This is the final blog in the four part series Warning Signs.
I remember having my first boyfriend in middle school. My mother came to my bedroom after hearing the news of my new relationship and stated, “So you have a boyfriend? Have you kissed him?” After my response of, “No,” she said in reply, “Good, now don’t,” and left the room.
That was the most either of parents have ever discussed the topic of sex with me to this day. It is important these days that conversations go much deeper on the topic of sex than simply “don’t do it.” Youth need answers and they need to know why.
Young adolescents are going through a stressful developmental stage as they transition from childhood to adolescence and navigate the ups and downs of puberty. Beginning as early as middle school, youth are also at a curious stage and ask a lot of questions, so you can imagine that there will also be curiosity when it comes to sex. As a therapist, I cannot stress enough the importance of discussing sex and chastity with your child as they enter into the stage of young adolescence.
According to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention based on ten states and six large school districts, “19.8% of middle schoolers have had sexual intercourse”[i]. This percentage rate continues to rise as youth enter into high school. Christine Markham, Ph.D and professor, studies middle school at risk behaviors and reports, “These findings are alarming because youth who start having sex before age 14 are much more likely to have multiple lifetime sexual partners, use alcohol or drugs before sex, and have unprotected sex, all of which puts them at greater risk for getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or becoming pregnant”[ii].
As the exposure to sexual activity begins at younger ages, the future of our middle school youth can be put at-risk due to the lack of education on the importance of chastity. There are many factors that contribute to the rise of sexual activity among middle school youth such as social media (sexting), early exposure of sexually explicit content, media, and easy Internet access to porn. It is important to consider for all these contributing factors in the lives of your child and what you are doing at home and in your conversations with your son or daughter to help combat them.
Our youth need guidance in Catholic sexual education, especially the youth who attend public schools, as their sexual education teaches utilizing contraceptives as STD and pregnancy prevention. For many youth the concept and values of chastity are being left unsaid.
As parents it can be easy to perceive sex as a taboo topic, or to be uncomfortable discussing sex and chastity. However, we need to step up and educate the youth about our Catholic model of family and chastity. It is important the youth know that they can ask you the hard questions because they will ask someone and it is better for them to get answers from you.
If you feel that you are ill equipped to have this conversation with your child there are many incredible books and resources available to help guide you. Also contact your youth minister and see what Edge or Life Nights they are planning to do to cover the topics or research and see if any of the amazing Catholic chastity speakers are coming to your area. You are not alone in your battle for the purity of your children, but you are at the forefront and it is important that you children are also hearing the truth from you.