Avid readers of the blog know that on my 9-5 I work with adolescents. Such work has given me an interesting perspective on how both adults and teens view some of the issues that teens find important: sex and self-esteem.
Now, both professionally and personally, I take a middle road when it comes to the topic of teens and sex. I don’t think I’m in a position to encourage or discourage teens from sexual activity, but more so ensure that they go through the decision process in the most appropriate manner for them. I say this because sometimes adults forget two very important facts – they were teens at one point, and teens will become adults at some point too. To me, it is better to have a responsible teen become a responsible adult, and the only way to do that is to work directly with the young person.
In one of the middle schools in the community that I’m fortunate enough to workshops on weekly, the students said some very interesting things. We were talking about pregnancy (mind you they were mostly 13-14 year olds), and I was shocked at how poignant their comments were.
The hot button question I asked after watching a video of how a teen couple was handling an unintended pregnancy was: “how would your parents react if you came home pregnant (girls) or had gotten a girl pregnant (boys)?” Of course, most of their comments were variants of this response – “my parents would murder me”. What was striking about it was the fear in which they spoke and how that was the first response that most gave.
Now, it just seeks to highlight the pressure our young people are under. While it seems in the media shows our youth seemingly do a lot more liberal things, it doesn’t highlight as overtly the level of stress they are facing in terms of finding themselves, conformity to peers and family values and discovering their own independence.
The biggest fear anyone working with youth will say that young people have is the fear of judgment by adults and their peers. This is one thing that plays into decisions on where they go for help as assistance with hot button issues such as sex and peer pressure.
So how can we help our young people make through the ever complex minefield that is adolescence? Well, perhaps remembering that we were teens at one point helps us share our pearls of wisdom with an understanding ear. Avoid judgment also works too to keep them listening. Treating them like an adult, in that you respect and acknowledge their ability to make decisions, can make things go more smoothly. Also sharing with them how to make better decisions and not preach on what to do is the icing on the cake.
Heaven knows they still want to learn, be guided and helped along. The last thing they need is a preacher or a judge, especially when it comes to issues such as sex and peer pressure.