Whether your teenager’s health classes at school take an abstinence-only approach to sexual education or not, the responsibility of encouraging abstinence still falls largely upon your shoulders as a parent. Sexual activity at an early age could potentially lead to an unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases or both. Teenagers are beginning to experience adult urges, but still have an underdeveloped sense of the impulse control that governs most adult social interaction.
Approaching your teen about sexuality and abstinence doesn’t have to be awkward and uncomfortable, though, especially if you’ve established a foundation of open, honest communication.
Get to Know Your Teen
It’s not easy to talk to someone that you don’t really know, especially if your lack of mutual familiarity makes a frank conversation about sex painfully awkward. In order to effectively teach your teenager why he should avoid sexual activity until he’s older and more mature, you’ll have to be able to speak comfortably about other things, too. It’s also important that you know who his friends are, what he’s interested in and who he’s dating. The peer group around your teenager will have a certain amount of influence over his decisions, especially if he’s involved in a romantic relationship. You’ll need to tailor your conversations regarding sexuality to meet his individual situation, something you simply can’t do if you don’t know these basic bits of information.
Avoid Moral Ambiguity
If abstinence from premarital sex is important to your family because of your religious beliefs, you have concrete reasons aside from teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases for encouraging such behavior. Teenagers tend to think that the worst-case scenario doesn’t apply to them, and while these situations happen to other people, they’ll never happen to them. Heads of secular households will need to avoid attaching an ambiguous moral stigma to the idea of teen sex, especially if it’s not something you actually believe. If religion isn’t a driving force behind your hopes for abstinence, it’s best to stick to the facts.
Encourage Him to Pursue Long-Term Goals
A teenager that’s focused on a long-term goal, like finishing college or excelling in an area in which he’s particularly talented, may be more determined to avoid potential stumbling blocks along the road to the success he dreams of. Making sure that you encourage your teenager’s ambitions and that you explain how easily they could be derailed by an unplanned pregnancy or an incurable sexually transmitted disease can put a spin on abstinence that he understands.
Limit Screen Time, But Don’t Be Afraid to Use Entertainment as a Talking Point
Sex sells, a fact that’s readily apparent any time you switch on the television. While limiting screen time is a wise choice for a variety of reasons, you should realize that you simply can’t shield your teenager from allusions to sexual activity on television, in music or on the Internet. Rather than trying to block all references to sexuality, you should use them as talking points. Remember that talking about abstinence is an ongoing dialogue, not a one-time discussion. Topical conversations about the things that your teen sees on television are another effective way of applying these important principals to his real life in a way that makes sense to him.
Consider the Effects of Substance Use
Teenagers aren’t renowned for their impulse control and drinking or drug use can cause their inhibitions to drop even further. Understanding the causal link between substance use and sexual activity is essential for parents because your teenager will almost certainly find himself in the position of being offered drugs or alcohol at some point in his high school career. Making sure that your stance on experimentation with controlled substances is clear and that your teenager understands just how quickly a single mistake can ruin a promising life is important.
Have Frank Discussions About the Ramifications of Teen Pregnancy
The abstract notion of being saddled with an infant before graduation is a scary one to teenagers, but it’s still not a concept that fully sinks in most of the time. Teenagers may understand that sex can lead to pregnancy, but they still tend to believe that it will never happen to them. Girls may even believe that teen pregnancy isn’t so devastating, and they may believe that they have the necessary tools to parent. Making sure that your children absolutely understand how devastating an unexpected pregnancy would be is essential, as it may be the one lesson they hold on to when they’re confronted with temptation.
While it’s important to talk to your teens about abstinence and maintaining sexual purity, it’s also important that you foster a sense of openness and trust in your relationship with them.
A teen that’s terrified of your reaction to an impulsive mistake or even an informed decision regarding his sexual activity isn’t likely to discuss the matter with you at all, leaving you firmly in the dark. Make sure that your child knows that you strongly encourage abstinence, but that you’re there to listen to him and to help him through difficult situations even if he doesn’t live up to those expectations.
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