Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pressures on today's Teenagers

Yesterday I watched an episode of The Tyra Banks Show,  about Teenagers and Sex.  It was a very emotional episode,  and having a teenage daughter,  and soon to be teenage boys,  it really touched a nerve.

Having been in this situation,  having my daughter at the age of 17,  I feel strongly about this subject and wonder how we can change the rate of teenagers having sex at an early age.  There are so many circumstances surrounding the way teens behave today,   it's almost scary to think that there is nothing that we as parents can do to help protect our children.

Let me just give you a few statistics:

Nationally - more than half of teens are virgins until the age of 17.  (Sex and America's Teenager,  The Alan Guttmacher Institute,  New York 1994).

7 in 10 women have had sex before the age of 14. (Facts in brief - Teen Sex and Pregnancy, The Alan Guttmacher Institute,  1996).

Nationally - one-quarter of 15 year old females and less than 30% of 15 year old males have had sex,  compared to 18 year old females and 68% of 18 year old males who have had sexual intercourse. (Statistic Portrait of Adolescent Sex,  Contraception,  and Childbearing,  National Campaign to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy,  Washington DC, 1998).

Why do teens have sex?

  • Social Status Among Peers
  • They think it will make their relationship better,  bringing their partner closer if they are more intimate
  • Crave closeness,  wanting to feel loved
  • Lack of activities,  studies have shown that the more busy a teen is,  the less time they have to engage in activities such as sex,  drinking and drugs
  • Hormones - there are a lot of changes that go on in a teenage body,  they start seeking intimacy

According to Psychology Today,  1 in 3 boys ages 15 - 17 feel pressure to have sex,  often from male friends.  Teen girls feel less pressure,  only 23% felt pressured.

Peer pressure among teens to have sex is increasing.  Even girls are making it harder for other girls to maintain their virginity.  On The Tyra Banks Show,  when asked about this,  one girl stated that she felt like she had a disease,  that when she stated that she was still a virgin,  she was told that they were sorry for her.  She stated,  "I didn't know I was dying from this". 

Many parents don't even know that their children are sexually active.  Teens are hanging out,  or so the parents think,  at football games,  roller skating rinks,  friends houses even,  and sneaking off to have sex.

Some teens are having sex under the bleachers,  others in cars and trucks,  or just outside even.

What other influences are affecting our teens?

Smoking - 1 in 5 by the age of 13 have tried smoking.

Alcohol - 2/3 of teenagers ages 14 - 17 have tried alcohol.  20% of boys have tried alcohol by age 12.

Drugs - 25% of teenagers ages 14 - 17 have used illegal drugs.  1/3 of teenagers ages 18 - 21 have used marijuana,  and began using by the age of 14.

30% of teenagers use no form of birth control.  (Web M.D.)

Many teenagers want to hang on to their virginity,  but with the pressures of today's society,  it makes it very difficult to stay strong.  Especially if one is a virgin in a relationship,  and the other is not.  Drinking and drugs also make it even more difficult to maintain their original values.

So what can a teen do to escape the peer pressure that they face?

  • Talk to your parents
  • Talk to your school professionals - Guidance Counselor, or other teacher you trust
  • Stand outside the circle,  make the choice to hold your values and morals near and dear to your heart
  • Get involved in sports, clubs, or other activities that don't focus on the pressures 
I know it is easier said than done.  Many teens don't want to be viewed as a social outcast.  They long to belong and fit in.  Let me tell you though,  the choices you make today will live with you for the rest of your life.  Don't make a choice that you will regret later in life.  Having been there,  and I always hated this saying,  but,  if I knew back then what I know now,  I would have done so many things differently.  As many of you will realize,  and I am not saying this to criticize the boys,  but many times when you give in and have sex with a boy,  he won't be calling later.  The mind of a teenage girl,  especially when she craves closeness,  or to feel loved,  or just to belong,  is not mature enough to actually make those kinds of decisions.  With all the changes going on inside her body,  hormones flaring like a wild fire,  my advice is to thoroughly think things through.  Is this what you really want?  Always be true to yourself.  It doesn't pay to do something just because your peers are doing it.

I gave in,  and I ended up pregnant.  I wouldn't trade my daughter for the world,  but if I would have been stronger,  a little less naive,  I would have held on to the sanctity of virginity,  saving it for the one true person that would truly appreciate it....my husband.

Virginity is something to be treasured.  In today's society,  sex is so overrated.  I can guarantee you,  that if both of you aren't in love,  9 times out of 10 you won't even enjoy it.  Not like it should be enjoyed.  There won't be a connection,  it will just be what it is......just sex.

So what can we as parents do to help our children overcome the pressures of today?

  • Talk to your children.  Be open and non-judgemental.  Never criticize,  but listen.  Truly listen to what your children have to say.
  • Know what your kids are doing.  Know who they are hanging around with and where they are going.
  • Don't be afraid to openly talk about sex with your teens.  It's a part of life,  and just like talking about drugs and alcohol,  it should not be discounted.
  • Develop a strong relationship with your children.  Give them the closeness and the love that they deserve.  I'm not saying parents don't,  but if you don't take the time to talk to them,  how will you know if they feel like something is missing.

I will be honest with you.  I started talking to my kids by the age of 3 about sex.  I took a workshop once,  and this was the suggestion from the speaker.  To always be open about it.  I read pamphlets to my daughter about the dangers of HIV,  and sexually transmitted diseases,  and always stressed the fact that she should wait until marriage.  I have been doing the same with my boys.

They also know that if they should choose not to wait,  that they can come to me for advice,  protection,  and to answer any questions they may have.  Sometimes what we hope for our children is not always how it turns out,  but as long as we hold an open and honest relationship with them,  they will never be afraid to come to us with concerns and problems they are facing.

I can honestly say that all my children talk openly with me,  and I honestly answer their questions.  Even to my 10 year old who has recently had questions about sex.  I never lie to them.  If you lie,  it will bite you in the rear in the end.

Do you talk openly with your kids about sex?

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