Raising Sexually Responsible Children In Sexually Troublesome Times

It is in the nature of being a teenager to test limits. In fact, pushing the envelope is not only normative, it’s to some degree healthy. It involves finding out who you are by declaiming who you’re not. It means rejecting values now so that you can later return to them on your own terms.

Not all teenage behavior, however, involves the healthy and necessary business of pursuing each generation’s mandate to shock the one preceding it.

This is the case for kids and sex.

Sex Matters. When it comes to relationships, to development through the lifespan, to feeling vital, whole and alive, sex matters. And contemporary culture is presenting kids with a big time problem when it comes to healthy sexual development.

What is the problem? It’s not exactly what we think. It’s not necessarily what kids are doing. Not that kids sexual behavior should be a matter of indifference to us, but interestingly enough when it comes to kids sexual behaviors there’s not a huge difference between what is happening now and what was happening twenty years ago.

No, when it comes to sex, the real problem is less what kids are doing, and it’s more what kids are feeling about what they are doing. The problem lies in this culture of “hooking up”, “friends with benefits”, “It’s just sex” mindset we are hearing about.

Sex, again, matters. But in place of what we want for our kids - which is a healthy, alive, connected sexuality - we are getting a numbed and deadened sexuality. The addictive, disconnected sexuality of pornography rather than the alive and connected sexuality that can sustain a person throughout his or her lifespan.

We adults can help. We can help by doing the single most important thing that adults (not only parents, but all adults) do for kids: We can help by getting into their heads as role models, by giving them buffers and alternatives to the sexual culture in which they live. We can help by being radical and involved.