I’m sharing an exciting excerpt today from the new book: Girls Uncovered: New Research on What America’s Sexual Culture Does to Young Women.
When it comes to influencing children, parents have a number of advantages over peers, schools, churches, or even media. First, parents have been “connecting” with their girls since before birth. Parents have a unique relationship with their children that can help in communicating difficult topics. Remember, parents are with their children year after year. No one else is—not teachers, not youth workers, no one. In one sense, this long-term relationship earns parents the right to communicate values to their children. Further, parents can take into account their adolescent’s particular personality and sensitivities, as well as maturity—socially, emotionally, physically, and morally.
Unfortunately, there seems to be less communication between parents and their daughters about sexual issues than there used to be.[i] Don’t let that happen in your home. It is your job to make it happen. Studies also show that discussions about sexual issues between parent and child often do not take place until after the child has already begun having sex.[ii]
Communicate Family Standards
Family standards are very important. Young people often do not know we expect of them about sex and sometimes feel that they are getting mixed messages. For example, if their mothers discuss birth control, they may think that their mothers approve of their having sex. So it is important that parents be clear about their expectations. If they expect their child to be abstinent, they need to say this clearly.[iii]
Be clear and specific in your guidance. The following are a few suggestions to tell your daughter, and you can add your own. We could have added a hundred more to this list.
- Remaining a virgin until marriage is realistic, and it is the standard of our home.
- STIs are a big deal.
- Pregnancy is a big deal—it will change your life forever.
- We do not approve of contraceptives for you until you are married.
- Others may not tell you the truth. Teachers, websites, and books may assert that you can have sex without worry. We will always tell you the truth.
- Sex before marriage is sexist—it generally hurts the girl far more than it does the guy.
- The burden of setting the standards, therefore, falls on you. You must protect yourself to ensure your best chance of achieving your potential of health, hope, and happiness.
- We expect appropriate modesty.
- Parties with alcohol are off limits.
- It is never too late to abstain.
- Sex has a much deeper meaning than its mere physical act.
- You will never be alone. You will always have me/us!
After all this comes the really hard part. You can’t just dump this information on her and then move on. This message must be repeated—and repeated again. One study of teens and mothers showed that 73 percent of one group of mothers strongly agreed with the statement, “I have talked with my teen about sex,” while only 46 percent of the teens strongly agreed that “My mother has talked to me about sex.”[iv] This shouldn’t be a surprise. Authorities in parent-child communication emphasize the necessity of frequent repetition of your messages. They also emphasize, as we suggest above, that our messages contain valid information, delivered with clear expectations.[v]
These are some of the things you can do to help your daughter grow into the healthy, mature woman you both want her to be. And here is a final word: Relax. Your responsibility is great. So is your influence.
Excerpted with permission from Northfield Publishing from chapter ten of Girls Uncovered (Northfield Publishing, 2012) by Joe McIlhaney, Jr., MD, and Freda McKissic Bush, MD with Stan Guthrie. Dr. McIlhaney and Dr. Bush are board-certified obstetrician/gynecologists with daughters of their own.
I’m giving away a copy today of Girls Uncovered. To be entered in this give away, just click on comments below (or if you get this by email, head to my website @ www.LynnCowell.com and share if you have talked with your child about sex and if so, was it hard? I can’t wait to hear from you! I’ll share the winner of this terrific book Wednesday at the bottom of my Wednesday Wisdom Tip post.
[i] A.C. Robert, F.L. Sonenstein. Adolescents’ Reports of Communication with Their Parents About Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Birth Control: 1988, 1995, and 2002. Journal of Adolescent Health 2010; 46:532-537.
[ii] M.K. Beckett, M.N. Elliott, S. Martino, D.E. Kanouse, R. Corona, D.J. Klein, M.A. Schuster. Timing of Parent and Child Communication About Sexuality Relative to Children’s Sexual Behaviors. Pediatrics 2010; 125:34-42.
[iii] P.J. Dittus, J. Jaccard. Adolescents’ Perception of Maternal Disapproval of Sex: Relationship to Sexual Outcomes. Journal of Adolescent Health 2000; 26:268-278.
[iv] J. Jaccard, P.J. Dittus, V.V. Gordon. Parent-Teen Communication About Premarital Sex: Factors Associated With the Extent of Communication. Journal of Adolescent Research 2000; 15:187-208.
[v] S.S. Feldman, D.A. Rosenthal, eds. Talking Sexuality: Parent-Adolescent Communication: New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, No. 97. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2002:25-29.