At some point or another teens and pre-teens start wondering about sex.
Our natural instinct is of course to react uncomfortably. Sexual development however, is an important aspect of development and growth, just as important as your teen's physical growth.
It is vital that you avoid ignoring your teen's sexuality, and instead embrace it with knowledge and understanding.
The more educated you and your teen are regarding their sexuality and the changes that are occurring in their body, the less likely you are to be surprised by sudden emotions, actions or feelings.
Overcoming Your Fear of Sexuality
Sexual behavior and understanding about sexual behaviors may have important implications for a growing teen, so it is vital as a parent that you overcome any discomfort or shyness you have regarding sex and confront your teen regarding all aspects of sex and sexual health as soon as they are ready.
You may have some questions about sex yourself, or at the very minimum may be wondering what the best approach is to discussing sex with your teen.
Below you'll find a wealth of information regarding teen sex and sexuality that will hopefully help you broach the topic with your teen.
Teen Sexuality-Something to Think About
Believe it or not, teenagers and pre-teens are just as hesitant to approach you about sexual topics as you might be to approach them. It is normal for adolescents to have questions about sex however, and you can be the primary source of information and insight about sex if you plan things in advance.
As a parent it is vital that you work with your teen to help them understand that sexual development is a vital part of health, as important as any other aspect of their well being.
Sexual behavior may have implications not only on a teen's emotional well being, but also on their physical well being.
A Teenager's Sexuality is not Simply Related to Their Gender
Sexuality is in fact much more complicated. It may include the following:
- Gender - Most teens will form a gender 'identity.' This is best described as how an individual 'feels' about themselves, meaning whether they feel more masculine or feminine, sensitive or insensitive. Gender identity may be mixed, very strongly one way or the other.
- Anatomy - This is a very simple concept. Basically, we are all anatomically either 'male' with a penis and testicles or 'female' with a vagina and ovaries. Anatomy is largely responsible for ones gender identity, sometimes influenced by hormones.
- Sexual Orientation - Teenagers just like adults will have very powerful affinity and emotional attractions toward others. For many this orientation is heterosexual, meaning boys are attracted to girls and vice versa. However, you may find that your teenager is attracted to the same sex or both sexes. This may be transient or permanent and may depend on a number of factors including anatomy, gender identity, society and environmental factors.
Sexual development actually begins during the pre-teen years. During this time your child's body produces hormones that initiate puberty. Breast development, the appearance of facial hair in boys and growth of hair under the arms and in the genital area are hallmarks of puberty.
Puberty also involves emotional changes. During the adolescent years pre-teens and teens start feeling attraction toward others. The desire to be close to others intimately is a natural part of the sexual development process.
The attractions that teens feel vary. Teens may find that they are attracted to someone of the same sex for a brief time, and then find they are attracted to members of the opposite sex, whether exclusively or not. The opposite can also occur.
These varying transitions can be confusing for both teens and parents, but it is vital to acknowledge them as part of the growth process.
A majority of teens will identify themselves as heterosexual, though some will identify with homosexuality and still others will proclaim themselves bisexual. It often takes many years for one to grow into their sexuality.
During this time, many teens feel confused over their feelings and attractions. It is vital during the period of sexual development that teens have the support and understanding as well as guidance of family members.
Most teens will seek out a trusted adult and peers so they have someone to talk to openly about their fears, concerns and feelings. It is important to let teens know that it is perfectly normal to have a desire to experiment with sexual activity during this time.
However, it is equally important to educate teens of how such activity may affect their health and the health of others.
Teens Sexuality May Impact Their Health
During the teen years, it is vital that you discuss with your teen how their blossoming sexuality may impact their health and the health of others.
As teens continue to grow and mature, they will start forming ideas and opinions regarding their sexuality. The more accurate and honest information they have regarding sex and sexuality, the more likely they will be to make good and safe choices about intimacy and physical relationships.
As teens grow into young adults, they will continue to be better able to make intimacy choices that are in their best interests, and less likely to cause problems for themselves or others.
Most adults recommend that teens not jump into sexual activity too early, because it takes time for them to become fully aware of how their sexuality can impact them and the lives of those around them.
