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Shannon Williams

Teenagers seem to be a species all their own. As they go through the progression from ‘tween to teen and even when they slowly progress to young adults, they can be … um, different.

As “different” or weird as teenagers may be, I have observed some adults exhibit those same characteristics when the subject of sex and teenagers come up. I distinctly remember speaking with a friend whose cousin began his first year of college this fall. My friend, Kenneth, is very close to his cousin, as a matter of fact, he is much like a father figure. One day Kenneth and I were talking about his cousin preparing for college and I asked what I thought was a relatively normal question, particularly since the teenager was only a few weeks away from leaving for college out of state: “Have you talked to him about sex?”

Although Kenneth has been an active participant in his cousin’s life since he was born, he wasn’t prepared to think that his cousin — that charming boy who evolved into a funny and charismatic teen — may actually have sex while away at college (if he hadn’t already).

My conversation with Kenneth took place over the summer, but I was reminded of it during a conversation I had with another friend earlier this week.

Morgan has a teenage daughter who is a junior in high school. During our conversation, Morgan said she knew she needed to talk with her daughter about sex, but she (Morgan) just wasn’t ready to deal with it and she didn’t quite know how to begin the dialogue even though she read a few different books on the subject matter.

In short, Morgan was scared to talk to her daughter about sex. When I shared my thoughts with her, she agreed without hesitation.

I know the subject of sex can be difficult, especially for some parents and adults who play a significant role in the lives of teenagers; however, the subject still needs to be addressed in a very clear fashion. We have to step out of our boxes and have those difficult, but necessary conversations. We have to remind ourselves that sex isn’t bad or unnatural. It’s actually one of the most natural things that we do. It just needs to be safe and responsible.

As I shared with Kenneth and Morgan, it is better for their loved ones to learn about sex from them than it is to learn from other teenagers. At least as responsible adults, you know you can provide the teen in your life with information that is accurate as opposed to some of the misconceptions that many of today’s teenagers believe (like oral sex is not sex).

I have younger cousins whose parents asked me to talk to them about sex because the parents felt their teens would be more likely to internalize what I was saying. The parents also thought their kids would be more comfortable asking me questions.

It was a responsibility I didn’t take lightly and each time I talked about sex with my cousins, I made sure I was doing it in a manner that was pleasing to the parents. I guess I was kind of like a liaison between the parents and teens.

Though we all hope that the kids in our lives (be it our own children, other relatives, or someone we mentor) will remain virgins until they are married, data proves that doesn’t happen. According to the National Survey of Family Growth, 42 percent of teenage girls and 43 percent of teenage boys (both between the ages of 15-19) have had sex at least once.

What my family has done with our discussion about sex with teenagers is continuously educate them on their moral responsibility, while also equipping them with the necessary tools in the event that they do have sex. The expectation is for them to not have sex, but if they do, the goal is that they practice safe sex.

Talking about sex will probably always be difficult, but it’s necessary. I’m not saying that we have to advocate for sex, but we do have to realistically consider the society in which we live and the lures of the world.

Oh! An update on my friends: Kenneth finally spoke with his cousin about sex and said the conversation wasn’t as difficult to have as he initially thought. Morgan got over her hesitation and spoke with her daughter about sex as well — she even incorporated pictures and graphics into her conversation. And even though her daughter resisted the conversation at first, they ended up talking for a couple of hours about sex. In hearing about the negative repercussions of sex such as an unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (remember she saw pictures), Morgan’s daughter was mortified! The next week she and a group of her teenage girlfriends took a purity pledge.

I guess scare tactics aren’t all that bad…

Reprinted from the Indianapolis Recorder

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