TAMPA BAY, Fla. -- Patty Skudlarek strives to be a responsible parent. That's why she says she told her 18-year-old son that if he wants to have sex she's not only okay with him having sex in the home, she'd prefer it.
Patty says, "I'm comfortable with it. I'd rather he do it here than somewhere else."
She says teens who have sex at home are safer. "With kids having sex at home, it's a safer environment, because you know it's clean. They have condoms in their bedroom. And it's an environment they're familiar with, as opposed to a motel or a car."
Patty is not alone. The Internet is buzzing with message boards that tell the story of the small but growing number of parents allowing their teenagers to have sex at home.
Blogger Heather Blackmore is aware of the chatter. An article she posted this month about a woman who allows her teenage son to have sex with his girlfriend in his bedroom set off a firestorm, with some accusing the mother of running a cheap motel. Blackmore says that wasn't the woman's intent.
She says, "I think it was more of the attitude, 'Well, kids are going to do it anyway. Why not make it so that it's in a comfortable, safe environment?"
Choloe Foreht says allowing teens to have sex at home ensures the teens have someplace to run if something goes wrong. "I was okay with her having sex in my home because of the relationship she was in, because of the teenager that she is."
A group of parents came together to talk about the issue. Some agreed it was OK for kids to have sex in the home, while others were against it. They said it was lack of respect and sets a tarnished reputation.
Some teens were also brought together and they had mixed reactions. One girl said her "out" with her boyfriend is that they can't do it at home or they'll get in trouble. If her parents allowed it, she wouldn't be able to say no.
It's a debate that has both parents and teenagers mixed and fired up.
We asked licensed psychologist, Dr. Jennifer Mockler, to weigh in on this topic. Dr. Mockler specializes in child/teenage issues. She offers parents suggestions on how to tackle this tough topic:
What is your initial reaction to some parents who tell their kids, if they're going to have safe sex, they are welcome to do it at home?
Dr. Mockler: My initial reaction is that this is not a good idea. Although you want to talk to your teen about the importance of safe sex, supporting the behavior at home is sending your teen the wrong message.
How do you start the conversation about morals, abstinence, your personal belief system?
Dr. Mockler: A parent does not need to be an "expert," but it is more important that a parent is empathetic, understanding, supportive and non-judgmental. This will keep the door open and help your teen feel more comfortable to talk with you. Before you start talking with your teen, consider what message you want your teen to gain from the discussion.
If parents DO allow their kids to have sex at home, do you think this will increase the chance they will want to drink or do drugs?
Dr. Mockler: Again, not a good idea. A parent should be a good role model for their teen, and if they are supporting teen sex, then they are leaving the door open to supporting other dangerous activities, such as drinking and using drugs.
Anything else you want to add to this story that will help parents or kids?
Dr. Mockler: Set aside a time to talk about this important subject and eliminate distractions. Clarify any misunderstandings. Don't interrupt your teen. Understand that this is a difficult subject for them to be talking to you about. Acknowledge this and reinforce how happy you are that they came to talk to you. Above all, emphasize the importance of safe and responsible behavior, to prevent pregnancy, and to protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Here are additional suggestions from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
In talking with your child or teenager, it is helpful to:
- Encourage your child to talk and ask questions.
- Maintain a calm and non-critical atmosphere for discussions.
- Use words that are understandable and comfortable.
- Try to determine your child's level of knowledge and understanding.
- Keep your sense of humor and don't be afraid to talk about your own discomfort.
- Relate sex to love, intimacy, caring and respect for oneself and one's partner.
- Be open in sharing your values and concerns.
- Discuss the importance of responsibility for choices and decisions.
- Help your child to consider the pros and cons of choices.
By developing open, honest and ongoing communication about responsibility, sex and choice, parents can help their kids learn about sex in a healthy and positive manner.
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