Have You Had "The Talk" Yet?

Today our kids are too often bombarded with counterfeit relationship and sexuality messages. The main vehicles for sexuality and relationship messages are racy television talk shows, seductive retail marketing campaigns, and highly erotic songs. Like a fire in a fireplace, sex can be wonderful experience but when it ventures outside, the whole house can burn down. It is a true saying that as a culture we have prepared our youth for sexual experiences but not for real relationships. In other words, our youth are prepared to relate to each other in the bedroom but not outside.

Many of the youth today are also products of the 50 percents divorce rate homes. The breakup of their parents' marriage has significantly decreased their confidence in the institution of marriage. One report indicates that girls favorable view about marriage has greatly declined. The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center (NHMRC), a federal government project, reports that female adolescents' attitude towards marriage have undergone the most dramatic changes, from nearly 39 percent believing marriage leads to fuller and happier lives in 1976 to just 22 percent expressing this view in 2001. NHMRC also reports that less than one-half of all high school seniors believe that choosing marriage over remaining single or cohabitating (living together) leads to fuller and happier life.

Hence, with the twin messages of sexual over-indulgence and low faith in the institution of marriage, it is high time to talk with our kids.

So the talk we need to have with children is not solely about sex but healthy relationships as well. Research clearly indicates that teens are sexually active. But the numbers do not tell us if they are relationship active. Do they really care for each other? Do they see each other as partners for the night or for life? What is the criterion for deciding to have a romantic relationship? When is it appropriate to take the relationship into the sexual arena? Should sex occur before or after marriage? These are just a few of the questions that need answers if we are to truly equip our kids to successfully navigate the relationship maze. .

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that over 90 percent of Americans will marry in their life time. Hence, it behooves us as parents to prepare our kids for all aspects of a relationship—and not just the sexual aspects. Sex lasts for minutes but relationships with all of their pleasures and complexities last far longer. Here are a few tips to help you with the sex and relationship talk:

Focus on the overall relationship and not solely the sex aspect. Sex is only part of a marital or any other relationship. When the focus is solely on sex, you forfeit intimacy in so many other areas and pave the way for a short term and shallow experience. Like a nice sit-down restaurant, the meal experience is better enjoyed as opposed to a drive-thru facility. Teach your kids not to settle for drive-thru relationships.

Be clear about your own relationship and sex values. The culture provides misinformation and parents often provide no information. Your children need clear direction for navigating the world of sex and relationships.

Learn what they know. Find out what they have heard about sex and relationships. It is often best to clean the container before you pour into it. Help dispel myths and fabrications that your child may possess about sex and relationships.

Teach Them To Recognize True Love vs. Sexual Appetite. Contrary to Tina Turner's song "What's Love Got to Do With It", love has everything to do with the makings of a true relationship. Teach your children this truth. Love is a daily process of give and take by both parties. Don't let them become victims to a culture that solely wants to usurp and abuse their body, mind and soul.

Be a Relationship Model. In order to develop a good marriage, one needs to see a good marriage model. Exhibit the type of relationships you want your kids to exhibit so that they will have a point of reference. Show them a good marriage and don't pretend to have a perfect marriage which will also set them up for failure. Discuss some of your marital challenges and how you have overcome with a smile on your face.

Focus on Self-Development. Teach them to be right person and not just look for the right person. This principle will add miles to their future marriage.

So when are you going to have the talk? This talk will be your legacy for changing your child's world with a return on investment for generations to come. In the immortal words of Nike, "just do it".

Ron J. Clark, MPP is a national conference speaker, consultant and writer on manhood and fatherhood issues. He is cited in numerous male and family services articles and research projects. For more information, please forward your emails to: ronjclark@aol.com or call 757-344-5685. You may also visit his site at www.responsiblefattherhood.org

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