Sex Ed Isn’t The Only Important Relationship Lesson For Teens


Written by Leslie Kantor

As the mother of a teen, Iíve approached that point in parenting where Iím compelled to spend much of the next several years concerned about the nature of my childís relationships and when and whether they might involve sex. †I know Iím hardly alone in this worry since, as a sex educator, Iíve spent much of my career addressing how other parents can help their kids make smart choices about sex. Yet Iím also clear that there are other, more disturbing, aspects of teen relationships that get less attention. Teen romantic relationships can be very intense, and sometimes, unfortunately, violence is a very real occurrence.

The recent Centers for Disease Control and Preventionís (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) highlights some troubling news about this issue: nearly 10 percent of high school students had been ďhit, slapped, or physically hurt on purposeĒ by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the year preceding the survey, and eight percent reported that they had been forced to have sexual intercourse. †These numbers may seem relatively low, but they stand out because relationship violence has not shown improvement since the CDC began reporting this data. †Clearly young people need more help establishing healthy relationships and learning how to avoid unhealthy ones.

Parents play a key role in helping kids define and establish healthy relationships, and can also keep an eye out for signs that their child might be in an abusive relationship. Changes in behavior and rejecting friends to spend more time with a boyfriend or girlfriend are key indicators.† Thatís why itís crucial for parents to always know where their teens are and who they are with, and that they get to know their teenís friends and boyfriend or girlfriend.

School-based sex education programs also help young people to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships and to build the skills they need to help them avoid violent relationships. Hundreds of†studies have shown that comprehensive sex education programs have had measurable success helping young people wait to have sex, use condoms and other forms of birth control when they become sexually active, and limit the number of partners they have.† These programs also include guidance for setting healthy boundaries, including the ability to say no to sex and establishing positive, respectful relationships. †Relationships are complex, and young people need consistent guidance on developing healthy ones.

Unfortunately, schools are pressed to focus their time on standardized test preparation, making health education a low priority.† But without good sex education that consistently teaches young people how to communicate, negotiate, and deal with conflict in relationships, we leave them vulnerable to abuse.

Itís alarming that so many young people are the victims of abusive relationships, but there is much we can do to combat this problem.† It is critical that as a society we focus our attention on helping young people get more guidance on healthy relationships and advocate for more comprehensive sex education in schools. †Bottom line: †there needs to be more than just a single conversation about healthy relationships; this should be addressed consistently over many years.

For more information on healthy relationships, visit,, and

This post was originally published by MomsRising.


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Connie T.
Past Member 5 years ago

Well, I may be an old fogie - but when I was at school Sex Ed was certainly not on the curriculum.

Jane Mckenzie
Jane Mckenzie5 years ago

What a refreshing change to hear insight and rational views about this topic. Thanks

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

true. what age were the high school students in the survey. theres a HUGE difference in 19 year olds and 14 year olds in this case

Navpreet K.
Navpreet K.5 years ago

I agree with this.

Tony C.
Tony C5 years ago

A class in RESPECT AND RESPONSIBILITY should be taught from Grade one to graduation. Children should be taught that anything is permissible as long as it does not hurt themselves or anyone else. If children are taught at a very early age that every child has their own strengths and weaknesses and that they should use their strengths to help others not to tease or bully them.
It should not matter if a child comes from a FAMILY of a mother and father, 2 mothers or 2 fathers or a single mother or father as long as they are LOVED.
Sex Education should be taught on LGBT, Contraceptives, Masturbation, Pregnancy and all forms of sex. Let us face it whether we like it or not children are curious and are having sex earlier. Children should be taught the JOYS and the CONSEQUENCES of having sex ( Pregnancy, STD, AIDS and others.) I believe this is a solution. Stopping the damage before it starts so that Bullying, Sexual Assault, and many others will be greatly diminished if not eradicated. It is my belief that when children graduate with these principles where they are taught RESPECT for themselves and others and to take RESPONSIBILITY for their actions. If children grow up with these values, I believe business and government would benefit greatly. Within a few generations this world would be a much better place to live in.

Jane Warren
Jane Warren5 years ago

thnx for this

Rebecca S.
Rebecca S5 years ago

thank you! We need to focus in school on all relationship aspects, and what defines a 'healthy relationship'.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L5 years ago

"...this should be addressed consistently over many years" I couldn't agree more with this statement. I also think sex education should changed to social behavior education and a good deal spent on respect for the opposite sex.

Lauren E.
Lauren E5 years ago

I really think that today's "sex ed" in America is extremely lacking in pretty much every way. It might not just be because of test prep, it might also be that people are just too afraid of angering parents for teaching "inappropriate material" or something ludicrous like that. It irks me, honestly. Everything important I know about love and sexuality I learned long after sex ed, and for some people that might be too late.

Juliet Defarge
judith sanders5 years ago

In a lot of schools, "sex ed" includes lessons on how to organize family finances, screen child care providers, etc. Frankly, I've never encountered a school that taught just reproductive hygiene on its own.