By Tyler Osterhaus, CCASA Blogger & Sexual Violence Prevention Unit Coordinator at the CO Dept. of Public Health & Environment
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Teens are constantly bombarded with sexual messages and situations. As a parent, guardian, or youth ally do you find yourself struggling to talk to teens about staying healthy, and making responsible, informed choices about their sexual health and relationships? Here are some tips on how to become An Ask-able Adult:
- Use open ended questions. Ask questions that will result in more than a “yes” or “no” answer. This invites a free flow of information about thoughts, worries and experiences. Don’t forget to share your own thoughts. Extend conversations by asking for more information.
- It’s OK to use humor. Appropriate humor can help ease discomfort when discussing serious topics. This can also help teens open up to you about uncomfortable subjects.
- Use truth and facts. Discuss the myths. Let teens tell you about their impressions of things that go on in their lives, without judgment. This is a good opportunity to review your own values together. What do you believe about gender stereotypes – what were you taught?
- Notice your own language. Ask teens about the latest dating terms such as, “hooking up,” “going out” or the difference between “dating” and having a “boyfriend/ girlfriend.” This will help them relate this discussion to their social world. Again it’s okay to use humor appropriately. Share the dating terms that were common when you were in high school.
- Be open minded. 78 percent of teens who are assaulted do not tell adults. Discuss what they would need in order to come to adults with questions or concerns.
- Learn about available resources. It’s hard to have all of the answers, but there are resources in your community. You can find information about engaging with teenagers at your local library, community-based agencies serving youth, on the Internet or through school counselors.
This post is adapted from the Colorado Men Against Domestic Violence, sourced here.
Tyler Osterhaus is an artist, advocate, and anti-violence educator dedicated to promoting concepts of healthy relationships, responsible fatherhood, and gender equality. He has brought his high energy and often humorous approach to anti-violence education to non-profits, schools, human services agencies, military installations, community groups, and most recently to the National Sexual Assault Conference. He has also served in the trenches as a front line Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Victim Advocate and has worked with the Department of the Navy’s Family Advocacy Program and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program. Tyler currently serves as the Sexual Violence Prevention Unit Coordinator at Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.