Sexuality and Youth

"My youth has questions about sex."


Is What I’m Seeing Normal?

Sexuality encompasses a number of concepts, including: our gender roles, our sexual development, our sexual orientation, learning about our bodies and sexual feelings, healthy relationships, our values, and making healthy decisions. Youth often wish parents would talk to them more openly about sex, dating and making good choices. It is normal for youth to be interested in talking about sex and their bodies, but at the same time, they can be very self-conscious. Youth want to feel accepted and part of a group but they are also discovering their own independence and getting to know who they are. Youth often take risks and push limits if there are no clear expectations and consequences in place. Girls are more prone to feeling insecure about their bodies due to peer pressure and society’s pressure of the “ideal body” depicted in movies, music videos and the media in general. Some girls may feel that if they don’t present themselves as provocative then they may feel self-conscious, unattractive, or worthless. Boys can also fall into this trap as they also become more interested in their appearance and the latest trends during adolescence.


Should I be Worried?

Is the youth you are concerned about presenting themselves in their behavior, dress and body language in inappropriate ways? Or, are they only comfortable being alone, not socializing and not interested in dating? These may be real concerns that may warrant further assessment by a professional who can properly determine if there is an issue. More commonly, as a parent, you may be worried that your youth may become sexually active at all, or too soon, during the adolescent years, depending on your values. Or, you may be concerned if you suspect they are already sexually active and that they may not be protecting themselves because you haven’t had the “talk” with them. Or, you may worry that you have not spoken to them about staying safe or about the option of abstinence. These are all valid and normal concerns for parents of adolescents. As a parent, it is important to discuss these values and set clear boundaries and expectations. Some youth may be relieved to know, for example, that they are not allowed to date until a certain age, while others may hide their dating and sexual activity from you as they may be afraid of the consequences if they have not been discussed with them.


How Can I Help?

It is important that parents or caregivers role model a healthy loving relationship, and express their values around sexuality and healthy relationships, throughout their child’s pre-teen, teen and young adult lives. Both boys and girls need to feel secure, competent and self confident; these are gifts that parents can give their children. Parents are helpful when they are seen as approachable, so that youth feel they can ask any questions. This is especially important since the messages they receive from their peers and the media may be misleading, conflicting, or confusing. It is essential to have ongoing conversations with youth, and not assume that just one talk will do. Youth need ongoing direction and support on how to deal with some of these strong feelings, accept who they are, learn to make good decisions, and learn how to be assertive and handle peer pressure. Youth  need to have limits and know what is expected from them in order to feel confident in their decisions. Youth also need to learn how to set clear boundaries with their peers. So in experiencing movies, YouTube videos, Facebook, music videos, news, etc along with their youth,  parents can begin respectful conversations and have discussions with them around topics such as dating,  relationships, sexuality, making decisions and consequences. This will help your youth know what is important to you and to have a clearer understanding of your values. When there is trust, respect, and clear boundaries between you and your youth, they may then remember your voice at times when they have to make difficult choices about sex.


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