Synergistic Parenting

How can we deal with drugs & sex?

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Before thinking about drugs and sex consider how best to work with our kids about these issues. The current craze of sexting is one of many issues. To understand drugs and sex we must understand youth, and consider our thoughts and feelings about discipline.

Inner discipline
Synergistic parenting's goal is discipline that develops and grows within the child, and as self-discipline grows, less is imposed by parents or caretakers. At the same time you work with your child to develop values of what is best to be and to do. Become familiar with using I-messages and other facets of communication, and the useful idea of who owns problems. All of these help you to develop a child's discipline and cause-effect discipline. When our child does something we want to change, we are more effective, synergetic parents if we probe into the causes of the behavior we want changed.

Sex and drug facts
The more your child gets in accurate information about sex and drugs the better. The best source that most children and teens want is open and frank talk with parents who respectfully listen. Do you want your children to believe what they hear from their peers or see in media? Do you want them to feel they can come to you to check the accuracy of scuttlebutt? Do you want your children to feel free to go to books and the internet for information, and to have tools to test for accuracy that you work with them to find and develop?

Fear vs. facts
Some parents use fear. They want to preach at their children. Fear is not as effective as the truth. Fear can have unwanted results. Can you remember your own response as a teen to propaganda and fear tactics? Much of what we see and read about drugs and sex is based on fear, and overstates it to make it fearsome. When our teens learn that those fears are overblown, they often reject all they were told. The facts are strong enough. Avoid using fear.

With both sex and drugs if we are utterly truthful, natural cause and effect is very useful. Take a quiz about sex facts.

Learn why youngsters experiment with drugs and sex; here are some reasons:

  • Drugs and sex are flaunted as normal behavior in the media and advertising, and peers imitate it: they say, "everyone does it";
  • teens often want adventure, to experiment, to be excited: "why not? feel good";
  • teens feel sex is the only free recreation, but are taught condoms aren't dependable; wrong!
  • drugs and sex being forbidden adds to their attraction and excitement.

Remember your own feelings about sex and drugs in your teen years. The more time you spend one-with-one to appreciate each youngster the better you can counter peer pressure and channel their exuberance and experimenting into positive areas.

Drugs
Alcohol, nicotine, and illegal drugs all affect the body and the mind.

A person who begins drinking as a young teen is four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than someone who waits until adulthood to use alcohol according to the National Institute of Health.

Parents need to learn the effects of drinking alcohol in any form, then talk openly with their teens. They need to learn the subtle effect of drinking. Above all the drinker is the last to notice those effects, and least able to evaluate if they can safely drive. Driving under the influence (DUI) is just one of many serious natural effects of alcohol. Do not use fear, but respect its effects. Help your teens learn why designated drivers are critical. Assure your teens that if they drink too much, they can call you any time for a safe ride without preaching.

While the child is younger, you might talk about the effects of medicines. A headache cured with an over the-counter medication can lead to conversation about some chemicals are strangely strong. Alcohol and illegal drugs are also strong stuff. They cause strong reactions that are unreal. Parents can make themselves be both a source of information but also of support amid confusing peer pressures.

Alcoholism may happen after the first drink or after years of drinking, but it takes control of the alcoholic. Alcoholism tendencies are transmitted genetically. Parents and teens need to understand it so as to be aware of its first signs. Alcoholics Anonymous has information offices in many cities with useful literature, including questions that reveal indications of alcoholism.

Natural highs include music and dance, yoga and Eastern meditation, and many more — with no chemicals or hangover.

One important point about illegal drugs is that they are produced with no consideration for purity or safety. For example, many deaths blamed on "drug overdose" are actually caused by the chemicals used to dilute the drugs or contamination. Users never can be sure of the dilution or strength that have profound effects.

About smoking, help them learn that of all drugs legal and illegal only one is fatal in normal doses, strength, and usage – nicotine.

Do not be surprised by what your children know about drugs. A mother and her two younger children were waiting for haircuts, when one child pointed at bottles of toiletries for sale, saying look at the marijuana. The mother said, that's not marijuana. The other child said it was. The mother asked the sales person, who said that brand used a marijuana leaf as its logo. The mother was shocked that her young children recognized it.

Parents and teens can take the time to learn the effects of drugs and addiction. Addiction happens inside of persons. It means we are not in control. It has us. Mark Twain said it is easy to quit smoking; he'd done it thousands of times. It had him. Some are addicted to work or sex. Please remember: facts and respect kids, but avoid using fear.

Sex
Sex is hard to talk about—so personal, intimate. The conversations we have about sex may be awkward, they can certainly be comical, but they can keep us healthy. We are influenced by Victorian shards or fragments buried in our culture and by conflicting religious traditions—some very judgmental and negative. Research shows that parents can have a major impact on their children's attitudes and decisions about sex, and that many teens want to talk with parents about sex, and it is effective.

Author Judy Bloom says, "I was wildly interested in puberty as a child. Even though I was envied for having a warm and loving father, one who claimed I could talk to him about anything, I never actually asked him the questions I had. I waited for him to tell me. And then I didn't always understand what he was saying. I was so curious about sex…. The safest sex of all is masturbation. So, get the facts first. Too many kids jump in and have sex without thinking. Adults need to talk with them about sexual responsibilities, but too often, don't. I hear a lot of kids say they wish they had read Forever before they became sexually active." She is the author of Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, Then Again Maybe I Won't, and Forever.

When sex hormones come, teens feel flooded with yearnings that are seductive, exciting, comforting, sometimes feeling naughty, dark. With them there are desires for sharing, companionship and exploring. As Judy Bloom said, it is hard to ask the crucial questions. It is hard for parents to say things right, but try.

