The three of us in the car:
"Mom, what's this called, specifically?" (Points to groin)
"Mom, where does urine come from?" (Their eyebrows raise as I sigh and answer the question)
"Mom, do girls' tubes work like ours? I've never seen you in the bathroom."
Hard to believe, son, because your fingers have been sighted reaching beneath the door and shouting questions through the gap on far too many occasions.
Regardless of the repetition and discomfort, these conversations are paramount - if for no other reason than to build trust. This week we're taking a look at current trends in substance use and intimate relationships.
Do you think you have a good idea of what our kids are facing? Let's find out.
- Overall drug use is down with the exception of marijuana.
- The age of first intercourse has increased, but so has the incidence of other types of sexual behavior.
- Teens who are using substances are the most likely of their peer groups to be sexually active. Generally speaking, these individuals are also taking dangerous risks in multiple areas of their lives.
- Over half of all illicit drug use begins with marijuana, followed by over-the-counter pain relievers and inhalants.
- People ages 50-60 are the fastest growing group of drug-users and binge-drinkers, due to the aging of the Baby Boomer generation.
- Overall binge drinking is on the decline.
- Smoking is also on the decline, especially in teens.
- The main reasons people cite for seeking treatment are alcohol and marijuana addiction - more than twice that of pain relievers and cocaine.
- Pregnancy rates are down in teens.
- Abortion rates are also down.
- STD's have become more prevalent (particularly in people ages 15-24 and in the gay/bisexual male population)
- Reports of pornography addiction are on the rise and the frequent viewing of erotica has increased sharply with the availability of reasonably priced technology.
Are you at all surprised?
I enjoy sharing trends with you because, generationally, we have a hard time seeing past our own bias. I can still picture my Dad and Grandpa sitting at the kitchen counter together over a cup of coffee, lamenting over the state of "kids these days." They spoke as if our generation was going to be lost forever...just as the "Greatest Generation" did about the Boomers, the Boomers did about Gen X, and so on and so forth.
The sentiments of some of today's parents aren't much more positive. I've heard the stereotypes in everyday conversation and we can always count on the internet to be ablaze with accusation:
Millennials don't know how to interact with one another sans tech.
They're addicted to their screens.
While there's always a hint of truth in some statements for some young adults, a few facts strike me a little funny:
1. Baby Boomers and Generation X created the first prototypes of all the technology Millennials are currently using.
2. Parents, ages 25-50 were (and still are) heavily influenced by the mommy-blog, self-help explosion. What began as a life preserver for tired parents, resulted in overwhelmed, pressured, and anxiety-ridden moms and dads who concerned themselves with doing everything "appropriate" for their kids, instead of trusting their instincts.
3. Though the internet has introduced some dire new challenges into society, it's also helped us to become more informed. Used well, the web has helped us to tear down social stigmas and to shine light on issues that people used to battle in isolation.
There's no room for pointing fingers amongst generations. As you can see, we all have our "trending" areas of struggle. I have hope when I consider these statistics, because I see improvement: awareness., understanding, and compassion.
I hear our pastors, teachers, and parents stepping up to initiate uncomfortable conversations that are life-saving. I know families who are making tough decisions because it's what kids need and not necessarily what they want. I witness caregivers prioritizing character, spiritual/emotional health, and perseverance along with academic achievement (an important topic for another day).
My encouragement to all of us this week is to stay the course and keep our eyes on Christ. Let's nurture and instruct our young people until we're wrung-out on wisdom. Our encouragement and guidance is the most important thing in their lives right now...even though they probably won't admit it. What does "bringing up a child in the way they should go" look like?
With you and for you,