Is your teenager having sex? Unless you catch them in the act or find a used condom in their room, it’s really almost impossible to be sure. Teenage sexual activity is still on the rise, despite the vast risks associated with sexual contact. It can be difficult to stomach, but the statistics say that if your child has a fairly active social life (or spends all of the time associating with just one person) and is over the age of 13, chances are pretty good that they are. But don’t hold your head and wail in mourning just yet. These are simply statistical insights. Your child, thankfully, is more than a mere statistic.
A certain amount of sexual play and experimentation is not only normal, but healthy. This doesn’t mean it’s healthy for your 13 year old to be sexually active, but it does mean that their thoughts, their interest in their own body, and their sexual curiosity is healthy. Kissing, hand holding, “going with,” and even lying to their friends about sexual encounters that have never happened are relatively normal and predictable behaviors. Kids want to feel grown up. Kids want to be grown up. And they have all of these sex hormones pinging around their brains like flies trapped in a glass jar.
For boys, sexual conquests are a status symbol. Many kids feel as though they should be having sex by the time they reach 15. It makes them part of the real world in their minds, and connects them with their own manliness. Most boys start masturbating as early as ten or eleven. Most of the time, boys are more likely to engage in sexual activity because it is not looked down upon by societal standards in the same way it is looked down upon for girls.
Girls are under a great deal of pressure to be sexy from a young age. With teen pop stars strutting their stuff at twelve years old, seductive and revealing clothing becoming the norm, and the all out desire to be popular, girls are walking out the door for school in the morning looking like they are college material off to their night time bartending job. Little girls are wearing heels and are starting to engage in make up by the time they are 5. Sexual images are everywhere, and girls are well aware of the pressure to maintain a stunning body, dress it provocatively, and use it to their advantage whenever the opportunity arises.
A child’s sexual attitude is formed by societal views but heavily influenced by family members. A girl who watches an older sister deal with an unwanted pregnancy is less likely in most cases to become sexually active prematurely. However, if the child feels that the only method of receiving positive attention in the household is to bring home a cute baby, the opposite result may ensue. A boy who watches his father deal sexual issues like disease is also less likely to engage in sexual activity. Parents who talk openly about sex and talk about it in a very real and honest manner are likely to provide their children with healthy sexual attitudes. It’s all very relative.
Obviously, some kids use sexual activity to fill voids, gain what they consider to be positive attention, or to enhance their popularity at school. Sexual exploits are becoming dangerously public at parties and social gatherings. Girls have been known to allow several guys take her at one time simply to be the star of the show for the night. Girls joining gangs will allow themselves to be gang raped as part of their initiation process. These girls end up with serious emotional scars. The boys who join in are often left with conflicted emotions as well, being heralded by their friends as heroes but often feeling that their participation was wrong. Some boys find this is the time that they develop an uncaring attitude about sex.
What does all of this have to do with the original question, is your teenager having sex? It simply outlines the guidelines that indicate the likelihood of sexual activity. As you read through the statistical findings, did you recognize glimpses of your own family life, or your child’s activities? Children under the age of 17 will often change their behavior when they become sexually active, especially if they are engaging in a sexual relationship. A sudden interest in your whereabouts for the afternoon or a sudden need to know your estimated time of arrival home can be a good indicator that something is up. A fascination with one individual or a need to be with someone all the time can also indicate that sexual activity is either around the corner or has just been introduced. Slipping grades, a heightened need for privacy, and mysterious need for a sum of money (visits to the physician if disease is suspected and birth control pills cost money) along with either sudden depression or euphoria can indicate collective evidence.
Of course, you can always just ask your teenager if they are sexually active. They might not tell you the truth. But if you can present yourself as a reasonable parent who understands that your child might end up getting in over their head you might be surprised how much information they will tell you. When teens engage in sexual activity too early, they often feel the damaging effects hitting their self image right away. One of the biggest things they worry about is what their parents might think of them. Their silence is cutting out an opportunity for them to learn that they can start over. Just because they have been sexually involved once doesn’t mean they have to continue to do to so. Resist the urge to threaten, to ground them until they are grown, and to have them castrated if your suspicions are warranted. Talk to your child about the dangers of having sex before they’re ready, and not just the physical dangers. Share with them your own mistakes and how you changed your behavior in order to feel better about your sexuality and your judgment. Let them know that they can tell you without risking punishment or judgment.
You might never know for sure whether or not your teen is sexually engaged. But you can be a parent who is there for your child just in case. You can be a parent who will handle the potential backlash of sexual activity with grace and understanding. Some kids become sexually involved a little too early but handle it without any misgivings. Some kids fall apart completely. Some kids find out that they really like it and they have no intention of ceasing the behavior. All you can do is ask the question, is your teenager having sex, find ample opportunities to express healthy and safe sexual views, and be the kind of parent that you can be proud of in the end.