In the last year, I became acquainted with Vanessa Van Petten, a very insightful and ambitious young woman who wrote a book about parenting as a teenager, You’re Grounded, from the teen’s perspective. She didn’t stop there, however. She since has developed a website called www.radicalparenting.com that also involves a number of teen writers to help educate parents on trends with teens and good advice for parents and kids, and she has appeared on various television shows as a youthologist and resource for teen behaviors. When I thought about writing this series, I wanted to team up with someone who could help me to spread this message, and Vanessa was an obvious choice. Below is her post, and her concept is a great addition to this series for anyone to consider. I also included links to additional articles that she has written on the subject following her post with is simultaneously appearing on her site. Without further ado…
I have been working with the amazing Dr. E… on helping young people respect and cherish their bodies. Our biggest challenge was figuring out how to spread this message in a relevant, interesting way to kids and teens so that we were not being preachy or missing the mark.
We decided to write a short series of posts on this topic for our parent readers. Dr. E…’s first article, [here] is an introduction to the Your Body is Not A Disneyland Message:
“Your Body is Not a Disneyland: Throughout time, people have treated their bodies like amusement parks, sometimes letting almost anybody take a ride at any cost to their self-respect. Whether it is in the name of experimentation or being a free spirit, your body is your temple, and how you and others treat it is, in some way, a testament to your feelings, beliefs and attitudes about yourself. The issue of how we treat our bodies doesn’t begin or end with us as adults. This has a trickledown effect to our children. They are always watching and listening. If we don’t begin to see and understand this issue, our children and ourselves will likely continue this self-depleting pattern. Why and how do we develop our attitudes and beliefs about sexuality, and how can we and our children learn to respect our bodies and our souls?”
While thinking about my take on this concept, I remembered a comparison that my health teacher made to me in 5th grade that has always stuck with me.
“Your body is like a car,” she told me.
“What do you mean Mrs. Brown?” I asked.
“If you knew you had one car for your entire life what would you do when you got it?”
This was an easy question, “I would take really, really good care of it.”
She nodded. “Would you give it the best quality gasoline?”
“Yes, definitely,” I responded.
“Would you wash it, clean it regularly and take it in for check-ups?”
“I would take it in all the time just to check, and I would make sure that people cleaned their feet before they got in.” I responded, reconciling having only one car my whole life and my messy friends.
“I bet you would be careful who you let in it and who you let drive it too?” She sat down.
“Oh my goodness yes. I would only let people I really, really trust drive it.”
“Have you ever thought that your body is like getting one car for your entire life?”
I had not, but now I was getting the comparison. Here are the tips that changed how I treat and think about my body. I challenge you to share them with your family:
1. You only get one, so treat it very carefully.
2. Take preventative care. Make sure to protect the outside and the interior with sunscreen/carwax, vitamins/leather cleaner.
3. Get regular check-ups.
4. Have fun too, but always make sure you are safe.
And the most important one…
5. Only let people you really trust and love get into it.
Dr. E…’s [second and third installment] addresses love head on, from a global, scientific and even historical perspective. I thought I would add to these angles by bringing an example that many kids understand in real terms. They would never let someone they did not know or trust drive the only car they get for their entire life. It is the same thing with loving relationships and with sexual relations.
I hope that you can talk to your kids about treating their body more like a once in a lifetime car, and less like a Disneyland.
Next Installment: The Media Machine
Vanessa Van Petten, youthologist and teen author of the parenting book “You’re Grounded!,” manages RadicalParenting.com, a parenting blog written by 119 teen writers, ages 12-20 to help parents and adults get an honest and open view into the world and mind of youth. Van Petten’s work and blog have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Teen Vogue, CNN, Fox News, Real Housewives of Orange County and much more! She won the Moms Choice Award in 2009 and her work is read by over 300,000 adults.
Additional Articles by Vanessa and her crew:
The Laws of Teen Dating: Tween Inter-Sex life Here I go over some popular sexual terms and trends including sexting and what is inter-sex anyway?
Teen Trend: 7 Reasons Why It’s Cool to Pretend Be Bisexual Yes, this is the new wave. Everyone is bisexual and a lot of teens are now pretending to be bisexual or gay because it is the ‘cool’ thing to do.
Teaching Teen Girls: 5 Signs A Guy Is Only Interested in Sex A parent’s guide to teach their daughters this very important dating lesson.
Teen Hook Up Culture: Teen Sex and Theme Parties Oh yes, teens having sex and Pimps and Hoes Parties when parents leave town or the second they get to college…some myths and truths.
5 Messy Teen Sex and Relationship Issues You NEED to Talk to Your Kids About There’s more to the “Sex Talk” than just the birds and the bees. What every parent must discuss with their teen.
The Sex Talk: 6 Things Parents Must Know Straight from the mouths of teens, what parents should consider before giving the sex talk.
Many of the teen articles are here: http://www.radicalparenting.com/category/sex/