Teen Sexual Behaviour

School may be out for the summer, but you probably know that children don't stop learning and making choices just because they're on holiday for eight weeks.

In fact, many teenagers have much more unsupervised time over the summer during which to make these choices completely free from any adult intervention or advice.

Today I want to talk about a subject that can strike fear in the hearts of most parents - the sexual behaviour of teenagers.

Media reports and documentaries routinely tell us that teenagers today are more sexually active at younger ages than ever before. It is not uncommon for 13 and 14-year-old kids to be experimenting sexually.

But what does this mean and what are its implications, if any, on the healthy development of our children? And what should parents be aware of when dealing with their children during these critical years?

Many factors play into a child's willingness to experiment sexually at any given age. One recent study revealed a link between self esteem and sexual behaviour. This study found that preteen girls with low self esteem are more likely to engage in sexual acts before the age of 15 when the opposite was true for boys. Boys with low self esteem are more likely to postpone sex.

But self esteem is not the only thing that affects the likelihood of sexual activity among teenagers. Poor relationships with parents and being involved with drinking or smoking are also linked to an increased likelihood of sexual activity at a young age.

Unfortunately, not only does early sexual activity put children at risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, it can also damage them emotionally.

As parents, it is important to talk with our kids about sex at a young age. Your kids will hear about it at school and may be getting misinformation from friends. Wouldn't you rather they hear about this important topic from you instead of on the schoolyard?

It is up to parents to provide the facts about sexuality and also to impart your chosen moral message about the circumstances in which sexual intimacy is appropriate and when it is not.

Once you've had the initial 'sex talk' make sure your children understand that the communication door is always open.

Although you can't stop your children from having sex, you can educate them about the realities and consequences of becoming sexually active before they are ready. Talking about sex doesn't mean you are endorsing it.

Get involved as parents. Know your children enough to know who they are hanging out with and what they are doing. If you are aware you are more likely to know when intervention or communication is needed.

Finally, teach your children to love and value themselves so that they do not feel pressured into actions they aren't ready for. When you teach children they are special and important, they will learn to treat themselves that way.


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