Would Americans increase peace in family life and strengthen family bonds if they adopted more accepting attitudes about sex and what’s allowable under the family roof? That was a question posed in a NYTimes opinion column a couple of weeks ago. Tackling the issue of teenagers and sex, the author and researcher is asking those hard questions about how, as a parent you deal with your kids and sex.
Now when I was a teenager, I thought my parents were out of touch, way too strict and my curfew was ridiculously early. 11 p.m.?! My parents thought anything that happened after 11 p.m. probably shouldn’t be happening at all. Not bad reasoning, though teenagers can be pretty creative and if they really want to do something, they can figure out how to make it happen before curfew.
Allowing teenage sex in the house? I wasn’t even allowed to have boys on the second floor of our house! And talk about sex? That conversation was short and sweet:
“Mom, I’m thinking about having sex with my boyfriend.”
Well, that was the end of that conversation. It certainly never got as far as discussing contraception.
Now, this opinion author goes as far as to say, if your kids are going to have sex with their boyfriend/girlfriend, why not be more accepting and allow it? She has done research in both the Netherlands and the United States, and the teenage pregnancy rate in the Netherlands is 4 times lower than in the U.S. She connects this with a national report that 7 of 10 Dutch girls reported that by the time they were 16, their parents had talked to them about pregnancy and contraception.
So, will our teenagers be more safe, more responsible, if we, as parents suck it up and have honest, more open conversations about sex? My daughter is only 4 so fortunately I have many years before our conversation takes place and I am hoping that when the time comes, I will say the right things. (And no matter what comes of that conversation, the “no boys on the second floor” rule is going to apply!)
Emily Hansen is Women of the ELCA’s director for stewardship and development.