Text from the Abstinence Clearinghouse article:
I am often asked to speak about sex to high school students. Many adults shudder at the thought of talking to kids about sex, but I love it. First, I have a captive audience, and second, I get to talk about two things that I am very passionate about: the dangers of teen sex and the joys of sex in marriage. Many adults worry that kids will be too shy to ask questions but on the contrary, I have found them eager to have ever their questions answered in an honest, upbeat manner.
I do not take the topic of teens and sex lightly. I have seen the pain of STDs in 13- and 14-year-old children in my office along with other serious health issues caused by sex.
Most people are aware of the physical repercussions of sex:
You may be familiar with those numbers, but few are aware of the emotional repercussions teen sex can have.
For the thousands of teens Iâ€™ve treated and counseled, many of themâ€”yes, teen boys tooâ€”have depression related to sexual activity. You rarely hear the correlation made, but I consider depressionÂ an STD with effects as devastating as HPV, chlamydia or any physical infection.
Consider these numbers:
I believe it is no coincidence that as STDs have become an epidemic in teens, so has depression. The correlation is startling.
Depression in a teen occurs on a biochemical as well as psychological level and the two are linked. We know that the levels of specific hormones in the cerebral spinal fluid of depressed teens are different from those of non-depressed teens.
We know that depression occurs when a teen experiences un-grieved lossesâ€”hurts that have been buried in their psyche, festering like abscesses. When a teen doesnâ€™t deal with a traumatic or hurtful event, he ends up stuffing it and the negative emotions come out sideways. He becomes angry, withdrawn and depressed.
Think about a 17-year-old boy who has had multiple sexual partners (as most 17 year old boys these days are encouraged to do.) He has sex because he believes this is what he must do to be a â€œmanâ€. However, not all of those sexual encounters go well. He is too ashamed to admit this to his friends and knows he canâ€™t talk to his parents about it, so he pretends like everything is fine, stuffs his feelings and continues having multiple partners.
Or consider a 15-year-old girl who feels pressured to have sex with her boyfriend. She finally does and two weeks later, he breaks up with her. She canâ€™t explain to her parents why the break-up is so upsetting (she may not even know why herself), so she tries to find consolation in the next boy she dates, starting an unhealthy cycle and not dealing with the grief and the loss.
Teenagers donâ€™t have the psychological or cognitive maturity to handle sex, regardless of what adults in our culture say. And they certainly canâ€™t handle sex with multiple partners. Depression occurs by un-grieved losses and the truth is, sex for teen boys and girls causes many losses on many levels.
The misconceptions many parents have about their teenagers are these: that teen boys are nothing more than vats of hormones, that girls want to be sexually active in high school and college because thatâ€™s what girls do, and that sex is really fine for kids if they use â€œprecautionsâ€ and stay â€œsafe.â€ I discuss the dangers of both of these misconceptions, as well as the link between teen sex and depression in a recent episode of my Parenting Great Kids podcast.
First, boys have minds, hearts and spirits and treating them otherwise is wrong. Second, most girls donâ€™t want to be sexually active but have no one to counsel them how to postpone sex. Finally, terms like â€œprecautionsâ€ and â€œsafeâ€ are meaningless. How is a teen to avoid hurt if he has sex, bonds to a girl and then breaks up? And studies show that condoms donâ€™t protect equally against different diseases, so being â€œsafeâ€ is nonsense.
I canâ€™t tell you how many 16- and 17-year-old boys come up to me after Iâ€™ve spoken at their school to talk about the emotional scars they have from sex.
This is why simply talking to your child about â€œsafe sexâ€ (a phrase that even the CDC wonâ€™t use anymore) is not enough. Itâ€™s your job as your son or daughterâ€™s parent to help set them up for a lifelong, monogamous relationship and to get them there as emotionally unscathed as possible; not to simply cross your fingers and hope your child doesnâ€™t get one of the over 35 STDs.
Do more than teach your child about the physical harm that can result from sex. Talk to them about their feelings and make sure they understand the emotional and mental connection that sex has. You need to be the person to tell your child this and know that they want to hear what you have to say. Work very hard to protect their hearts and minds as much as their bodies because trust me, nobody else is going to help teach them what you will.
If you have more questions about how to talk to your child about sex, my toolkitÂ â€œHow to Talk to Have â€˜The Talkâ€™ with Your Childâ€Â is available now.Â You can get 20% off at checkout when you use code:Â talkblog! It is full of resources that will help guide you in this tricky area of parenting.