As a parent, part of your responsibility will be to help your teen understand the impact of sex and sexuality as well as their decisions on their lives and the lives of others.
The Facts about Sexual Activity
How do you approach your teen with regard to sexuality? The best way to approach your teen is an honest one.
Let your teen know that there are many ways to express intimacy and attraction. Spending time with another person, simply holding hands and kissing are all ways to show someone you are attracted to them and to explore physical intimacy without necessarily engaging in intercourse.
As time goes on most teens will probably start wanting to express their intimacy at other levels. Most teens are actually open to discussing sex and different sexual acts, as they attempt to sort out what their sexual boundaries are, and what is and is not OK when it comes to sexual intimacy.
It is important that you discuss with your teen the difference between sexual intercourse, petting or touching and other forms of intimacy. Masturbation is also a topic that is highly sensitive and considered by many to be 'taboo' but is an important subject nonetheless.
It is vital that your teen understand that masturbation is a normal process and part of growing up. A healthy interest in such activities may prevent your teen from seeking out other more intimate encounters.
Establishing Guidelines and Boundaries
One job you will be tasked with as a parent is helping your teen understand what type of sexual activity is considered acceptable and what type may violate the rights of others.
Teens have to understand that both parties have to be mature enough to accept, acknowledge and agree to any type of intimate actions they are pursuing. Sex is many things, not simply intercourse. Other activities, including masturbation and oral sex, even anal sex, are all considered sex. Kissing and other forms of petting are often categorized as types of sexual activity. They can lead to potential further actions however.
It is important that teens do only those things they are mature enough to consider, well educated about and things they agree on/are comfortable with.
Teens should also understand that sex that is forced on someone who doesn't want it is rape, and it is a serious crime. Feelings about sex are often very confusing during the teen years. Some teens may not realize what they consider a simple act of sexuality may be considered rape. It is important that teens know that “No” means “No” and that they should never force someone to do something that would make them uncomfortable or that steps outside of their boundaries.
Teens should also feel comfortable talking to their parent if any adult puts them in a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable in a sexual way.
By communicating with your teen early on about sex and sexuality, you will help establish a trusting relationship that will prevent your teen from avoiding you and instead encourage them to approach you if someone solicits them in an inappropriate manner.
Teen Health Issues and Contraception
Teens are just as likely, if not more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease from unprotected sexual intercourse.
Your conversations with your teen should include adequate information on STD's and protection. Despite your best efforts at education, your teen will ultimately decide when they feel they are ready for intercourse. This may be at an age that is much younger than you would prefer or deem acceptable.
The best thing you can do short of educating your teen is ensure that they are adequately informed and protected, both against disease and unwanted pregnancy.
Be sure you inform your teen of the dangers of STD's, including potential complications such as infertility. Let them know that many STD's such as Herpes are incurable, and once they contract them, they will have them for a lifetime.
Also introduce your teen to methods of contraception including the use of condoms and if necessary, birth control pills. If you feel your teen may be sexually active, you might consider accompanying them to your healthcare provider's office. Sometimes your health care provider can provide better information about contraception and help your teen make smart choices, particularly if you are uncomfortable about the issue.
Teen Sexuality an Over View
Teen sexuality is a complex process influenced by many factors. During the teen years your child will be battling many opposing forces. They will be attempting to establish a gender identity, their sexual orientation and attempting to manage the physical and emotional changes that are rapidly occurring in their body.
Teens will develop a sense of their own sexuality. If you approach sex and education with an open and honest mind set, you will establish a trusting and caring relationship with your teen. This will help them develop a normal, satisfying and mature sexual identity later in life.
Remember that it is normal for teens to want to begin experimenting when they are young, but also remember that most lack the maturity to understand the severe consequences of sexual behavior.
Be sure you talk with your teen honestly and help educate them about the consequences of sex, and the potential harm that can arise from unprotected sexual intercourse. By doing so you will help ensure they are provided with reliable and trustworthy information. You can also work with them to encourage them to delay serious sexual contact until they are mature enough to make save and positive decisions.
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