Are sexual boundaries necessary for teens ? Yes but…

Millennials and their younger siblings are living paradoxes:  they are activists, (#Feesmustfall #MeToo)  inspire sociopolitical change, embrace diversity,  and  are tree hugging  ecologically minded. Yet their  vulnerabilities are well documented. They’re experiencing staggering increases in the rates of psychiatric disorders,  loneliness, suicides, and in the USA,  opioid deaths. Their primary form of sexual activity is porn and masturbation and they communicate  online side -by-side  , not face to face ,  In Real Life, like  other primates .

They learn about sexuality from video games, instagram and pornography.  And  mostly from observing their in house case study, namely you, and your  partner/s. They watch you In Real Life, they read your WhatsApp messages and sexting to lovers, friends and partners.  They have less sex than previous generations , one reason being that they are too absorbed online to go out and get some old fashioned action . Your fear around their digital lives, specifically the impending cyber bullying , cyber sex, pornography and cyber trafficking coming their way, confuses them. Seriously ?! This is their  real lives and your ignorant anxiety is not useful. What is useful is you getting a grip on your own digital and In Real Life sexuality and relationships so you can give them what they need : boundaries through values.

Who are you , the parent of this generation child?  You are  mostly living in  nonhierarchical families , with non traditional family structures such as single moms  of any/fluid sexual orientation , 2 people of any sexual orientation , gender diverse parents, polyamorous structures, parents who  commonly  encourage children to speak their minds from the get-go. You want to be different from your own parents, more liberal and liberated. However the digital world has got you stumped, not having any experience of how to parent your child in a world in which you have no control , especially over their sexuality and intimacy.

  Your response:  Helicopter parenting and role fluidity.  One minute  you are parent as  the boss, grabbing their phones away as a form of punishment, invading their privacy demanding that it is your right to observe their online behaviour as you are “protecting” them . Next you are parent as friend, and the next parent as seeker of companionship and even advice from your children.
In other words, your boundaries suck! And in turn your children feel both in control and out of control.
This is  how you place  sexual boundaries on your children:
* control their digital lives
* control their physical movements
*  opine rather than listen
* monitor them online
* speak about cyber danger rather than cyber health
* ban pornography rather than discuss sexuality
Gone are the days of “black and white” – I say “live in the gray” with your teen . Stay away from the authoritarian part of you that longs to protect your child from … sex and sexual pleasure. It is ideal that your child wants facts from you, factual facts, not facts couched in you own personal fear based bias. However more important than fact sharing, is boundary setting in a very specific manner .
Knowing what boundaries are, knowing where your boundaries lie, and being able to communicate boundaries to a partner – these are the essential principles that will equip your teenager to have safe romantic and sexual relationships.

State your obstacles to setting sexual boundaries with your teens and your adults.

Here are some themes that teens and young adults long to discuss with you, themes that long for boundaries. I want you to consider your own attitudes to each theme.
  • When to say ‘I love you’.
  • Time with friends.
  • Time without each other.
  • Digital and social boundaries. 
  •  How to set sexual boundaries.
  • Consent.
  • Sex isn’t currency : no exchanges needed.
  • How will they know when they are ready?
  • Safer sex.
  • Managing conflict and differences in a relationship
  • Definitions of unhealthy /abusive/toxic relationships

GUIDLINE TO  boundaries :

  1. Boundaries are a container, a way to make sense of the world and feel safe. Fact is that sexuality and relationships are not safe . They are high risk behaviours and for your kid to have a chance of success here, you as a parent  needs to take a #101 sexuality course that makes you comfortable with your own sexual boundaries in your own relationship/s.
  2. Focus on Feelings, expressions of feelings and body sensations rather than facts and fear mongering. This arms your child to self protect and self pleasure .
  3.  Aim to develop Emotional Intelligence in your child. For example get them to think about : “What is your experience like when you are with … “
  4. Aim for somatic awareness: “How do you feel in your body when you are with …?”
  5. Share this list of feelings and emotions with your child . It will facilitate conversations and aid exploration .
  6. Once the child names sensations and emotions, ask them for what this means about the relationship/situation.
  7. Consent is enforcing the notion that your kids have choices. However if they see you struggle to say NO to them , don’t keep your promises to them, break punishments you have enforced, their ability to use consent wisely, is compromised and confused.
  8. Teach your children how to check in with themselves. This is getting in touch with their inner voice.
  9.  Teach them to pause  before sending a WhatsApp, sexting, raging online, and ask ” what do I really need and want right now?’ It may be power in the group, money, attention, affection , status, sex…
  10. State your values , act out your values constantly . Values set boundaries . Values such as the importance of feeling safe, secure, trusting , anxiety free, and sexually attracted must be emphasised.
  11. Encourage their curiosity about what a safe healthy pleasurable situation or relationship would feel like for them. This is your opportunity to normalise relationships and sexuality by stating facts such as fidelity is not guaranteed, rather a commitment one makes to self; conflict and disagreements  happen , falling out of love happens.

Take home message : become digitally literate> create your own sexual & relationship values > let these guide your boundary setting not your fear.

Contact me for more information on Boundary setting.