Now the focus of discussions shifts from the mechanics of sex and human reproduction to the social and emotional aspects of sex and human relationships. There are many complex questions your son or daughter will need help in answering, such as:
- “When should I start dating?”
- “When is it okay to kiss a boy [or a girl]?”
- “What qualities should I look for in a boyfriend [or a girlfriend]?”
- “How do you know when you’re in love?”
- “How far is too far?”
- “How will I know when I’m ready to have sex?”
The guidance you offer on these kinds of questions should be based on your personal code of ethics, even if your values are considered old-fashioned by today’s standards. “Parents can talk about sex without having to modify their views,” says Dr. Hoyle. “If, for example, a parent believes that premarital sex is wrong, she should say so, but,” he adds, “with the understanding that teenagers will ultimately draw their own conclusions and make their own decisions.”
Abstinence until marriage has long been the yardstick for measuring sexual morality. Claims that previous generations adhered to higher standards fail to take into account the fact that people are marrying later in life than at any time in U.S. history. Currently the average first-time bride is twenty-six years old; the groom, twenty-seven. Compare that to the 1950s and the 1960s, when the median age for walking down the aisle was twenty-one and twenty-three; many newlyweds were still in their teens or barely out of them.
If your son or daughter seems to be maturing early, these topics may need to be discussed sooner.