10 Life & Love Lessons Your Child Needs Long Before Birth Control
Just like you when you were an adolescent, many of today’s teenagers can’t wait to be grown. They’re out here trying to see, do and experience the best “grown up” life has to offer, not realizing that it’s ok to slow down and appreciate these carefree moments before they really learn what it means to be an adult. While your child is learning and growing in who they’ll become as a person, make sure you find time to impart these words of wisdom.
1. If you can’t talk about sex, you may not be ready to have it.
There is one word that perfectly describes adolescence: awkward. Hormones, peers and the media are placing tremendous pressure on your teen’s physical self to do things that their brain and emotions may frankly not be ready for. So I can’t say that I’m too surprised when I am teaching a class of sexually active teens or furthermore, teen parents, who are still extremely shy and nervous about discussing sex. Many teens can’t even fathom the idea of condom communication and conversations about intimacy and sexual responsibility with their partner (in fact, that can be challenging for many adults) but that’s not stopping them from having sex. We all know that sex without communication can be a dangerous game. Try to facilitate an environment where talking about healthy sexual relationships is natural and not intimidating. The more a teen feels comfortable discussing sex and relationships within the home, the easier it will be for them to confidently express their sexual values when dealing with the outside world.
2. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t truly love anyone else.
Unfortunately, with no stable foundation of what it truly means to love yourself, many of our teens are searching for love, acceptance and validation from outside sources. This need can then be twisted and manipulated by many who seek to take advantage of a person’s inability to love themselves or have a true knowledge of themselves. Self-esteem is what undoubtedly makes or breaks EVERYTHING. Needing constant approval from others can make young girls especially (but young men too) try to find their identity in the form of celebrities, personas that don’t truly represent them, and behave in ways that conflict with what they think is right all to be accepted and loved. They may find themselves seeking extreme physical enhancements to try to fit a standard of beauty that is unrealistic. Let your kids know how special they are just the way they are from gate. Regularly tell them how much you love and believe in them, so in turn they can start to believe in themselves. Let them know that it’s ok to admire celebs and want to emulate them, but that they are special and beautiful in their own unique way.
3. It’s ideal that your first love will last forever, but unlikely that it will.
Another common behavior I see play out in teenage relationships is this desperation to stay in a relationship that is obviously not working. In order to live up to this fantastical view of love, many teens are trying to force unhealthy relationships to work. In many ways, this is just a life lesson. We all probably had that first love that we’d swore we’d marry only to look back in hindsight and say, in the words of Beyoncé, “thank God I dodged a bullet”. It’s important to let our teens know that love is a learning process, and although there will be heartache, each relationship hopefully teaches us a bit more about ourselves and what we want (and don’t want) out of a partner. Ideally, if you can live happily ever after with the person you fall for at fourteen, that’s an achievement. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with kissing a few frogs before you find a prince. Discourage them from seeking permanent solutions for temporary problems. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many young ladies try to fix a faulty relationship by starting a family only to find out that a baby just makes things even more complicated. When you’re young, dating around is normal. Teach them to be comfortable being with themselves and that there is nothing wrong with not being in a relationship at all, especially if it means not being one that’s unhealthy.
4. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
As I mentioned in the statements above, relationships can provide you with an idea of knowing what you want and don’t want out of relationships. It’s important to be honest with yourself about what you want from a relationship. If it’s not OK with you that your partner has sex with other people, let that be known and don’t accept it when it happens. Privacy a problem? Make a rule to not go through each other’s phones. The point is for your teen to have an idea what they are expecting out of relationship. When you don’t know what you want from partner, you’re more likely to end up in a situation where you get exactly what you don’t want.
5. Maturity and responsibility is what truly makes a woman or a man.
When you’re young, it’s easy to see all of the perks that come with being an adult: cars, apartments, not having to answer to anyone. What’s often overlooked is the stress that comes with balancing a career to finance all the perks with having a responsible social life. Unfortunately those perks don’t last long if you handle money irresponsibly and can’t exercise self-control. It’s the intangible qualities that give you the right to be called “grown.” It’s important that your teens see both the privileges and responsibilities that come with being an adult.
6. It’s not about how fast you can get it, it’s how long you can keep it.
While we are on the subject of work, it’s a great idea to work smarter and not harder, but inform your child that sometimes there are no shortcuts, and if there are they may end up being more hassle than they’re worth. Encourage them to do things the right way in the right order. Learner’s permit, license and then car instead of purchasing a vehicle without those things and then having it taken by the police. All that time spent investing into trying to manipulate systems are often better spent just putting in the work.
7. Reputation: Can be ruined within minutes, but takes a lifetime to build back up.
When you’re young, it can be difficult to see into next week, let alone next year. With digital media being such a common presence in the lives of our teens, it’s even easier to preserve both the best and worst moments of your life. It’s all fun and games texting naked pictures and being tagged in a bunch of crazy partying pics until you’re up for that internship and an employer’s Google search returns pics of you flipping off the camera with a Corona in your hand. Your teen will have a social life and make plenty of mistakes without needing to document it all electronically. It’s especially necessary now to teach the importance of privacy and discretion. A good rule when it comes to social networking: Personal moments are best left shared in person.
8. What you allow in the beginning sets the tone for the entire relationship.
While navigating life and love, it’s common for young girls to approach dating like a contest doing anything to win the prize without actually focusing on what the prize is. Unfortunately this can lead to some faulty decision-making where girls behave in ways that totally don’t reflect what they want from a relationship. When you settle for being mistreated in the beginning of a relationship you may end up setting for something that is way less than what you wanted. “Jump-off” type of situations could turn into a real relationship, but is that a risk you really want to take? It may take some time for you to figure out exactly what you want from a relationship, but if you know what you don’t want, you already have a great advantage.
9. There are certain things about being an adult, which are honestly overrated.
The irony of being a teen is that the more adults tell you not to do something, the more you actually want to do it. As much as you tell your teen to enjoy this time of life void of adult worries and responsibilities, their curiosity will always cause them to be in a rush to partake in adult activities. I was watching the independent film, “The Myth of the Great American Sleepover” in which one of the older teenage characters made a great point about how adolescents take for granted all of the things that adults wish they could have back like sleepovers and boring board game nights. The earlier you start a life of partying, sex and “fun” adult stuff, the easier it is to grow very jaded. Don’t be the twenty-year-old that feels like a forty-year-old. My best nights are filled with friends and Wii games. Try convincing your teen that.
10. We all make mistakes when we’re young, the goal is to not make costly mistakes.
I’m a firm believer that over all of the advice and wisdom in the world, experience is the best teacher. Sometimes the only way through a situation, is…well through it. It’s important for our young people to know that growing up is all about making mistakes and learning from them. The trick is to not make mistakes that you can’t come back from, and unfortunately many of our teens are making decisions that will drastically change the course of their lives in a negative way. Improve your teen’s decision –making ability by encouraging a process of thinking before acting, weighing outcomes and considering consequences.