The following article was published in ADDvisor newsletter earlier this year. We are publishing this article in our newsletter with kind permission from Alan Graham and Bill Benninger of ADDvisor.
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A teenage boy walked into a drugstore and rather sheepishly asked the clerk, “How much are a package of condominiums?” After thinking moment, the clerk said, “Oh, you must mean condoms; they are five dollars box.” The teenager laid a five-dollar bill on the counter and the clerk set out a box of condoms. The boy was about to leave when the clerk stopped him and asked, “What about the tax?” A bit perplexed at first, the teenager broke into and delighted grin saying, “Oh, is that how I keep those things on!”
Needless to say, sexual information, values and attitudes are learned. Some are learned from school, some from television and movies, some from friends or siblings, some from religious programs and some from parents. Whether you like it or not, your teenager has already learned a lot about your sexual values from your interaction with your spouse and the statements and attitudes you have subtly or not so subtly expressed over the years.
Unfortunately, because of their impulsivity, teenagers with ADHD have a higher percentage of sexually related problems than teenagers in the non- ADHD population.
If you don’t want to leave this most important part of your child’s education to chance, is essential that you join in the conversation. How can you do this? The most important step in this process is to create an atmosphere of openness, honesty and acceptance regarding sexual information. Although easier said than done, here are some suggestions for getting started:
- Thoughtfully comment on TV, newspaper or other commentary regarding sexual issues. Don’t lecture. Comment in a noncritical, thoughtful manner, and ask, “What you think about that?” Don’t criticize their answers. Try to continue the discussion using an accepting, open ended, nonjudgmental style.
- Look in the library for age-appropriate books and that the video store for age appropriate videos. Read and watch them together. This provides frequent opportunities to ask, “What do you think about that?” and to offer your nonjudgmental opinion. Giving examples from your growing up years can be a significant help. Don’t be discouraged if you’re teenager avoids brief discussions. They are uncomfortable. The only way to increase their comfort level is to continue to raise these in a nonjudgmental manner. Borrow or purchase the book, The Preteen’s First Book About Love, Sex and AIDS, by Michelle Harrison, M.D. and read it together.
- Don’t wait too long to start this process. If the door has not been opened prior to ages 13 or 14, the adolescent will be more likely to reject whatever you say, simply because of the normal drive for independence that occurs at this age. Age-appropriate information can be communicated as early as age five or six, and is often prompted by the “Where do I come from?” questions. As the child grows older and develops abstract thinking skills, very important questions arise for such as “What is love?” For a thoughtful adult discussion on, “What is love?” Read Section 2-“Love” from The Road Less Traveled, by Scott Peck, M.D.
Additional questions of importance may include: What is the difference between infatuation and love? Why do people have sex? What are good and not so good reasons for having sex? What is birth control? When and why do you use it? What are sexually transmitted diseases and how do you contract them? Obviously there are no easy answers to all these questions. That is why open communication is essential.
As outlined in The Preteen’s First Book About Love, Sex and AIDS, there are “road signs” for us to help as we live our lives. Road signs that can help teenagers make healthy sexual, as well as, life choices include:
- Believe in yourself.
- Ask for help when you feel lost.
- Slow down when things are moving too fast.
- Protect yourself from danger.
- Stop when you want to stop.
- Don’t be afraid to be alone.
- Trust in your ability to make choices.
If you can find time (while riding in the car, eating dinner together, or at a quiet time in the evening) to briefly address each of these as related to sexuality and life in general, both you and you’re teenager will be greatly enriched.