Our kids are growing up in internet world. We can't keep kids safe by not talking about sex because the internet makes it all available whether we like it or not. And so parents need to take the initiative and teach kids to critique what they are hearing and what is being presented to them in the super-sexed, cyber culture we live in
The Teen Brain
The teenage brain is a work in progress, being modelled and formed through teen years. Everything fed into brain affects it. As tweens experience new things neurons and connective pathways in the brain is formed (like highways). The more a neurological pathways is used, the bigger and more dominant it becomes. Those connections not used are not kept. We either 'use it or lose it'.
However the judgment lobe (the part of the brain that helps a tween to make decisions) matures much slower than rest of brain. Tweens are like a volcano of emotions breaking out - like a Ferrari on full throttle with hardly any brake! Therefore they need parents to help them, to be the brake and slow them down.
Identity and Independence
The development of the brain in the teenage years is driving them to independence. Puberty pushes tweens away from mum and dad to an identify of their own. This is a good thing but can be dangerous if moving their identity in wrong direction or under wrong influence.
Teens want to be like others and liked by others. They want to be ‘Better than ... ‘ (comparison) or ‘More than ... ‘ (performance) than others. Therefore they are susceptible to being led in an unhelpful direction when it comes to sex, relationships and identity. Therefore parents need to provide the external control mechanism. They might have 2000 Facebook friends, but they need their parents need to guide them, not just be friends with them.
Therefore it is good for parents to know the social group they are in and influencing them. Parents need to be influencing them and telling them their identity and worth is much greater than having better ‘abs’ or ‘thigh gap’ than their friends or having more Facebook friends or Instagram likes.
Sex has become a commodity and means of self expression.
(i) The Science of Sex
Sexual desire is the testosterone powered drive from within the limbic system of our brain. It’s a non-specific appetite… an urge… for sex. Love is a dopamine driven, passionate motivation for intimacy. Serotonin induced obsession. It takes the desire for sex and focuses it on one person. It’s a powerful emotion, you can't just get over it ... doesn't last more than 18-24 months.
When couples have sex it creates a bonding attachment. Oxytocin and vasopression (cuddles hormone) levels increase with intimacy. It acts like brain glue. So sex increases this bond by releasing these hormones that bond a couple together. Therefore when a couples has sex and separates it causes emotional damage.
(ii) The Worldview of Sex
The world tells you sexual desire is a need,; it’s a right to be experienced. It says sexual desire is a need a for sex; and an irrepressible urge that must be fed. It is an individual’s right for self gratification. Love is ‘lust’ which is essentially selfish sexual satisfaction - ‘if it feels good do it’.
We need to tell our tweens not to follow world view of sex. Teach then not to treat bodies as commodities
(iii) What’s special about sex?
Sex is powerful, precious and deeply personal. It is an act of deeply private sharing of unique parts of your body. Sex is pleasurable and the ultimate pleasure is experienced in a safe place where your partner honours you and your body. This is why a relationship of trust and promise keeping (marriage) is the best place for sex.
(iv) What is Sexual Behaviour
Sexting? Still a sexual behaviour
Holding hands, hugging? Can be if aroused, other times not
Kissing? Yes, arousing
Oral sex, genital touching? Yes
Anal sex? This is dangerous, leads to health issues
Masturbation? Hard to do it without lustful / sexual thoughts
Australian Research (2013 on teens in grades 10-12 shows:
- 69% are sexually active in some way
- 40% experienced oral sex
- 23% of year 10; 34% year 11 and 50% of year 12 students had experienced sexual intercourse
- 28% of girls and 20% of boys who had experienced sexual intercourse reported an experience of unwanted sex
While this is alarming, we can tell out tweens that not everyone is ‘doing it’. They don’t have to bwo to peer group pressure, because the peer group is not a big as they might think it is.
Pornography is dangerous. Research shows the average age of children being exposed to pornography is 11 years which means kids much younger than this are being exposed to it.
What makes it dangerous is the way it influences the development of the brain. Neuro-plasticity of the brain means that viewing pornography normalises tweens brains about sex. It re-writes our brain circuits. It desensitises their (our) brain to normal sex and relationships.
Sadly porn is becoming the main sex educator of tweens. Porn is teaching boys to think girls are sex objects who will do whatever they want and porn sex is normal and girls are accepting it. It’s teaching boys that coercion, force and sexual violence (think 50 Shades of Grey) is normal and okay. Many girls are now embracing it to give them power over boys.
When talking to tweens about sex we should tell them to wait. Why? For their health – you can have safe sex, but still causing damage because they’re bonding and detaching. Also for their mind – rejection and breaking up is painful; for society - cohabitation does not lead to better marriages; and for their marriage.
- Be available, approachable & authoritative
- Sex is caught and taught – be a role model
- Share your beliefs and values - give them a clear identity (in Christ if you are Christian)
- Teach them that sex is more than ‘just sex’ and that life is more than sex
- Watch for teachable moments
- Have an aunty/uncle as a ‘back-up’
- Be there to pick up the pieces
For those interested, Patricia has two books on raising teens and tweens – Teen Sex by the Book and Growing Up by the Book. Both can be purchased online at https://www.cepstore.com.au/.