Friday, January 18, 2008

Teens will be (happy) teens??

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to spend time with and adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are invited!!
Fran wrote the following: “With The Annual March for Life coming up in a few weeks, and the fact that abstinence has been a point of discussion in previous posts, I offer the following: On December 28th, a letter which I wrote to the editor of the Washington Post, was printed. It was titled "The Wisdom of Abstinence." ( A title which the editors gave to the letter.) Today, January 3rd, a rebuttal was printed. It was titled, "Teens Will Be Teens." I would encourage any teen (or parent) who reads this blog to respond to today's letter of rebuttal with his/ her opinion.”

On the same topic, Anon made this comment: “I was listening to a debate about teaching teens about abstinence. There was a group of women who were adamant about NOT teaching abstinence. The conversation evolved past the point of ‘abstinence only’ being taught to not talking about abstinence at all (in the schools). Their point- sex is a medical topic and should be taught from that perspective only, and the choice to abstain was a moral one and shouldn’t be discussed; it had no bearing on the subject matter. If we think it’s appropriate that the teaching, implementation and/or mere mention of morality should be completely absent from our schools, I’d say the devil is very much alive and well.”

Great last line, Anon! It is really sad to hear people reduce the beautiful and sacred gift of sex to merely a “medical topic”. To use the language of the judge who scolded O.J. the other day, either they are arrogant or ignorant or both. If they or others are teaching their kids that sex is a medical topic only, then they shouldn’t be surprised if their kids use members of the opposite sex “for medical purposes only”. In addition, are they really naïve enough to think that sex is being taught amorally in our classrooms? There are many school districts, unfortunately, which are going out of their way to teach kids about sex in immoral ways (condoms, birth control, etc.). They don’t approach it as a medical topic only.

The rebuttal to Fran’s editorial was heavy with cynicism, not to mention the jab that teaching abstinence is a form of proselytizing. You begin to see through the arguments from the other side pretty quickly as being driven by an agenda that has little to do with our teens. It is an agenda that promotes a contraceptive culture. Like the devil, it doesn’t want to have its presence known so it diverts attention from the subject matter by using terms like ‘proselytizing’ and ‘moralizing’. Our agenda is focused on the subject matter; it is providing what’s best for people, in this instance abstinence (in its fullness it’s chastity) for our teens. The agenda from the other side is dangerous, disrespectful, and degrading to teens and can easily send the message that it’s ok to have “safe sex” (btw, condoms aren’t 100% safe…they have a 12% failure rate).

It’s interesting that neither side is satisfied with abstinence-only programs; the Church would add the practice of chastity and our opponents would add the use of condoms. Some abstinence-only programs have helped teens and some haven’t. The ones that have been successful are the ones that offer continual education and that the parents get involved. The Church would say that the most successful (and maybe difficult!) education about sex that teens can get is from their parents.

If parents are living chastity and teaching it to their teens, then they are doing what’s best for them (and themselves). They are giving them the knowledge (and power) of how to live freely regarding sex. They are giving them the knowledge of how to find happiness at their young age. Of the teens I know who are living chastely, I don’t know any who aren’t happy. Of the teens I know who are living unchastely, I don’t know any who are happy. Are we helping teens to just be teens, or are we helping teens to be happy teens?


At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I answered one of Fran’s posts from another day and then saw the topic FG posted. It’s not a topic I talk about often, but today I will. I got pregnant teenager (using birth control that was 99% effective). It broke me in ways I can’t begin to explain here, and most especially in ways parents don’t seem to consider, or at least voice when they are talking about teaching birth control rather than abstinence. When I discovered I was pregnant, I felt so much shame, not for having been “caught” in the situation, but for having betrayed myself. I wanted this relationship I was in to be closer than it was and was willing to (and did) sacrifice myself to that. Looking back, I can see that my actions were all about what I wanted- not exactly an example of self-giving. After I became pregnant, I clearly remember thinking, “Who would ever want me? Not only am I’m used, but I didn’t even love myself enough to stay true to what I knew was right- how could anyone else possibly love me? ” In my heart of hearts, I believe our young girls have that same experience after they’ve given something they MUST know (regardless of how casually it's all portrayed to them) is the most important thing they have to give- themselves. That’s the core of why I’ll talk about abstinence in my home- not for fear of pregnancy (I got through that relatively well), but for preventing my children from experiencing that sense of loss from which you don’t recover nearly as well.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger fran said...

Anon, the first words that came to mind after reading your story, were the words from a recent homily, or Adoration reflection: " Well done, good and faithful servant." The next time I counsel one of my teens, I am going to try to convey what you have learned from your experience, gently and without judgment. Thank you.

I talk about it a lot, but I stress to my daugher the theme of respect. It is what my parents, particularly my father, said repeatedly to my sisters and me. I never heard, "don't do this," or "don't do that." He always spoke of respect and why it was necessary when we were dating and when we were married. He spoke of the respect that should be shown us, and the respect that we should show others, in our words and behavior. Without it any relationship is quite shallow.

