Sexuality The adolescent years

Open Lines of Communication

Initially, having conversations with your child about sexual matters can seem overwhelming, parents worry that their child will ask or disclose information they are not ready to deal with. It is important that parents overcome their initial fears and engage in meaningful dialogue with their children regarding sexuality. Aside from prenatal development, the adolescent years bring about the greatest developmental physical and hormonal changes. Navigating these years with the support of a loving and informative parent can help ease any uncertainties associated with these years.

Where to go?
Adolescence - Time of Change and Growth

Regardless of sexual orientation, it is generally during the period of adolescence that young people find their sexual identity (Perrin-Wallqvist & Lindblom, 2015). For this and many other reasons, it is important that parents prepare their children for this stage of life. Early conversations should focus on expressing of acceptance of self and others. As cited by King (2014), the adolescent years bring an increase in risk-taking behaviors and great curiosity about sex emerges.

How Do I Look?
Social Media - Implications on Adolescent Years

Body image and self-esteem go hand in hand for adolescents, social media plays an important role in a teenager's self-esteem level. In a study which analyzed 100 adolescent Facebook profiles, Sarabia and Estevez found that 60% of images shared could be considered erotic and sexualized (2016). Furthermore, this study found that images such as a girl sitting on a bed only wearing a oversized shirt were encouraged by peers, thus creating a culture which promotes and encourages hyper sexualization (Saribia & Estevez,2016). It is imperative that parents communicate with their children the risks associated with such postings as well instilling a deeper sense of worth.

Lights, Camera, Action!
Resource for Parents and Teens

A great resource for parents to use as they navigate these years is the book Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: Expanded Third Edition: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships by Ruth Bell. This book is written for teens but I believe it could be used as a guide for parents to reach their children. The book covers issues such as self-esteem, body image, self identity, hormonal and physical changes, as well as many other topics. This resource can prepare parents to begin these conversations. Specifically, parents who did not benefit from sexual conversations during their own adolescence can be transparent with their children and use this time as one of bonding and learning with their child.

You Can Do This!!
Really, you can!

Begin having these conversations as early as possible, which will in turn help you delve into deeper topics such as STD's, Knopf, A. (2015) suggests having starter conversations in the car, the casual setting will not only reduce the awkwardness but also open the floor for conversation to flow. Remember to use encouraging and nonjudgemental attitudes towards the topic of sexuality with your child, Gilbert (2015) presents findings that many parents believe "sexuality arrives from the outside to ruin the innocence of childhood". Instead, I suggest an approach which celebrates the coming of adolescence, a time of discovery, character building, and family unity through education.

References

Bell, R. (1998).Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: Expanded Third Edition: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships.Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony.

Gilbert, J. (2015). Not My Kid: What Parents Believe about the Sex Lives of Their Teenagers. Social Forces, 94(1), 1-3. doi:10.1093/sf/sot088

King, B. M. (2014). Human Sexuality Today (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Knopf, A. (2015). Talking to your child about sex, sexuality, and health: Facts + love = success. Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 311-2.

PERRIN-WALLQVIST, R., & LINDBLOM, J. (2015). COMING OUT AS GAY: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY ABOUT ADOLESCENTS DISCLOSING THEIR HOMOSEXUALITY TO THEIR PARENTS. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 43(3), 467-480. doi:10.2224/sbp.2015.43.3.467

Sarabia, I., & Estévez, A. (2016). Sexualized behaviors on Facebook. Computers In Human Behavior, 61219-226. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.03.037

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Daisy Bevrotte
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