Parents & Teachers: Book Review,
"The Real Truth About Teens & Sex"
Full Title: The Real Truth About Teens and Sex: From Hooking Up to Friends with Benefits – What Teens Are Thinking, Doing, and Talking About and How to Help Them Make Smart Choices
Written by: Sabrina Weill
Review By: Nancy Brown, Ph.D
I loved The Real Truth About Teens & Sex, by Sabrina Weill, and wish all parents would read it. The author had my complete attention when she started out by saying that "teens nationwide are suffering from a lack of honest communication from their parents and other pivotal adults around them..." She later says that it is dangerous to rely on schools to provide sex education and that parents should be the primary educators of their children. Weill is confident that despite the horrified looks on their faces when we bring it up, teens want to talk about sexuality with adults they trust – and that they actually want adults to know what is going on. Teens are vulnerable emotionally and physically, and susceptible to regret as their feelings emerge after sex. We can help them avoid those situations in which "sex just happens" and the consequences that follow.
Far from inducing fear, Weill constantly reassures parents that research shows that talking to kids about sexuality does not make them have sex earlier and that there are positive trends reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggesting youth are having less intercourse, as well as using more contraception, and that there was 30% less teen pregnancy between 1994 and 2004. She is direct about the risks of the Internet, early sex, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections – but never lets parents off the hook. Her feeling is that the more parents know, the better equipped they will be to help their teens avoid "sexual risks," including sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy.
Weill reminds parents throughout this book that adults have the power to have an enormous influence on the behavior of our teens, and – although I cannot endorse her statement that "teens should be pulling away from adults" – I do agree that they need to take on more responsibility and that they still need our supervision and guidance. Teens need to know that 66% of teens and 81% of 12 to 14 year-olds regret their first sexual experience – and both parents and teens need to know that teens have the knowledge and strength to "make good decisions."
Being in denial as parents does not help – it undermines our relationships with our children and makes them superficial. I appreciate the fact that Weill respects youth, and she makes it very clear that sifting through their emails or reading a diary or blog is a major invasion of privacy – which will take a long time to rebuild the trust and credibility lost by that action. According to the author, there is no substitute for putting the time into developing a strong and positive relationship with our children.
Parents need to be able to talk honestly with their children about sexual rights, pleasure, and risk. Teens need to know that it feels good to be excited but that sexuality should be protected, consensual, and planned with someone they love in order to feel great. For parents who do not think they can talk easily with their kids, Weill includes resources and wonderful examples throughout the book – there is even a discussion about developing a safety plan with your teen.
Lastly, my favorite quote from this book is "good parenting is always inconvenient for the parent."
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Reviewed by: Adolescent Interest Group
Last reviewed: August 2013