Parenting

Can We Talk?

Several young men and a young woman have been in the news recently because of a highly publicized, alleged rape at Vanderbilt University. The woman remembers being at a bar with one of the men, who bought her several drinks. After the last drink, the young woman says she has no memory of anything until the following morning.

Video obtained by police shows the guy taking the woman to his dorm room, where he was joined by three other guys. Someone recorded her being undressed, someone slapping her buttocks and urinating on her, and she was raped. Multiple witnesses saw this, but no one called the authorities.

Many lives have been changed forever because of that night.

Why didn’t someone stand up for this woman? Why didn’t someone call the authorities?

While this incident is one of the most recent headlines, other similar cases have been reported nationwide. What are we teaching our children about dating, healthy relationships and sex?

“Parents are perhaps the best relationship educators for their children,” says Marlene Pearson, author of Love U 2 and co-author of Making a Love Connection: Teen Relationships, Pregnancy and Marriage. “If young people don’t know what constitutes a healthy relationship, how to develop one and what constitutes true intimacy and true love, then how can they make good choices?”

Each October, Let’s Talk Month is designated nationally to promote the importance of parents continuing or starting an ongoing dialogue with their children/teens about sex, love, lust and romance to help young people understand that relationships based only on sex aren’t healthy.

Research consistently shows that parents don’t need to have all the answers, but they must be open to having the discussion. If you don’t have an answer, say so and seek a credible source to help you find it. Young people want their parents to talk with them about these issues.

Be an “askable” parent. Young people want to know the difference between lust and love, how to handle attraction, how relationships develop and what to say to a boyfriend or girlfriend. It isn’t all about sex; it is about teaching the building blocks for healthy relationships.

Society is dramatically different than it was even a decade ago. Young people see things on television and the Internet and hear lyrics in music that many people probably thought would never come across the airwaves. Short of removing all technology, it is almost impossible to protect your children from all the things you don’t want them to see. Most parents cannot be with their children 24/7. Therefore, the best way to protect young people is to educate them about what they may see and hear, keeping in mind what is age-appropriate.

Parents have a wonderful opportunity to have ongoing conversations with their children about appropriate behavior regarding dating, sex and relationships, and to help them avoid getting caught up in situations like the one at Vanderbilt.

Nervous about starting the conversation? Here are a few pointers:

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