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The birds and the bees

By Nathan Rice

It was the first time for us to talk about the birds and the bees. I was hopeful that their parents had “the talk” with them at home, but regardless of how they learned, I knew they knew the facts of life already. This discussion was needed since, much to my chagrin, the two before me were in their first romantic relationship.

I don’t think dating at 12 and 14 years of age is a good idea. I don’t think dating at their ages should be allowed by parents, but all I’m able to do is offer advice. Therefore, I needed to share some things with this young Romeo and Juliet.

I’d say the conversation went well, but it wasn’t really a conversation. They didn’t say much, but I was able to share what I wanted them to hear. They had no questions, and that wasn’t a surprise. It’s hard for young people to discuss these things.

I learned several things as I prepared for this conversation.

The first is that these conversations should not be avoided. We should not evade these talks simply because they can be a little awkward for everyone involved. Discussing sex and sexuality with children at the right time is important. We should not assume that they know what is right and wrong in this area or that they have an understanding of the standards that we have set. We must tell them in a tactful yet direct way if we want them to know. They are not likely to ask us our thoughts, so it is up to us to begin the conversation.

The next thing I learned is that the discussion should focus on more than just the physical act of sex. While sharing the ethics regarding sexual activity, as well as your standards, is essential, there is much more to intimacy than just the act of sex. Sometimes we focus so much on this one thing that we miss the other aspects of dating and romantic relationships.

Focusing solely on the act of sex can leave teens with the idea that they are protecting themselves as long as they are not “doing it.” A romantic relationship, however, can cause confusion, heartache and scars, even if the two involved are not sexually active.

A discussion with teens about the birds and the bees should include a healthy portion about dating relationships. We wouldn’t stick our kids on a bike without training wheels without helping them learn how to balance and steer. Nor would we hand them power tools before we train them how to use them properly. Why, therefore, would we allow them to enter into their first dating relationship without giving them rules and guidance?

A dating relationship, even among adults, can be a difficult thing to navigate. Teens have the added component of raging hormones and heightened emotions that they are still learning how to interpret. They may not think they need to hear from you regarding these things, but they do.

Again, I do not think young teens should be dating. If, however, younger teens are allowed to date, it’s our obligation and responsibility to guide them in this newfound area of their lives. Find a time, sooner rather than later, and have this important conversation with them.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.