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Helping Teens Resist Sexual Pressure

Helping Teens Resist Sexual Pressure

SADM #92 Sep/Oct 2020

American Academy of Pediatrics

Teens are more likely to have sex if they:

  • Entered puberty early
  • Socialize with youngsters who approve of and encourage sexual activity
  • Place little value on education
  • Have a poor relationship with their parents, particularly their father
  • Rarely attend religious instruction or services

Abstinence: A Positive Approach

When teaching your child about sexuality, why not accentuate the advantages of delaying sexual intercourse instead of harping on the potentially adverse consequences? It’s the same message, only framed in a more positive light. You might begin by acknowledging that physical intimacy between two loving adult partners is beautiful and joyful, while also warning about the perils of experience that comes too early.

“When young people have sex before they’re ready, they usually end up regretting it. I’d hate to see that happen to you.” Then you can continue with some of the other good reasons that many dating couples offer for their decision to practice abstinence.

Why wait? It’s the only foolproof way to avoid an unplanned pregnancy. If you don’t have sexual intercourse, a girl can’t get pregnant.

Why wait? Because later on, girls who didn’t often wish that they had. Researchers in New Zealand interviewed nearly one thousand young people, all in their midtwenties, about their first sexual experiences. On average, the men had become sexually active when they were seventeen; the women, at age sixteen. Looking back, more than half the women admitted that they now wished they’d held onto their virginity longer, a sentiment seconded by 70 percent of the women who had been fifteen or younger the first time they had intercourse.

Helping Teens Resist Sexual Pressure

“The sexual pressure on teenagers to have sex is enormous,” says Denver pediatrician Dr. Ron Eagar, adding that kids often feel as if they’re caught in a vise. Not only do they have to contend with the direct pressure to “do it” from their date or steady boyfriend/girlfriend, there’s the peer pressure applied by friends who want to know (elbow jab, wink wink) “didja do it?” They may also feel the internal pressure to keep pace with their friends, as if competing in a marathon to lose their virginity. One way of helping them resist these pressures is to anticipate them and discuss them.

Let’s say that you have a daughter who’s just beginning to date. Describe a scenario such as this one:

A sixteen-year-old girl is trying to fend off an overamorous date who’s had too much to drink at a party and is clumsily trying to slip his hand under her bra as they kiss in the front seat of his father’s car. She likes this boy and has known him for years, but she’s uncomfortable with the direction the evening is taking and wants to stop things from going further—yet without hurting his feelings unnecessarily.

Then ask your daughter: “What could the girl do or say to regain control of the situation? Is she being too timid? Should she be more forceful?”

Another variation of this exercise is to ask your teenager to picture herself in a given situation and imagine how she might react, as if watching herself in a movie frame by frame. For example: “If I was invited to a boy’s house and discovered after I got there that his parents were out of town, what would I do?” Athletes and performers often use visualization to help them prepare for upcoming challenges, including those they’re encountering for the first time.

Let’s encourage youngsters to think ahead, anticipate potential trouble and be alert to warning signs. Perhaps the girl in our example saw her date drink two beers at the party. Though he wasn’t staggering around drunk or slurring his words, she should have registered this as a warning that trouble might lie ahead. Then she could have decided not to take any chances and caught a ride home from the party with some other kids, thus avoiding the awkward situation in the car.

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