Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Health Care and Teen Sex


Sex is not a simple matter. Biologically speaking sex has but one purpose, to continue the species, but the psychological impact of being sexually active is where things get complicated, according to TeenAdvice.About.com. Why is sex such a big deal? Culturally speaking why have we turned a biological necessity in to a social conundrum? Sex is an essential part of the cycle of life and yet society teaches teens to avoid it for as long as possible. We teach teens that sex is dangerous and shameful, that engaging in it requires extreme caution and that there is more harm than good to be found in doing it. Is this a fair portrayal of something that is a very basic part of being human? Yes and no.


If you are a teen, how, when, where, why and with whom you have sex for the first time will have lasting psychological implications and will shape your attitude toward sex for the rest of your life. Take sex too seriously and you may grow up repressed, take it too lightly and your adult lifestyle could become overly promiscuous. This is the core reason why adults make sex out to be such serious and risky business. The physiological risks of having sex are obvious (pregnancy, STDs, etc…) but having sex will effect your emotional and psychological development as well and this is why adults urge you to abstain. You should wait until you are reasonably sure of how having sex will change your life and worldview; and being able to understand how sex may affect you requires a degree of self-awareness and maturity that most teens don’t yet have.

Teen pregnancy is by far the most publicized danger of underage sex, according to HealthTree.com. Statistics reveal that every year in the US, over 850,000 girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen become pregnant. Equally worrying are the figures that suggest 20,000 girls under fourteen become pregnant annually; of those 8,000 go on to give birth. Promiscuity is an urgent issue. Teenagers are much more likely to engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners. Half of all people infected with the HIV virus annually are thought to be between the ages of 15 and 24. About 25 percent of all sexually active teens contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) annually. Of those, eighty percent do not know they have a disease and run the risk of long-term health effects, such as infertility. Two percent of all girls between fifteen and nineteen have been diagnosed with Chlamydia.

Social liberals in the country’s “blue states” tend to support sex education and are not particularly troubled by the idea that many teen-agers have sex before marriage, but would regard a teen-age daughter’s pregnancy as devastating news. And the social conservatives in “red states” generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but are relatively unruffled if a teen-ager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn’t choose to have an abortion, according to NewYorker.com. Religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior, and that this gap is especially wide among teen-agers who identify themselves as evangelical.

Evangelical Protestant teen-agers are significantly less likely than other groups to use contraception. This could be because evangelicals are also among the most likely to believe that using contraception will send the message that they are looking for sex. It could also be because many evangelicals are steeped in the abstinence movement’s warnings that condoms won’t actually protect them from pregnancy or venereal disease. More provocatively, only half of sexually active teen-agers who say that they seek guidance from God or the Scriptures when making a tough decision report using contraception every time. By contrast, sixty-nine per cent of sexually active youth who say that they most often follow the counsel of a parent or another trusted adult consistently use protection, according to NewYorker.com.

Parents dread the day that their child becomes sexually active. Girls in particular, seem to cause more concern because of the risk of teen pregnancy. Understanding why teenagers have sex is one of the most important steps towards dealing with the situation. No single factor can be blamed for all possible occurrences of teenage sex, according to HealthTree.com. However, some of the more common issues raised by teenagers include:

--Peer pressure — a feeling that everyone else is having sex.

--In girls more than boys, a belief that sex will keep their partner interested in them and will provide the love they crave.

--Media influence such as television, music and the Internet.

--A negative self-image, believing that participating in sexual activity can increase their popularity.

--A belief that having sex will make them more adult.

--Overly strict parents, increasing the chances of promiscuity when the opportunity arises.

Talking to teens about sex and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), according to AAHealth.org, can be difficult for parents. Teens want to make their own decisions, but they are also influenced by their parents and their peers. Open communication between teens and parents is very important and helps teens to make healthy decisions. Studies show that young people whose parents talk to them about sex are less likely to engage in sexual activity.

According to HealthTree.com, experts have this advice:

--Discuss sex with your child, from an early age, ideally pre-teen. Talking to your teen about sex encourages responsible behavior when it comes to sexual activity.

--Believe it or not, many teens feel that their parents are the most influential source of information on sex.

--Offer guidance, care and supervision. Teenagers are in need of parenting and feel more secure when boundaries are clear.

--Keep in mind that your teen gains a lot of information from simply watching how adults behave.

Sexuality is an important topic for your teenager. Tackle it early, sensitively and in a matter-of-fact manner. Keep the lines of communication open as much as possible. Help your teenager understand normal sexual urges and strategies for managing them healthfully.

True Love Waits, a Christian abstinence movement, has been clear about telling teens that sexual purity means abstaining from all sexual activity, including oral sex, according to BPNews.net. Their support materials challenge teenagers to live Christ-like and pure in all ways in all relationships, with the promise itself centered around a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from the promise day until the day teens enter a biblical marriage relationship as adults. Church leaders and parents must avoid two extremes in dealing with teenagers' sexuality.

For most parents, the "birds and the bees" talk is one they dread. Yet, take a moment to think about what your child would learn if he or she did not hear it from you, according to ChristianTeens.About.com. With AIDS, STDs, pregnancy, and more all traps of a sexual world, it is important for teenagers to be educated about sex - and not just about abstinence. Having a conversation about sex thinking that your teen doesn't live in the information age will make your talk seem antiquated and lose its edge. Know that your teen is probably exposed to a lot of sexual information every day. There are ads that about on the Internet. Sex is on the cover of almost every magazine in the store. Boys and girls at school are probably talking about it regularly. Before you sit down with your teen, look around. Your teen is probably not as sheltered as you'd like to think.

When you actually look at the intimate life of America's youth, you find this heterodoxical pattern: People can seem raunchy on the surface but are wholesome within. In other words, American pop culture may look trashy, but America's social fabric is in the middle of an amazing moment of improvement and repair, according to BPNews.net. Teenagers are starting to realize that the extreme sexuality they see in the movies, on television and in music videos is make-believe when what matters is reality. For those teens confused about where to draw the line on the broad scale from holding hands to intercourse, sexual purity in every dimension should be the goal. While sexual purity certainly includes abstaining from sexual intercourse until marriage, it is more than just setting limits on one's behavior. A Christian perspective guides teens toward purity and to seek it in their attitudes and actions.

Avoid going over a laundry list of reasons not to have sex. Sit down with your teen and have a real conversation. If you need to write things down, go ahead, but avoid giving a speech. Make it a dialogue about sex. Listen when your teen has something to say, and avoid making it an argument. Understand your teen lives in a very different generation that is far more open about sex than previous generations, according to ChristianTeens.About.com. While the dialogue may be shocking at first, the conversation will stay with your teen for years to come.

While most parents of teens would like to think that talking about abstinence is enough, the unfortunate fact is that many teens (Christian and non-Christian alike) have sex before marriage. While it is important to tell your teens why not having sex before marriage is ideal, you cannot just skip over the talk about having safe sex. Be prepared to talk about condoms, birth control pills, and more. Don't be afraid to discuss STDs and AIDS. Understand your facts about rape and abortion, according to About.com. Be educated about those topics, before you talk about them so you aren't taken off guard when you're asked. If you don't know - then take the time to look it up. There will be a lot of talk floating around them about sex, make sure they have the right information.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.