Before They Know It All

Before They Know It All:

Talking to Tweens and Teens About Sexuality

© Alan Carson

I created  Before They Know It All because I concluded that a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum needed to be developed to appropriately assist tweens and teens with their sexuality as they navigate through a very unhealthy adolescent culture. After twenty years of teaching sexuality education to high school students and ten years of facilitating a parenting course specifically addressing sexuality I believe I understand what kids need to learn and hear. This educational program addresses all essential topics that must be discussed with middle school and high school children, within the context of the current teen culture and taking into consideration what the research tells us with respect to teen attitudes, beliefs and behavior.

Below are summaries for each chapter.

1. Philosophy of Parenting: We cannot address sexuality with teens until we first establish a general philosophy of interacting with and parenting teens. The course will view parents as leaders, with the goal of being a positive role model able to influence their teens to make healthy choices. Forming a loving, connected relationship with our teens is essential.

2) Philosophy of Sexuality Education: Sexuality should be discussed with tweens and teens just as we talk about the other major aspects of life. Having one "big talk," is ineffective; we must address topics as they become age appropriate and when occasions present themselves in the news, on television shows and in movies. Sexuality instruction helps kids understand, and understanding gives kids control. When we approach sexuality topics with our teens from a viewpoint of healthy versus unhealthy behavior, they will listen. This book and program have a strong emphasis on the social, emotional, and spiritual (joy, optimism, passion) aspects of sexuality.

3) Goals for Our Children: We want our kids to make healthy decisions and respect the fact that misusing sexuality will have consequences. The goal is for teens to enter adulthood capable of being in loving, committed relationships.

4) Research Findings on Sexuality Education Programs: In this section we will explore the extensive research that has been done regarding the effectiveness of both abstinence-only and abstinence-plus education, and how parents and teens feel about sexuality education.

5) Media:  We discuss the various forms of media that tweens and teens interact with: television, movies, music, magazines, computer games and the Internet. For example, we know that 83% of the top twenty television shows watched by teens contain sexual content. Parents are given extensive recommendations in an attempt to minimize their children's exposure to unhealthy material. The more teens are immersed in media with sexual content, the more it shapes their attitudes, beliefs and behavior.

6) Teen Attitudes: It is essential that we examine the attitudes held by teenagers, as attitudes precede behavior. Understanding how teens think allows our communication to be effective. For example, in looking just at teens who have been sexually active, 55% of the boys and 70% of the girls wished they would have waited until they were older. Knowing that allows us to say to our teens, "You know Joe, most kids your age who have had sex regretted their decision." This chapter also addresses how males and females view sex differently, and explore the harm of the double standard as it pertains to sexual morality.

7) Teen Behavior: This chapter will explore the latest research on the percentage of teens who are involved all forms of sexual behavior: sexual intercourse, oral sex, and anal sex. We also explore the circumstances surrounding a teen's first sexual experience, and the role parties, alcohol and other drugs play in engaging in unhealthy behavior.

8) Sexting: Sexting is now the recognized term for behavior in which tens send nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves, or sexually suggestive messages to others through the use of their cellular phones. We'll examine the prevalence of his behavior and the risks teens are taking.

9) The Hook-Up Culture: Hook-ups have largely replaced dating.  Hook-ups are when a guy and a girl, who may or may not know each other, get together in a sexual way that does not involve emotional attachment or commitment. We'll examine the latest research and the harmful impact hook-ups are having on young people who choose to engage in this behavior. In this chapter we will also examine the biology of sex, and how engaging in sex impacts our brains.

10) Socialization of Males and Females: We look at how society and specifically the youth culture shapes what it means to be a male and a female. Recommendations are given on how to help our teens grow into men and women who not only understand and respect themselves but understand and respect the opposite sex.

11)Communication: Specific strategies are given for making a heart connection with our kids so that they will communicate with us about the important things in life. We'll examine what teens like and don't like with respect to talking with their parents. Multiple suggestions will be given for addressing sexuality in an open, non-threatening manner.

12) Laying the Foundation: With tweens and younger teens we lay the foundation for future discussions by addressing the issues of privacy, boundaries, modesty, sexual signals and friendship. Discussing friendship is essential as the basis of all relationships should be a strong friendship.

13) Dating: We want our teens to have positive early dating experiences as these encounters likely will impact future relationships. As survey results demonstrate, a frighteningly high percentage of teens either have severe misconceptions about healthy relationships or are currently in abusive, controlling dating relationships. This chapter will make the case that we must help our teens distinguish between healthy and unhealthy dating relationships. We will also make the case that 1:1 dating should not begin until age sixteen.

14) Relationships: When teens decide to date each other steadily, dating turns into a relationship. We explore the characteristics of a healthy versus healthy relationships and the importance of not staying in harmful relationships. Teens should not be in relationships until they are comfortable with themselves.

15) Loving Relationships: It is essential that teens be given a template for what loving relationships look like. We will distinguish between infatuation, limerance and love with the goal that teens understand that love is based on many commonalities and develops slowly over time. We will also explore loving relationships as they are depicted in movies such as Grease and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

16) Delaying Sexual Activity: When teens engage in sex prior to achieving identity formation, there is a great risk of experiencing permanent consequences that will negatively impact future relationships. Many quotations from teens and young adults are offered as evidence that this is the case. Parents will be given specific recommendations that will influence their teens will delay sexual activity until they are old enough to handle the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions.

17) Wrap-up Topics: We will briefly explore the topics of sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy and birth control.

Alan Carson

ACPI® Coach for Parents