Thursday, April 17, 2014

Teen Dating


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Let's refer to the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet for a discussion on dating (pp. 24-25). You will want to begin having discussion with your child about dating when they are about 12-14 (after puberty, but before a lot of their friends are beginning to date).

1. Let's start with the quote in italics: "The Lord has made us attractive to one another for a great purpose. But this very attraction becomes a powder keg unless it is kept under control...."
Girls don't always know that sitting on a boy's lap, or wearing immodest clothing can stimulate a male in sexual ways. They don't realize a boy's eyes are drawn to their crotch when they sit in a short skirt with their legs wide open. You need to teach them this! Teach them to control their bodies through their appearance and posture. Modesty in dress, appearance, language, and attitude will help keep attraction within appropriate bounds. Also, let them know it's okay for them to be attracted to someone else! It's normal and, *gasp,* DESIGNED by the Lord that way. We are SUPPOSED to have these feelings. We just need to learn how to "harness" them. Teach your boys or girls what to do if they find their attraction is starting to stimulate them sexually. They can think of a song, read a book, do homework.........It's not bad to have these kinds of feelings. Your youth can take hold of the greatness of these feelings and save them for an appropriate time and place. I like to say, "hold that thought...."

2. Still in italics: "It is for this reason that the Church counsels against early dating." So, we don't date until we are age 16. Why? Because these feelings are sooooooooooo strong. These feelings are very new for youth. New feelings are experienced very strongly. It's like when you taste a delicious new food for the first time, usually something chocolate ;) You say, mmmmmmmmmmmm, and want more. But, as you have this food more often, the novelty wears off and you already know what to expect. Youth are getting their first taste of, mmmmmmmmmm. As they have these feelings more often, they will learn what to expect and how to handle them. Youth are very inexperienced at handling novel dating/relationship situations. These statistics on dating young are taken from "Speaking of Kissing" by Bruce Monson:
  • "One of the most crucial factors in staying morally clean ...... [is] choosing to wait until age 16 to date" (all stats are approximates)
    • 70% who don't date until age 16 avoid immoral behavior
    • >80% who date before age 16 become sexually involved enough to require a bishop’s help for repentance
3. "Good friendships can and should be developed at every age." If your youth has a boy or girl that's an opposite sex friend, try not to tease them about it. Encourage them to think about WHY that person is good friend and how they are being a good friend to that person. Encouraging them to think about good friendships will help them think about what makes a good relationship with a significant other (and hopefully find a better partner and be a better partner).

4. "Go in groups or on double dates. Avoid going on frequent dates with the same person." More statistics from "Speaking of Kissing:"
    • For those age 16 and older - Only 2% of youth with a steady boyfriend have NOT been involved in making out
    • Age 16 and older - About half of youth with a steady boyfriend have transgressed the law of chastity
Generally, the more you see someone you like, the higher the chances of that attraction getting the better of inexperienced youth.

Also, why do we have steady boyfriends? What is the purpose of dating one person exclusively? Well, because we're ready to get married and have a partner. Is your youth in high school really looking to get married? I hope not. They are preparing for a mission, or college, or just working toward graduating high school. We begin steady dating when we are really serious about finding a marital partner. I had a boyfriend in high school (yes, I didn't follow this counsel because I didn't really understand it then; your job is to teach it to your child so they can really understand it ;). He once told me that I wasn't someone he usually dated. I was someone he took home to meet his mom and get married to! I asked him, "What do you do when you're ready to get married, just look at a girl and say, 'that's the one?' without dating her?" Dating in high school is practice for steady dating when you're really ready to get married. It's for having fun and meeting new people, forming friendships and learning about relationships.

5. Meet the parents. This means you are involved in having your son bring his dates home, or you stay up and meet the boy that is taking your daughter out. You don't need to have your shotgun ready to be intimidating to a youth on a date. They are already nervous about meeting parents. Be kind and inquisitive. Find out information about your child's date so you can really get to know them. This shows your child you respect them and their choices. You are also showing them how to be respectful of the person they are going on a date with.

6. "Plan dating activities that are positive and inexpensive and that will help you get to know each other." Movies are not exactly places where you can talk and discuss your wildest dreams. Your teen might not understand that. Remember, they are new to dating, the reasons for dating, and the feelings associated with dating.

