take on more responsibility and that they still need our supervision and guidance. Teens need to know that 66% of teens and 81% of 12 – 14 year olds regret their first sexual experience and parents and teens need to know that teens have the knowledge and strength to “make good decisions.”
Parents being in denial will not help and it will undermine our relationships and make them superficial. I appreciate the fact that Ms. Weill respects youth and is very clear that sifting through their emails or reading a diary or blog is a major invasion of privacy and it will take a long time to rebuild the trust and credibility lost by the action. There is no substitute for putting the time into developing a strong and positive relationship with our child!
Parents need to be able to talk honestly with their children about sexual rights, pleasure, and risk. Teens need to know that it feels good to be excited, but that sexuality should be protected, consensual and planned with someone they love to feel great. For parents who do not think they can talk easily with their kids, Ms. Weill includes resources and wonderful examples throughout the book and there is even a discussion about developing a safety plan with your teen.
My favorite quote from this book is “good parenting is always inconvenient for the parent.”