Tuesday, November 8, 2011

TEEN LOVE: WHAT ARE THE RULES

THE GAME IS TEEN LOVE, BUT WHAT ARE THE RULES?




(Today, I am honored to have guest author, Annie Fox, Annie is a respected educator, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser. Her life’s work is helping teens become more self-aware, self-confident and better able to make choices that reflect who they really are. You can visit Annie Fox's Blog for more articles on a wide variety of topics.)


One Saturday afternoon before I headed out to meet my boyfriend at the high school tennis courts, my mom said, “Let him win.”  Even though it was before Billie Jean King served Bobby Riggs a massive slice of humble pie, I was stunned. Let him win?! Excuse me?!  I might have only been 16, but I knew there was no way in hell I would play the Dating Game by rules that also included:
  • “Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve.” And… “If a boy asks you out after noon on Wednesday for Saturday night, tell him you’re busy even if you’re not.”
Recently, I asked other parents what Boyfriend/Girlfriend Zone wisdom they got from their folks. As you can see, some of the pointers were right-on, others not so much:

ABOUT DATING AND SEX:

  • “Play hard to get.”
  • “Go out with self-actualized (liberated) girls, but open the door for them anyway!”
  • “Always go out with everyone who asks you because you might fall in love with his brother or best friend.”
  • “Don’t trust boys who are too nice to a girl’s parents. It’s always an act!”
  • “Always be a gentleman. This will automatically put you above most other guys in a girl’s eyes.”
  • “A man wants a woman who makes him feel comfortable.”
  • “Be yourself. That way the person you’re dating will like you, and not someone you’re pretending to be.”
  • “If you wouldn’t want to bring them home to meet your family, then they’re not good enough for you to date.”
  • “When a girl says no, she means no.”
  • “Don’t just be ‘good,’ that’s only a rule. Be wise.”
  • “Give references, but no samples.”
  • “If you’re going to be stupid (have sex before marriage) be smart (protect yourself!).”
I’m inundated with daily email from teens who are utterly clueless about dating. Some typical questions:
  • Can you get pregnant from oral sex?
  • Can drinking alcohol make a guy’s sperm not able to make a girl pregnant?
  • Can having sex give you more curves and bigger breasts?
The U.S. and the UK have the highest rates of teen pregnancy amongst western industrialized nations. Nothing to be proud of. And the number of those pregnancies in the US is up after a 10 year decline. Likewise, STD rates amongst teens are skyrocketing, especially HPV (human papillomavirus). One recent study found that 4 out of 5 sexually active teen girls are infected with HPV!

Abstinence Only Sex Education programs, which received $1.3 billion in federal funding during the Bush years, owe us all a refund. This isn’t and never has been “education” nor does it prepare kids to make informed choices about their sexual behavior. So they make uninformed choices often and repeatedly.

Before you ground your teens for life, please note that everyone is not doing it. In fact, American teens are now waiting longer to have their first sexual intercourse. By age 15, only 13% of teens have had sex. Sounds encouraging, except that many of those under 15 who aren’t having intercourse are definitely messing around. (I’ll get to that in a minute.) Amongst 15-19 year olds, nearly half (46%) have had sexual intercourse at least once. While it’s great that some teens are waiting longer, I’m not thrilled at the idea of 15 and 16 year olds having sex. Many girls are very conflicted about it but they believe it’s necessary to get and keep a boyfriend. (Wonder where they get that idea?)

Another problem is that many 11-14 year olds simply don’t know the definition of sex. Plenty of middle school students consider oral sex to be “like no big deal.” Last week I got an email from a 14-year-old who was “committed to remaining a virgin” but was considering “doing it from the rear” because her boyfriend wanted to “try something new” and she didn’t think that anal sex was… well, you know, actually sex.

Girls must understand unequivocally that saying no is their right. Too many girls don’t feel good about turning a guy down, because they don’t want to be “mean.” Guys need to know that sexual contact with a girl is not their right. Healthy relationships are based on 2-way trust, respect, honesty, and open-communication. Moms and dads need to bring home these points to their sons and their daughters.

