Talking to Your Teenager about Masturbation

She has a pretty good idea why. This mother wants to know how to properly deal with the issue of a masturbating teenager. It is obviously an awkward and sometimes uncomfortable conversation, so many parents opt to not address it at all and hope that it will take care of itself. The other common approach taken by many parents is to try to cause the teen to feel bad about the behavior so that the behavior will cease. Both of these approaches can have devastating effects on your teen. Let’s look at both a bit more closely. Silence A recent study revealed that our kids are exposed to over 40 sexually explicit references per day. Most likely, each of these references offer a skewed and perverted picture of God’s wonderful gift of sex. If we are silent on the subject of sex and masturbation in our homes, we are ensuring that our kids are not hearing the truth about God’s design for sex and will accept as true our culture’s skewed and distorted view of sex and sexuality. If you have been silent on this issue altogether or relegated this discussion to “the talk” that was a one-time event, there might be twinges of guilt stirred up when you discover your teenager is masturbating. Perhaps if you did have “the talk”, you kept the discussion brief and only dealt with the biological facts of procreation and did not venture into areas like masturbation, pornography, and how to handle natural urges and desires. Our silence on this issue sends a loud and clear message to our kids…sex must be bad because mom and dad don’t want to talk about it. When we don’t talk about it, our kids are left attempting to figure out some pretty heavy stuff on their own. We can be sure that friends at school or the Internet are more than willing to provide answers to the questions that they don’t feel safe enough to ask you. The “Freak Out” Method Another popular response to discovering that your teenager is masturbating is to attempt to make them feel bad about what they are doing. So many of the guys that we work with in our groups had this experience growing up. The most common way to shame the behavior is for a parent to freak out when they find out. Think about what is going on in the mind of the child. They are already hiding this behavior as best they can by doing it in the shower but mom and dad still find out. Then there worst fears are realized when mom and dad freak out instead of stepping in to offer sound wisdom and advice. Because we don’t know how to hang onto ourselves as parents and because we are uncomfortable with the subject, we simply want it to go away. But freaking out only serves to send it underground and doesn’t properly address the real issues that are going on. Granted you might think it has been dealt with because the showers become less frequent and a bit shorter, but all you have served to do is to communicate loud and clear to your child that it is not safe to talk to you about matters of sex and sexuality. So if silence and the freak out method aren’t the answer, how are we to properly deal with a teenager who is masturbating? The Conversation It is important to establish in your home that it is safe to talk about any and all topics…especially sex and our sexuality. The great news is that it is never too late to start this conversation. If you discover that your teenager is masturbating and you have been talking openly with them for years about sex, then this offers a great opportunity to continue that discussion. If, on the other hand, your home has been one where the topic of sex has been taboo and off limits and you discover that your teenager is masturbating, this provides the perfect opportunity for the conversation to begin. To start the conversation with a teenager who is masturbating, it might be appropriate to begin the conversation by apologizing for not beginning the conversation earlier. In that discussion, you might consider talking openly about your fear and anxiety about the issue and some of the reasons that you never brought it up. Moving forward, you begin to establish an open dialogue where nothing is off limits, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable. Problem or Simple Curiosity? So how do we know if our teenager is simply curious or has a bigger problem? As we enter the conversation, look past the behavior (masturbation) and seek to help your child get in touch with the emotions that are driving the behavior. If, for example, they tell you it happens more frequently when they have a big test or event, you can begin to possibly determine that masturbation might be what they are turning to in order to escape or “check out”. It is important as a parent to mine your child’s heart and understand what is driving the behavior instead of simply wanting the behavior to go away. Many might say “Well it feels good and it is normal, so I’m not so sure that my teenager really has a problem.” And that might very well be true. As a parent, we want to equip our children to get in touch with feelings and emotions at a deep level and give them the freedom to feel what they are feeling. This freedom, coupled with an environment where they can come to us with anything, provides a level of safety and comfort for kids that is invaluable. If your kids have not yet reached the teen years, begin to plan now for the lifelong conversation you want to have with your child about sex and their sexuality. A great book that will help walk you through how to do this is A Chicken’s Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids About Sex If you have specific questions that you would rather not post in the comments below, feel free to email us at]]>