My sister is raising 2 boys and 2 girls. She shared with me what she told her boys as they entered their teen years, and I am sure she has said the same to her daughters. She tells them that their bodies are precious gifts and they should treat them as such; that if they enter into a physical relationship they are essentially removing the ribbon and the wrapping of this gift and that when they marry one day, they will have only an open and used present to offer. I like this analogy and have shared it with my daughter.

At 5:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parenting isn’t about making everything okay for your children on their terms, it’s about guiding your children based on what is right for them. How many parents think it is “right” for their teenage child to have sex? If it’s not right, why prepare them to do what is wrong? I think sex ed is important, but I have a problem when that education evolves into someone teaching my child that the “responsible” thing to do is something I believe is immoral. FG is dead on- immorality is being advocated in our schools, and what’s worse than that fact alone is that the immoral behavior is being dressed-up to look like the right thing to our kids. As a parent, it’s hard to combat that.

I'm fortunate to have a good age span between my eldest child and my younger ones. I can say the same thing that he does to the younger kids, but when he says it- it's cool. He’s been a useful tool recently, and I think our teens would benefit from young adult mentors speaking on the subject of what Fran just addressed- respect for self and others.

At 7:47 AM, Blogger fran said...

This was the other important component of my father's message to my sisters and me: "Never put yourself into a situation which will be difficult to get out of." This applied whether we were going out with a group of friends, or out on a date alone. He did not threaten, but his message was clear - respect yourself enough to avoid situations where it might become dangerous or where we might be tempted to compromise our morals.

This was not so long ago, either. It was after the sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's, but when casual sex was still rampant. Abiding by my father's words was often a challenge. It sometimes meant ending a relationship where respect was not being shown. Sometimes it meant not beginning a a relationship. Call me crazy, but I once turned down the opportunity to date a Redskins player, because of bad "vibe" I was
getting AND my father's words ringing in my head, " Never put yourself into a situation.........."

So, living a life of self-respect is not always easy, it is not always in vogue, and sometimes it feels as though you are on the outside looking in. But when it is all said and done, if you have self-respect you will always have happiness, and you will "never put yourself into a situation which will be difficult to get out of."

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is really sad to hear people reduce the beautiful and sacred gift of sex to merely a “medical topic”."

It seems like our society wants to reduce much to “medical topics”- sex, abortion, birth control, addiction, even bad feelings. When we talk about serious topics in those terms only, we eliminate personal responsibility. Sex becomes casual, pregnancy becomes merely a condition, birth control is a necessity, addiction is the result of bad DNA, and our bad behavior is chalked up to a mental illness. That’s a dangerous thing in a culture that likes to self-medicate- they’ve a pill for this, and pill for that, and accountability falls away; humanness falls away. We don’t like to look at these topics from the moral side because it requires us to put excuses aside and behave better.

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

One of the reasons I like this blog is because I think there’s so much power in the words of others. So, it’s no surprise that I like quotes, and there’s one I really like about friendship, but one could replace the word “true friend” with “loving parent”

“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.”
-William Arthur Ward

What if the world empowered parents to do this- help our children see their possibilities rather than selling out to their weaknesses? That would be an amazing thing!

At 10:58 PM, Anonymous 19 year old thoughts said...

As a 19 year old college student, I periodically read this blog site. This is the first time I have responded to a post. After reading the debate on the approach to take when dealing with our teens and sex education, it occurred to me that parents have a really hard job. I have not been the easiest, most obedient teen in the world. Yet, I do not consider myself without morals or good judgment. And yes, I have heard that 19 year olds do not have enough worldly knowledge to make good decisions. And yes, I have made mistakes, but who hasn’t? I think our capacity to make good decisions, is often underestimated.

Where do parents draw the line on what to and what not to teach? Will the approach used for me work with my siblings? Is there really a right way to teach, to guarantee that I will think and act like you, the teacher, think I should?

I am grateful for several things:

My parents, despite their differences, are still married. I have witnessed the strength and faith this takes. The standing joke is that their marriage has been like 23 minutes……. (pause, thinking, what a sweet thing to say….) under water. Perhaps humor has helped in their journey together.

Their work ethic- taught through their actions and words.

The homemade dinners - together and at times chaotic, at our kitchen table, as often as everyone’s individual schedule allows.

Their love and support - when I make mistakes they are there for me, with guidance, not always gentle I might add, to help me as I admit and accept responsibility for my choices.

Their perspective on life – it is painted with color and it is a never ending journey. New shades and brush strokes are always available, if we look, if we hope, if we try.

Their advice - it is often better to listen than to speak. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and in many cases, there is no right or wrong answer, there are no guarantees in life. It is not our place to judge what others see and believe.

Their faith – in us and our decisions, and above all, God.

