Sexual health is a broad subject. We typically just assume it means how to have physical intercourse, but I have learned through my years of clinical work that it actually encompasses so much more than that. Especially when it comes to working with teens, there is a whole spectrum worth discussing.
Yes, it does mean sex – protection and reproductive systems and how to respect physical boundaries. This is what we learn in school. But, what about the other healthy behavior relating to sex?
appropriate masturbation habits
healthy pornography use
physical and emotional boundaries
ways to discuss these topics with other teens and adults
Yeah, all of that...
Discussing these topics with teenagers can be intimidating. It may be intimidating because, realistically, these aren’t topics we discuss as a society! When we were given the “sex talk” by an adult, it was similar to what we learned in school and often didn’t include more nuanced topics. We then typically learn about healthy behaviors through consequences; we are punished for pushing, but not told how to correct. Adults probably figured it out as they went, but how do we communicate something we just figured out on our own?
Luckily for you and your teen, I am passionate about talking to teens about these topics. This is a very specific niche and specialty – let’s get into what makes me qualified.
I am a Certified Sex Offender Treatment Provider, which means I have experience working with individuals on probation for sexual offenses. These nuanced topics, unsurprisingly, came up quite often. I have done research and learned statistics on a wide variety of behaviors to better inform my clinical work. Once I started combining my work with teenagers and my work with unhealthy sexual behaviors, I realized that I had a passion for teaching teens to manage their behavior in order to avoid them needing the treatment I provided later. Plus, many of the teens I worked with were intrigued by the topics that were presented because they aren’t ones we discuss regularly.
The parents of clients I work with on these topics come to me with shame and confusion. They feel that they may have done something wrong and that their child is strange. They may make excuses for the behaviors, such as “boys will be boys” or “it’s just what teenagers do,” despite the displayed behaviors being atypical. This isn't to say your teen will grow up and do something inappropriate or illegal - it just means they need a little more attention on these topics. But, again, how do we know the behaviors are atypical unless we ask?
This is where parental collaboration comes in, and it is something I value greatly. I want to ensure that parents are involved in supporting their teens, whatever that looks like. I will work with parents to understand boundaries that currently exist in the family as well as suggesting additional or new boundaries to implement to adjust behaviors. The teens who I work with don’t always talk about our work with their parents, but they are told early and often that parents play a role in supporting a changed behavior.
Teen clients of mine come to me with questions. We, as a society, don’t love to talk about these topics with anyone, much less a stranger. And I totally get that – that’s why I approach these clients the exact same way as other clients. I want to build rapport and trust so that they can feel comfortable. Once that is established, we will get into the work of examining behavior and adjusting as needed. I don’t want your teen to be shamed or guilted out of the behavior they are engaging in; I want them to educate them into awareness of what is typical and appropriate. Shame and judgement, in my experience, are not as helpful as education and patience.
These behaviors are difficult to talk about and can be difficult to break down. When you notice something from your teen or you want them to have education, I am ready to meet them. If you are still unsure about the needs of your teen, take a look at my services page regarding these behaviors.