IDEAS FOR PARENTS:
1. Define terms with your child. For example, what does it mean to "frequently date?" They are counseled to "avoid frequent dates with the same person." You need to define frequent with them. It's a personal, family decision and may be different for every child. My parents did not like me dating my high school boyfriend because I didn't want to date anyone else. They gave me a rule (at age 15 -  a little too late) that I needed to go on a date with another boy before I could go on a date with my boyfriend. I couldn't go on two dates with him in a row. This was difficult for all of us because they gave me this rule after they started to see a problem. You are discussing this BEFORE dating so you can avoid the problem. Your child needs to understand the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The letter of the law is "frequent." You decide if that's once a month, twice a year, twice a month, whatever. You discuss it with your child BEFORE they start dating. This is the letter of the law. You can even let them help you decide (you may have to modify as they start dating, but you've established the rule of "frequent" and your child will understand the need to modify it). The spirit of the law is that your child is not ready to get married and needs some time to mature and gain experience before they are ready to begin dating to find that marital partner

2. Have your child give a Family Home Evening lesson on dating where they can include a list of dating ideas that are inexpensive, fun, and help them get to know another person. They may need help with that, since they've never dated ;) If they already have a list, they may feel more confident in asking for, or accepting dates.

3. Teach your child how to politely be rejected or reject an offer for a date. Let your child know that they don't have to go on a date just because someone asked. Let them know they need to be honest (aka, not just the "I'm busy every night" excuse). Teach them how to take a rejection for a date. It can be painful, and acknowledge that, but teach them how to be understanding and confident in their worth as a person.
 
 
 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Self-Exploration



Young children have a tendency to touch themselves. They like to touch and explore everywhere on their bodies. They find the funny crevices, like nostrils. They find the spots that hurt, like hitting the funny bone. They find the parts that make them look silly in the mirror, like sticking out their tongue. They find the places that feel good when they rub it, like their penis or vulva.

As young children explore their bodies, they find very quickly that genital rubbing feels good. When the diaper is off, or they are potty training, they like to look and explore this region that is generally left alone and off limits (by clothing restrictions). This kind of touching is just exploration. Children this young (generally under age 8) do not understand sex or masturbation in an adult way. They just want to know what their bodies look like and can do.

Knowing this, let's imagine a typical response when you find your child playing with their genitals. I was on the phone with a friend who had a 3-year-old boy. In the middle of our conversation I heard this on my end, "Aaaaah, stop touching that." (Voice tone sounded like he was petting a snake.) "Get your hands out of your pants." (They must have been on fire.) "He's always touching himself! I can't get him to stop." (Exasperated).

Does this sound familiar in some way? Your main goal is to get them to stop touching themselves? Imagine you are the child and someone is talking to you that way about your toe. After quite a few incidents like this, how would you feel about your toe? I came across a great quote a while ago: "To hear many religious people talk, one would think God created the torso, head, legs and arms, but the devil slapped on the genitals." (Don Schrader) When you respond to your child, are you making them feel the sacredness of their genitals, or creating the impression that they are bad?

When children are young, they are not generally masturbating (as you may believe, which is why you respond the way you do). They are exploring their little bodies, ALL of it (maybe to your dismay).
Your doctor recommends that every month you perform a self-breast or self-testicle exam. This is NOT masturbation. This is self-exploration, to make sure your body feels like it's in proper working order.

Self-exploration turns into masturbation when children begin to get a little older and their bodies are preparing for puberty, around age 8.

So, how should you respond?
1. STAY CALM. I feel like a broken record. Keep your voice tone and body language as you would if you found them poking their finger in their ear.
2. Don't put too much emphasis on what they are doing. This may create a bigger problem. They will do it more if you pay more attention to it. Redirect their attention to something else. "Would you like to play a game, read a book, help mommy or daddy?"
3. If it happens regularly, pay attention to times and places it happens. They might use it as a self-soothing when they are upset or overstimulated. If you find a pattern, see if you can help them find something else to do that will help them manage their emotions.

What do I say? (If you need to say anything at all)
For infants, "It feels good to touch your body all over."
For toddlers, "Your body is amazing, isn't it? Let's go read a story."
For preschooler, "That feels good, but please do it in private, like your room."
For older preschoolers, "I know it feels good to touch yourself in that way; these parts of your body are special and you are going to be able to use them in a special way when you are older. Please do that in private."
For school-age (5-7), "I know it feels good to touch yourself in that way; these parts of your body are special and you are going to be able to use them in a special way when you are older. Please find something else to do with your hands."
You also may want to make sure they understand that cleanliness is important to avoid bacteria (especially for girls). Teach them to wash their hands after touching themselves, and before (if possible, they usually don't plan to touch themselves).

As your child reaches age 8, you may need to have a discussion on masturbation if they are still touching themselves often. You should include masturbation as part of your pre-teen (boys AND girls) discussions on pubertal development. You will NEED to talk about masturbation because it is becoming the new "abstinence" in the teen world. There are no diseases or pregnancy, and it satisfies sexual desires.