Thanks Mom and Dad for teaching and exposing me to the concept of subjectivity, for giving me the confidence to make decisions and for your understanding that I am doing the best I can. Thanks for the love, respect and guidance while I try and figure out where I belong in this world.

At 8:15 AM, Blogger fran said...

To 19 Year-Old Thoughts,

I hope you will continue to comment here. I have told my children, ages 18 and 10, on many occasions that they have taught me something new. I appreciate your perspective and insight as well.

At 9:07 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

Thanks to the 19 year old who reminded me that the way I live with my children is important. It's not that I didn't know that, but sometimes we, as parents, feel like we need to talk, and talk and talk to our kids. Although our words are important- they do need to hear what we believe about what is right and wrong, it goes back to faith without deeds is dead. Our kids need to see what we speak evidenced in their lives for it to be impactful. It's great to hear your perspective. You are much more insightful that I was at 19.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger bethany said...

First, I apologize for the length of this comment. However, I feel it only proper to remind anon that some aspects of individuals can be, at the very least, strongly influenced by a person's genetic makeup.
Addiction to alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes can be partially due to differences in how a person's body handles the chemicals. Alcoholics generally metabolize alcohol differently from "regular" individuals. My brother cannot take the blood at mass because he is one of those individuals and understands his medical limits.

There is a balance of choice and genetic code. Some people *are* more genetically programmed for addiction. This does not mean that it is impossible for them to be clean. One of the exciting things about science to me is how it can help people to help themselves or others. If we understand that one person's body responds to a chemical in a different way than another person's, we can then provide customized treatment so that individual can be empowered to make the choice to be "clean." Isn't this a good thing?

Yes, medication is not the only answer. Antidepressants are far more effective when combined with regular counseling. They can help though. I have had friends who needed antidepressants because no amount of counseling was going to fix the fact that their internal chemicals were badly out of balance. Some refuse and are okay, others refuse and are enjoying eternal peace earlier than expected.

Some aspects of people are down to their biological makeup. To deny that can hurt a person terribly. I have a vocal and physical tic that is due to a basic genetic mutation. Most people are quite polite about it and understand that I cannot simply "behave better" when my neurons misfire. I make the choice to avoid most situations that set me off but that is not always possible. However, there are plenty of individuals who seem to be of the opinion that a grown lady ought to be able to control herself. When faced with those individuals and the opportunity, I try to explain. I believe that most people are essentially well-meaning but can be badly misinformed.

I hope that in the future you will not be so quick to disregard genetics and the feelings of others with less than perfect dna.


At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Bethany,
I’m one of those people with the “less- than-perfect DNA.” I’m a recovering alcoholic with a genetic link to the disease. So, if I sounded like I don’t believe that we are predisposed to some things, let me be clear, I do. Having said that, I’ve been to many AA meetings where members remind each other that personally accountability is key in recovery. It seems as if the medical world moves away from that way of thinking in order to sell more medications. They peddle the idea that we can’t possibly help ourselves without their help, and in the process, people seem to make themselves “less responsible” for all their defects. That’s what gets to me.

I do think psychiatric drugs are w-a-y over prescribed. How many people do you know on antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication? I know a ton. Are we supposed to not feel anything? While I don’t discount their value to those who truly need them, again, I think the medical community has us bamboozled into thinking we should never be upset, overwrought, anxious or sad. If we are less than joyous, it couldn’t possible be the result of the way in which we are living, could it? No- we need a pill to get “right” again. For most, it’s wrong.

The first three steps of AA are the ones I live on a regular basis, the ones that keep me sober. They basically say- I can’t, He can, I’m going to let Him. The church has this perfect compliment to this- confession, the Eucharist and Adoration. Those are what I’d like to see “sold” more!

At 5:42 PM, Blogger bethany said...

I appreciate the clarification, anon. I tend to blame the consumers more than the medical profession, to be honest. Parents who don't get a medication option for their kids will sometimes sue doctors. Whether or not the case is appropriate, the doctor's malpractice goes up. From what I understand, it's a lot safer (malpractice wise and suicide/violence avoidance wise) to give the medication option and let the patient decide. Thankfully, more and more psych programs are stressing to their students that they need to push the non medication options (lifestyle changes, exercise etc) harder because consumers are so unlikely to choose those on their own.
I consider myself lucky that my bad dna is light enough that, for now, I can choose to forgo medication in favor of the lifestyle choices my doctor suggested to me. I've seen a lot of people with much stronger disorders who need the medication to have anything resembling a functional life. All of the counselors I've known have stressed that a healthy emotional life involves the "negative" emotions as well and being constantly emotionally numb is more of an indicator of depression than actively feeling sad.
I will nod to your point that there probably is over-prescription but I blame the consumers more than the medical profession, my love for GardenCity not withstanding.
I just try to assume that those who are on the medication know better than I do whether or not they truly need it.


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