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HomeHealth & BehaviorSex Education

Risky Sexual Relationships in Teens With LD or AD/HD

Page 2 of 2

By Ann Christen, M.A., M.F.T. , Kristin Stanberry

Tune in to your Teen's Learning Style and Behavior

By his teenage years, your child has probably received a fair amount of sex education (both formal and informal). Even so, Ann Christen recommends you remain vigilant about reviewing key points with him as necessary. As you discuss the facts of life with your teen, consider his individual needs and help him become more self-aware. For example:

  • Be realistic about your teenager's emotional maturity level. Some teens with LD or AD/HD look and feel mature physically, but they act "young" for their age and lack the social judgment of their peers. Not only does this create conflict within themselves, but their physical appearance may also lead others to expect them to be more mature than they really are.
  • A teen with AD/HD may act impulsively, without considering or planning for consequences. An example would be engaging in spontaneous and unprotected sex. Help your teen understand how his impulsive nature might pose a risk in certain situations.
  • When introducing or reviewing concepts, keep your teen's preferred learning style in mind. If she grasps ideas better when they're presented visually (e.g., in diagrams) or introduced in segments over a period of time, tailor your discussions accordingly.

Sexual Exploitation: Cause for Concern

Ann Christen cautions parents that teens with LD and/or AD/HD are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation. "If a teen has low self-esteem because he feels like an academic and social failure, he's at risk to be taken advantage of," she explains." Many teens with learning difficulties lack the social competence to recognize individuals they shouldn't trust; an 'exploiter' might be an older teen or adult (of either gender) and can be a stranger or a trusted adult, such as an uncle, youth group leader, or coach. It might also be a bully-turned-friend." Ann says parents must be aware that true sexual predators also exist, such as those who use the Internet to lure unsuspecting teenagers. While these criminals make the national headlines, they are fewer in number than it may appear.

Ann advises parents to be proactive by warning their teens that not everyone will have their best interests in mind. Describe the warning signs and behaviors to be aware of, but do so in a matter-of-fact and non-alarming manner. This will raise your teenager's awareness and open the door for him to talk to you about suspicious individuals he encounters. You can further help your teenager by helping him develop good self-esteem and the social skills to "size up" and respond to others.

Keep the Light On and the Door Open

Finally, Ann Christen emphasizes, it's important to be accessible to — and accepting of — your teenager at all times. If you lecture and react to him with shock and judgment, he will likely "shut down "on you. You can deepen your trust by telling him stories of feelings and experiences you had as a teenager. Take comfort in knowing that the values you've instilled in your child throughout his lifetime remain secure, even though baffling teenage behavior may cause you to believe otherwise! While he may not show it, your teenager still looks to you for life's important lessons.

References

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (2nd Edition). New York, NY: Guilford. (1998) by R.A. Barkley

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness issues. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities and AD/HD, which she wrote about extensively for Schwab Learning and GreatSchools.

 


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