We receive cultural views of males and females from companions, television, movies, and reading. We parents need to be sensitive to those and explore alternative ways so we talk about them. I hope you want your children to be as free as possible of hierarchical views of men as dominant, controlling, exploiting women, and views of women as subservient. While I hope we want to be free of these, recognize their subtle influences.

There’s no point in understanding “men” or “women," since no one has sex with “men” or “women.” We have sex with George or Maria — but we don’t have sex with some abstract group. For better sex, learn more about the person you are with, says Susie Bright. Deeper, richer sex comes with deepening appreciation of George or Maria.

When younger boys and girls see each other naked, or see anatomically correct dolls, their curiosity and questions are normal. To younger children a penis may be like a toe. If their play with their bodies makes you uncomfortable, suggest alternatives, such as cookies. Don’t appear shocked. Encourage their curiosity. A friend told that before he was adolescent riding on a country lane with his mother and her friend, when the two women decided to stop to swim in a stream . They stripped to skinny dip as they invited the son to. He said for the first time he was stimulated without understanding it, and felt uncomfortable. Be sensitive to emerging feelings and attitudes about sexuality to listen first — then chat about them.

Calmly and clearly tell pre-adolescents, don't let others touch parts of the body covered by swim suits. Calmly help them learn to defend the space around them, and reject hands or arms getting too close. Answer questions honestly, openly, and without shame. Make your answers to the point and simple.

Can we talk with all teens about five critical issues about sex?

  • One is forced sex. Any attempt to force another to have sex, or another attempting to force you, violates people’s individuality and personhood. No is no! Sex must never be coerced. Media showing sex as violent and forced offers opportunities to talk about it. Find ways to reduce the risk of the date rape drugs. Get your own drink alcoholic or not, open your own can, and keep an eye on your drink. Most rapes are by people the survivor knows and relaxes around.
  • Second, any one forced to have sex is traumatized, but often deny their feelings. Each must be encouraged to talk with counselors about their hurt so they become a healthy survivor.
  • Third, is avoiding pregnancy. If you believe every baby must be anticipated, then you can talk about your own care for this child to talk about avoiding pregnancy. As gynecologists recommend, daughters have a prescription filled for Plan B and write the instructions. One third of women are sexually assaulted and they need Plan B immediately.
  • Fourth, is avoiding sexually transmitted diseases (STD). You and your son or daughter learn accurate medical information about STDs. Medically accurate information includes the values of abstinence and that condoms when used correctly are very effective. Learn how to use condoms and what lubricants to avoid, and show your children with a banana.
  • Fifth, we are ready for sex physically before we are ready emotionally. Our culture is very unfair: girls are "promiscuous" while boys are "experienced."

End in itself?
About pleasure one parent talked with her teens that pleasure depends on two persons giving themselves thoroughly to each other. Sex is about far more than physical intimacy, it can be about a unique one-to-one capacity for both vulnerability and compassion. It means I-want-you-to-want-me, and want-me-to-want-you. A therapist suggests compassion, understanding, honesty, and knowledge of an erotic nature. Is the other person trustworthy, caring, treats you as an equal, is a friend, and open — respects and affirms you? Sex may either express these qualities or be an end in itself. Work with teens to find their personal feelings between hedonistic pleasure for personal gain, and repression. Discuss the effects of these extremes. Explore realities such as a promiscuous girl may be seeking a male to be the father she never had. Help them develop their own heartfelt feelings, values, or ethics about sex.

Tantric sex
For many of us the goal of  sex is ejaculation; a different view seeks the deep joy of being inside – and filling – the others body; the deep fulfillment of caressing and being buried within the other. One good summary of this view is the book the Heart of Tantric Sex by Diana Richardson. Many web sites explore aspects of Tantric and similar views of sex.

Write?
If you find it very hard to talk about sex or to answer questions; you can still communicate honestly and openly by writing. Remember your own teen experiences, and remember that teens spread lots of information and experiences about sex that often is not accurate. As with drugs, fear and mis-truths only weaken your ability to help your teens and to be trusted. Most teens want frank information from parents who support them in this confusing area.
Take a sex quiz.

One mother of two teens was realistic, I think, when she emphasized carefully why she preferred her sons have no sex on dates. But she realized that feelings and urges can overwhelm, and so she taught them how to use condoms so they are most effective. I think she was as wise as we are when we drive a car only if it has a spare tire that we know how to change. Or teach teens how to drive safely and considerately and how to handle wild drivers nearby.

If you believe passionately in abstinence only, honestly face the facts of unplanned STD's, including HIV/AIDS, pregnancies, and the intense passions of adolescents and their consequences.

How about a condom party?
May help younger teens get comfortable with condoms, and perhaps more willing to talk about them as a surefire way to beat S.T.D. and U.I.P. if used correctly. The goal is be comfortable handling condoms, and discuss, as above, respectful sex (see End in Itself). Pass out condoms for each to open and blow up as large as they can. The goal is to have the largest one. Tie each so it stays blown up. After the champion is crowned for the largest one, then try smearing different lubricants on them. Some household lubricants break down the condom material, deflating the condom. This may be a dramatic way to find which lubricants are safest. Some suggest blowing up a condom before use to test it. Initiate conversation about how to say no.

Time alone with
Perhaps the most important parenting you can do is to spend time with each child, doing what that child wants to do, more than once a month. Having spent time with your child makes it less stressful to talk with your child about these difficult subjects, and easier for you to listen and hear what your child may want to share.

Set aside enough time for one child and you to do whatever the child wants. If the child is a teen, you may spend hours going to a movie the teen wants to see with you or appreciating a hobby or interest. This one-with-one time may lead to talking together – whatever your child suggests.

Copyright © 2006 John F. Yeaman