Sexuality is a natural part of being human. Through the sexuality of our parents we are brought to life; through our own sexuality we bring our children into the world. Sexuality is an awesome power, and it carries an awesome responsibility.
But sexuality in the world today is largely misunderstood and misused, causing problems for people and society. These include unwanted pregnancies, the spread if disease, broken relationships and broken people.
Respect Sexuality in Yourself and Others
Each of us wants to feel loved. It’s a basic human need. But teens sometimes make the mistake of confusing sexual feelings for love. How do you know the difference? There are ways you can tell.
What Love Is
Supportive. Does your boyfriend or girlfriend encourage you? Do they attend your ball game, even though they aren’t much interested in sports? Do they show up for the play you’re in, even though you have only a small part? A love relationship means supporting your partner’s interests — even when they don’t coincide with your own. It also means supporting your decision to save sex for marriage.
Unconditional. Nobody likes being criticized. But when it’s your partner doing the dissing, it’s much more hurtful. A boyfriend or girlfriend who spends more time belittling you than building you up, or who pressures you to have sex, is not worth your love.
Generous. When you’re half of a couple, suddenly the emphasis is more on “us” than on “me.” That’s not to say your feelings aren’t important. Instead, part of being in a healthy relationship is balancing what you need with what someone else needs. Sometimes it’s tough to do, but real love involves giving generously of your time.
What Love Is Not
Controlling. This kind of love doesn’t let you be you. Instead, your partner calls the shots and tells you what to do, when, and for how long. Instead of an equal footing, your partner dominates the relationship and always decides what is “best for us.”
Conditional. This kind of love is based on a standard of performance; you have to do something or be something to earn it. So don’t dare gain a few pounds, make friends with anyone who doesn’t meet your partner’s approval, or suddenly stop doing well in your sport.
Based on Lust. This kind of love is based on excitement. Instead of understanding your partner from the inside out and caring for them based on who they are, this kind of love sees only the physical aspects of a relationship.
Protecting Your Emotional Health
Besides avoiding pregnancy, an important reason to abstain from sex before marriage is to avoid the emotional consequences.
A study by Tom and Judy Lickona (Sex, Love, and You) found that teens who have sex are likely to experience regret, guilt, lowered self-respect, fear of commitment, and depression. Other research finds that girls and boys who are sexually active wish they had waited. Eight in ten girls and six in ten boys say they wish they had waited until they were older to have sex. (Source: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (2003); With one voice: America’s adults and teens sound off about teen pregnancy. Washington DC.)
Author and relationship expert Dr. Ray E. Short has found, among other things, that people who have sex before they marry are more likely to:
- Break up before they marry
- Be less happy in their marriage
- Get a divorce
- Commit adultery after they marry
- Marry for the wrong reason
- Be less satisfied with their married sex life
- Be nudged into a poor marriage by feelings of guilt
(Source: Sex, Dating, and Love; 1994; Augsburg Publishing House)
True Love Waits
Many teens have decided to save sex for marriage. One way to make this promise to yourself is to sign a True Love Waits commitment card. Your privacy is guaranteed and it only takes a minute. Why not do it now? www.lifeway.com
Most teenagers don’t plan to get pregnant, but it happens. Pregnancy can carry extra health risks for teen mothers and their babies. Many teens don’t receive timely medical care during pregnancy. They have a higher risk for pregnancy-related high blood pressure and its complications. Risks for the baby include premature birth and a low birth weight.
If you’re pregnant, there are things you can do to take care of yourself and the precious life growing inside you.
- Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day for your health and to prevent some types of birth defects.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, and calcium-rich foods. Choose foods low in saturated fat.
- Go the your doctor early and regularly during pregnancy. Your doctor will check to make sure you and your baby are healthy at each visit. Doctors can spot health problems early when they see mothers regularly. Early treatment can cure many problems and prevent others.
- Do not smoke or take alcohol or drugs. If you need to quit, ask your doctor for help.
- Unless your doctor tells you not to, try to be active for 30 minutes most days of the week.
- Ask your doctor before taking any medicine. Some are not safe during pregnancy. Even over-the-counter medicines and herbal products may cause problems.
- Avoid hot tubs, saunas, and x-rays.
- If you are around a cat, avoid exposure to its feces. A germ sometimes found in cat feces can cause an infection that leads to birth defects.
- Stay away from chemicals like bug killers, solvents (like some cleaners or paint thinners), lead, and mercury. Not all products have pregnancy warnings on their labels. If you’re unsure if a product is safe, ask your doctor before using it.
- Avoid or limit caffeine (often found in tea, soda, and chocolate) to no more than two servings per day.
- Ask your doctor about childbirth education classes for you and your partner. Classes can help you prepare for the birth of your baby.
- Get informed. Read books, watch videos, and talk with experienced moms.
Food Safety Tips During Pregnancy
Three main dangers lurk in food. These can cause serious illness or even death to you or your unborn baby:
Listeria: a dangerous bacterium that can grow even in cold refrigerators.
Mercury: a harmful metal found in high levels in some fish.
Toxoplasma: a risky parasite found in undercooked meat and unwashed fruits and vegetables.
Follow these food safety tips to help keep you and your baby healthy:
DO NOT EAT…
- raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish or shellfish (sushi or sashimi).
- swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, or shark.
- refrigerated smoked seafood like whitefish, salmon and mackerel. These products are usually labeled “Nova-style,” lox, kippered, or jerky.
- refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads.
- hot dogs and luncheon meats unless they’re reheated until steaming hot.
- soft cheeses like feta, brie, camembert, “blue-veined cheeses,” “queso blanco,” “queso fresco,” and Panela unless the label says they are pasteurized or made from pasteurized milk.
- raw or unpasteurized milk or eat foods that contain unpasteurized milk.
- unwashed fruits and vegetables.
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Pregnancy and Substance Abuse
When you are pregnant, you don’t just “eat for two.” You also breathe and drink for two. If you smoke or use alcohol or drugs, so does your unborn baby.
Smoking during pregnancy passes nicotine and cancer-causing drugs to your baby. Smoke also keeps your baby from getting nourishment and raises the risk of stillbirth or premature birth.
Don’t Drink Alcohol!
There is no safe amount of alcohol you can drink while pregnant. Alcohol can cause life-long physical and behavioral problems in children, including fetal alcohol syndrome.
Don’t Use Drugs!
Using drugs may cause low birth weight, birth defects or withdrawal symptoms in your baby after birth.
If you smoke, drink alcohol or take drugs, ask your doctor for help to break your habit. When you quit, you and your baby will be better off.