It’s a realization many parents aren’t quite sure how to handle – your “baby”
has a boyfriend.
Studio 5 Contributor and Clinical Psychologist Dr. Liz Hale shares ways to
stay involved with your teens while they are getting involved.
Given that we live in a culture saturated with sexual messages, talking with
your teenage kids about sex is a crucial part of supporting them in passing
through the teen years as unscathed as possible.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 1 in 2 high school
students have experimented sexually at least once, and 14% had four or
more sexual partners. Some parents would rather do anything than talk to
their kids about sex. Teen sex is their nightmare, and they hope that by not
talking about it their teens will never have it during these hormonally
turbulent years. However, accurate, informative, realistic information is their
best way to increase their child’s wisdom surrounding the decisions they
make about romantic relationships, as well as to increase the trust they have
in you. Not talking about sex with your children doesn’t’ stop them from
hearing about it; it just stops them from hearing about it from you.
Time Your Timing
Keep in mind that your teenage son or daughter is likely juggling a hundred
things that you are not aware of. Don’t expect them to be ready to talk about
sex whenever you are. Bring the subject up at a time and place where you
both will feel comfortable and free to speak your minds. Broaching the
subject just before their date on Friday Night, or right in the middle of their
favorite television show isn’t the best timing and will not grant you the open
communication that you had hoped for.
Don’t be put off by your teens attempts to shut down your overtures. Many
adolescents have told me that even though they acted embarrassed and
uninterested in their parents’ efforts to engage them in these difficult
discussions, they appreciated their parents’ concerns and efforts to guide
them in this confusing area.
Share Rules, Limits & Beliefs
Informal talks with your daughter and son shouldn’t focus solely on the
“how-to’s” of sexual facts and scare tactics. Target the emotional and social
factors of teenage sex and sexuality, in addition to your own values
regarding sex within a committed, caring marital relationship. Be willing to
say to your son or daughter, “I want you to have the best in life! Your body is
moving faster into adulthood than any other part of you. Because I love you, I
will always be honest with you; I want to earn your trust so that you can come
to me with any questions. I see that you and so-and-so are continuing to get
closer and closer. I wanted to be certain that you and I had talked about
something that I have coined “the point of no return.” Because sex is such a
powerful experience, there are going to need to be limits that you and I need
to chat about that keep you going down the path you want most.” Tell them
what necking is and that there are erogenous zones that add to the
excitement and can cause you to feel swept away because it is such a god
feeling…..used at the right time and in the right place. Be clear what petting
is and the appetite and drive that it induces and why we are more successful
in keeping sexual urges in line with they are bridled….not killed!
Widen the Circle
A common mistake we make as adults is thinking that we can control teens
by putting our foot down and forbidding them to see someone they have
feelings for. One of my family’s is going through a tough time with their 18-
year old daughter who was reportedly seen by her little sister making out in
the car with her new boyfriend. This younger sister ran to her mother and
said, “Mom, it was so gross…….they were kissing so much that it looked like
he was trying to inhale her from the inside out!” So, the whole family is now
upset; this boy is not of their religion and the parents have forbid her to see
him. (You can imagine how effective that demand was, right?) So, now we
have this young couple sneaking around and lying to her parents about her
When we push away our daughter’s boyfriend, we push away our daughter,
as well, and right into the arms of the one person you’d rather she not have
feelings for. You’ve heard the saying, “Keeping your friends close and your
enemy’s closer?” Invite your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend over to dinner.
Dad, look that young man in the eyes of be very clear about what your
expectations are of him when he’s with your daughter. Fear and clear
information are wonderful motivators.
This daughter was finally able to say to her father, “Can’t you hear me. I’m
afraid of sex….I don’t want to have sex before I get married. So now why
don’t you help me achieve that Dad instead of just being a jerk and pushing
Ryan and me away?”
Define “Sex” Without the Shame
Many teens don’t think that oral or anal sex is sex at all. “If it isn’t
intercourse than it isn’t sex.” Although parents may be hesitant to discuss
specific sexual behaviors with their teens, it’s crucial that they do. With oral
sex, while we can guarantee that there won’t be a pregnancy, we can’t
guarantee that there won’t be a Sexually Transmitted Disease.
Be clear with your teen that what they see in videos, television shows or
movies is NOT how sex always is. A married couple who met when they were
16 or 17 shared how their first sexual experience together was “really
stupid.” They were embarrassed, it was uncomfortable, they felt bad because
it wasn’t how either of them had been raised. It is never too late to have a
different experience. If your child has experimented with sex, don’t shame
them; they need you now more than ever. My mother beautifully handled a
situation with me when I was 18 and had my first boyfriend. I remember
kissing Mike Johnson for the first time our senior year and I thought, “Wow…
what is this THIS feeling? This is amazing.” I enjoyed kissing Mike hello and
goodbye…it never occurred to us to do more than that (at least it didn’t
occur to me, anyway, because I was clear about the path I wanted and
withholding sex for marriage included was part of direction.)
I was mortified when one day I noticed a red mark on my neck…..I was so
ashamed because I associated red marks with loose girls. Concealers and
turtlenecks became my ally for a few days. However, shortly after the
appearance of this shameful hickey, I was on a walk with my mom and she
suddenly turned to me and stopped dead in her tracks and said, “Your neck!”
And, I said, “My neck!” Here was the crossroads of all crossroads. My mother
could have shamed me and forbid me to see Mike Johnson again. But she
didn’t; and her softened understanding response and instruction made all the
difference in my view of myself and opened up more dialoguing about my
Engage Newton’s Third Law
Your teens are learning about Newtown’s third law in science class at school.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It is not too far a stretch to
relate this to your lives in other ways. Discuss the consequences of sexual
behavior. Some outcomes are wonderful when they happen at the right time
and under the right circumstances. Pregnancy is wonderful when you’re all
grown up and married; it is difficult at best when you’re a teenager. Your life
will not be ruined but it will be forever altered with the decisions you make
Along the lines of actions….I have a message especially for fathers of
daughters. It’s not all uncommon for a man to notice the beautiful
development of his daughter; the female body is lovely. But in the noticing of
his daughter, there can be an automatic shameful response that says, “I must
be a pervert to even notice these new curves on my own daughter. There
must be something wrong with me.” The response to the shame then is to
reject his daughter, avoid hugging her, and even project his own shameful
feelings onto her. When she no longer feels her father’s adoration, she can
start looking for another place to feel that warm, loving comfort.
Bottom line: Preparing your teens to make smart decisions about
sex is also
preparing them to make smart decisions about life. Help them to be
confident in their ability to stand up for themselves, make their own
decisions and act on them, and they’ll be ready to strongly face the world.
A former radio host of Bonneville’s “Dr. Liz Hale Show,” Dr. Liz has become a
household name to many. As Studio 5’s resident shrink, she discusses a wide
variety of hot-topics ranging from sex to stress. (Sometimes all in the same
Dr. Liz is a transplant from Seattle, Washington, although “a few” years ago
was a college co-ed cheering for the Utah State Aggies. While USU football
hasn’t changed through the years, she remains a loyal fan.
Dr. Liz, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, has been in private practice for 12
years specializing in marriage and family relations. She currently serves as a
board member on the Utah Commission on Marriage and is a popular
speaker at their annual conference.
Her greatest joy in life comes from being with her own family and working
with other families along the Wasatch Front at her downtown SLC practice.