There are few among us that are comfortable with engaging our kids in conversation when it comes to sex. Recently I was making my daily scan of the news keeping myself informed, and a headline from USA Today made me double-take. It read, “Survey: Sleeping together before a first date is a-OK, but cracked phones are a put-off.” I responded out loud, “Wait…what?”
The survey, regarding sexually active millennials conducted by Research Now, titled – “Singles in America,” found that 48% of millennials (nearly half) are likely to have sex before a date ever occurs. The mindset is that sex is seen as an interview for whether an actual relationship should ever begin. Sex is practically a given. Intimacy is seen as getting to know the person. My daughters weren’t raised with anything resembling that mindset. How do we respond?
Engage with Your Kids
Do not abdicate responsibility as a father by leaving this to her mom or other sources. You are the authority of protecting your children from dangerous influences. Set clear expectations of behavior and standards and enforce them. Do so lovingly, but without apology.
Talk to Them about Sex
According to the latest CDC figures, 41% of high school students have engaged in intercourse. My wife and I believe that sexual intimacy is reserved for a lifetime commitment and is essential before becoming sexually active. Discuss your own experiences as appropriate to their maturity level. Neither of us was a virgin before our marriage having met in our late 20’s. We have explained the emptiness (and hurt) of past experiences, compared against the fullness of physical love backed by our binding commitment. That love created our family. Honesty and sincerity are your most powerful tools.
I was caught completely unaware of this development. I’m the dad of 18 and 15-year-old daughters. We cannot take for granted that the world behaves in the ways that we teach. It doesn’t. Educate yourself by going to their sources of information. Engaging with other parents and kids when appropriate. Get into their world. Get involved in knowing what your teens are doing, what apps they are using, and how their attitudes are progressing.
Modeling Healthy Values
We can’t force our values on our children. We have to live them as the example. How we (parents) are living has an enormous impact on the future actions of our kids. This starts with the relationship they witness between you and their mother. Their brains are being hardwired as to what an intimate relationship looks like by observing our behavior. The seemingly little things like holding hands, genuine closeness, laughter, have a major impact, as do division, anger, and tears.
Teach Your Kids the Truth About Love
Where is the hope in the results of the survey? 80% of the 5000 singles surveyed want to find real romantic love. It’s not the goal that has changed, but the methods of trying to achieve it. Help your teen/young adult develop a vision of what they want their future to look like. The first lesson? Having a sexual relationship first to see if intimacy is possible later is a disastrous way of thinking that could lead to consequences they aren’t prepared to handle. These consequences include but aren’t limited to feelings of guilt, diminished self-worth, and trust issues. What they really want starts first with dignity and respect. If both continue forward, this will lead to emotional intimacy expressed through deep connection and a committed relationship. Those are the foundations that spark the possibility of romantic love.
SOUND OFF: How would start a conversation with your kids about this?