Here are some questions for you to think about (and resolve) before you begin a new kind of conversation with your tweens and teens about dating and sex:
  • What’s your personal attitude about teen dating? Teen sex? Is it different for your daughters than it is for your sons?
  • If you’re raising kids with someone, are you and your partner on the same page with these attitudes?
  • What have you learned about relationships from your time as a teen that you can comfortably share with your child?
  • What kind of social/sexual behavior do you expect from your daughter/son?
  • Have you made your behavioral expectations crystal clear?
  • In what ways are you doing a great job letting your kids know that they can always come to you with questions/concerns (about their body, about sexual feelings, about the pressure to have a boyfriend/girlfriend and to “do stuff”).
  • In what ways could you do a better job in the communication/information and listening arena?
There’s more blatant sexuality in the media and in our kids’ lives than there was in ours. With that comes intense pressure to look sexy and to act it out. That’s why our kids need better advice from us than what we got from our parents.


As parents, I sure you have more questions, you can download Annie's entire book, The Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating for free at this link: Teen Survival Guide.com



ABOUT ANNIE FOX:

When Annie Fox's first book People Are Like Lollipops (1971, Holiday House) was published, she wasn't old enough to legally sign the contract! By the time she turned 21, though, she decided that helping kids was going to be her life's work. After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies then completing her Master’s in Education from the State University of New York at Cortland, Annie set off on a teaching career. After a few years in the classroom, computers changed her life as she began to explore ways in which technology could be used to empower kids.

In 1977, Annie and her husband David opened Marin Computer Center, the world's first public access microcomputer facility. Her work there led her to write her best selling book, Armchair BASIC: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Microcomputers and Programming in BASIC (1983, Osborn/McGraw-Hill). After a detour into the world of screen writing, Annie returned to computers as an award-winning writer/designer of children's CD ROMs. (Putt-Putt; Madeline; Get Ready for School, Charlie Brown; and Mr. Potato Head Saves Veggie Valley are just a few of the titles on which she has worked.)

In 1996 Annie dreamed up the idea for The InSite, a place "for teens and young adults to turn their world around." For 3 years she served as creator, designer, writer, and executive producer of that award-winning site. One of The InSite’s most popular features was Hey Terra, a Cyberspace Dear Abby. Her book The Teen Survival Guide to Dating & Relating: Real World Advice About Guys, Girls, Growing Up And Getting Along (Previously titled Can You Relate?, 2000, Free Spirit Publishing) is based on hundreds of emails to Terra and Annie’s responses to them.

Too Stressed to Think? A Teen Guide to Staying Sane When Life Makes You CRAZY, co-authored with Ruth Kirschner, was published in October 2005 by Free Spirit Publishing. Annie’s new series Middle School Confidential™ includes Book 1: Be Confident in Who You Are (2008), Book 2: Real Friends vs. the Other Kind (2009) and Book 3: What’s Up With My Family? (January 2010).

Through her public events for kids, tweens, teens, parents, and educators, Annie continues working toward her goal of empowering young people through increased self-awareness, emotional intelligence skills and stress-reduction strategies.

When not answering teen email, Annie enjoys yoga, meditation, baking, gardening, photography, hiking, traveling, and, most of all, being with David and the rest of the family, including their dog, Josie.

4 comments:

Michael Ann said...

Wonderful article, thank you for the great information! I have two sons, a 7th grader and a 9th grader. We're right in the thick of it :-)

Mommy LaDy Club said...

This was a great article. I really don't think a school or govt. program can ever replace what parents can do for their children, but I am shocked to read how naive kids are these days. I know my step-daughters were not, and I was not before them. Something has happened to change this, because I'm not that old, and I knew exactly what could happen to me having sex, and the consequences of it, and so did everyone else I knew my age. How has this changed overnight?

Stretch Marks said...

Hi Laura! Thank you for having Annie Fox share her ideas. I will soon be a mom and I'll be having this situation later on. Handling teenagers can be a bit hard if you don't know what to do. All of us have been in the stage of adolescence and we knew we sometimes acted the wrong way.

Expert Mom on Gifts said...

Very interesting article with some facts on teens and dating that was new to me! It is a crazy world and parents must do what they can to protect their children and I think knowledge is the way but it is not easy to know just how to talk and this really starts at a much earlier age. Anyways, a very good article, thanks :-)

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