Teenagers starting to date has always been a scary prospect for parents. Your teen’s safety, getting too serious, or having their heart broken are just some of the concerns we as parents must manage. Many of us probably wish our teens would not date until they are 18, but besides locking them in their rooms, there is not much we can do to stop them. So what’s it like for today’s teens, right here in Nanaimo?
I work with youth and teens here in Nanaimo and my goal is to both help our young people on their path, while also working to strengthen family relationships as a whole. The latter is the purpose of this piece. My hope is that in reading this, you as parents feel more informed and encouraged to open up non-judgemental dialogue around the subject of relationships and intimacy.
“Doing a thing” is the new way teens are experiencing being sexually intimate. This is the term used when two teens are engaging sexually but without commitment, or exclusivity. One could be “doing a thing” with any number of others.
Now of course this is not the case for all teens. Some teens are not sexually active and there are still some who do date. This is also not something that is just limited Nanaimo. I am however speaking to what is now common place amongst today’s youth.
Teenagers experimenting and playing the field is nothing new but I do not believe it has ever been the norm or standard. Dating the person you are being intimate with is no longer the expectation. The rules have changed. More and more adolescent boys believe they do not need emotional intimacy and more and more adolescent girls are choosing to be intimate in its absence.
This is a very complex topic and there is no one answer as to why this is now the way amongst our youth. It is likely a combination of many factors, influences and failings within today’s society, culture, and family life pressures. One of these factors is certainly the tragic loss of human connection and this I am certain is playing a major role in the choices our young people are making.
This is not an argument for monogamy, nor am I stating it is either gender’s fault, or even that of the parents. Pointing the finger does not further our understanding. I do think most of us would agree, intimacy with another person is not something we wish our teens to take lightly and it appears that has become the case. It is a mistake to think that emotions are not involved in sexually intimate relationships. So what has happened to them? Are these feelings being ignored and pushed down? Are our teens telling themselves to disregard their emotions because this is how their peers are behaving? My fear is that in believing it is better to be intimate without emotional connection or that they do not need it, today’s youth will become unfulfilled adults, not knowing the full spectrum of human experience, or depths of intimacy and connection.
Our teens are the years in which we feel the most intensely, we leap head first without hesitation, we experience all the wonderful and nerve wracking emotions that come with the new relationships, flirtations and crushes of this maturing age. It is a necessary part of growing up or at least it has been until now. We wondered “does he like me”, “will she say yes”, “why hasn’t he called yet”. It is a time of getting to know who we are, what we desire from our relationships and how to care for those we are in relationships with. As much as we all felt heartache or rejection during these years I doubt we would take it back. If it really is the case that teens are not experiencing the emotional vulnerability of connected intimacy then how will these adults turn out?
I don’t have the answers, as I have yet to meet one of these adults. My wish is to simply open up the conversation and ask, what do you wish your teen to know about relationships and sex? When communication has become so detached in today’s world, how are you managing to connect with your teen in the home and discuss their own emotions and feelings? I would love to hear your thoughts, your experiences or comments. Is your teen dating? Do they feel safe to share with you and do you feel comfortable talking with them?