According to a survey by the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common project, teenagers are yearning for guidance when it comes to relationships, breakups, and love. And this results in many engaging sex offence lawyers in Sydney NSW to deal with the prevalence of sexual harassment cases.
In a society which is largely allergic to ‘taboos’ which are rather natural, most parents avoid talking to their children about the one thing that we’re all engaged into: establishing and maintaining healthy relationships, developing empathy, understanding the meaning of consent, and developing healthy mechanisms for coping with breakups.
“Our data is showing a lot of kids do want to have this conversation,” said Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist who co-authored the study of the 18- to 25-year-olds. “There is a huge amount of mistakes and misunderstandings that go on here on a daily basis, and good sex education can really help with that.”
And when it comes to ‘good sex education,’ it’s definitely a topic which hasn’t received the full attention in today’s world. The basics which are taught in schools, such as human anatomy and pregnancy prevention, are simply not sufficient when it comes to raising generations of sexually-conscious people.
In fact, we have come to accept misogyny and sexual harassment as elements of society which need to be judged, but we have never paid much attention to how we can prevent these behaviors and mindsets from developing in the younger generations.
Shafia Zaloom is one of the health educators who are trying to create a more holistic approach to sex education by teaching lessons in love and intimacy.
Her six-week course at the Urban School of San Francisco follows the lifespan of a romantic relationship and it encompasses human sexuality and personal integrity with specific lessons in topics like good sex, pleasure, consent, and sexual orientation.
“I teach it because human relationships are one of the most important aspects of our lives. The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives,” she said. “Authentic connection matters and makes a difference. The focus of my work has always been on social justice and equity as well. There’s a lot of work to do with this in the realm of sex education.”
In truth, when teenagers come across dilemmas of this nature, they usually consult the internet or their peers. This is because the theme of sexuality has long been perceived as taboo and in some families, it’s even forbidden to talk about anything related to it.
However, the need for this kind of truth is greater than ever, and parents can create an enormous difference in how their teenage children are going to perceive relationships and love.
Zaloom acknowledges that, as an adult, having such conversations with a teenager can be nerve-wracking. She advises that instead of having ‘the big talk,’ you should “pace yourself” and “have lots of smaller conversations over time that scaffolds the learning.”
Here are some tips from educators and researchers on how you can effectively teach your teen about emotional intelligence, love, and consent.
Create a safe space
Matthew Lippman, a high school English teacher at Beaver Country Days School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, has begun teaching a course called MEMOIR: LOVE. He advises that you set up a space that is “safe and that will be, at times, uncomfortable. Super uncomfortable.”
“Trust the kids. They know what they are talking about in big and deep and meaningful ways. I think it is very important to let them, in their own way, guide the conversation. This means that ‘getting out of the way’ is really important,” he explains.
Say something about your own romantic relationships
In order to overcome the intimidating experience of tackling such conversations with your teen, Weissbourd suggests developing a go-to language. And one way to achieve this is to talk about your own relationships and the lessons that have come from them.
Discuss what was healthy and unhealthy about your relationships, what caused them to be troubled (if they were), what attitudes of behaviors you would change if you could, and the warning signs or concerning qualities in your partner that you should have seen or taken more seriously.
“It’s often helpful to discuss these questions with trusted friends or to consult experts. Share with your teens any lessons you’ve learned about the skills, attitudes, and sensitivities that it takes to maintain a healthy romantic relationship or any close relationship,” suggests the Harvard study.
Facilitate conversations about ethical decision-making
What should I do if my friend is cheating on his girlfriend, who’s also my friend? Are there circumstances when infidelity is justified? Can a high school senior hooking up with a first-year student be seen as exploitation?
Helping your teen formulate opinions about how to handle complicated situations and gain perspective, especially when they’re dissecting such hypothetical situations can be very helpful.
A 15-year-old girl from Zaloom’s class said that the course gave her communication tools and helped her establish her own moral compass. “Knowing my priorities and values before going into situations taught me how to interact with people,” she said.
“Not just a value for relationships … life in general. It’s really applicable to everyday life and how I can go through life with an open mind and always willing to hear from other people.”
Create empathy through perspective exercises
Zaloom explains how important building empathy is when teaching about consent. “The social science shows through research that the only one common piece people who perpetrate assault share is a lack of empathy,” she explains.
“Empathy is the foundation of one’s capacity to have healthy and caring relationships, to truly respect someone. Needless to say, we talk a ton about empathy.”
One way to build empathy in your teen is to discuss various scenarios and how they would make them feel. In Zaloom’s class, one lesson teaches kids how to ask someone out. Students discuss with each other what they’re attracted to and how different scenarios make them feel.
“It’s really great advice, actually,” said Zaloom’s 15-year-old male student. “It was really interesting hearing about the other gender. … I didn’t understand how important confidence is to a girl — being confident but not being too dominant and not being a jerk.”
Teach about different kinds of love
There are so many nuances in love, and educators emphasize the importance that teens understand these nuances, especially when they’re feeling these emotions for the first time. In Lippman’s course, his students “read and talked and wrote about love in all of its forms and iterations” because “it is one of these topics that lives in everything.”
As Weissbourd puts it, “When I said I love my wife on our wedding day, that was something different than when I say I love her now. The love I have for her now is deeper and more dazzling but it’s quieter. it’s not intoxication in the same way. We don’t talk about these different types of love.”
Ultimately, says Zaloom, remember that the majority of sex education is about values. “Many parents are already teaching about values. Now the challenge is to guide kids to understand what those values sound, look and feel like within the context of sexuality.”