"If you look back at the history and traditions of just about any tribe in America you will find coming of age ceremonies that mark an important passage for young boys and girls. It is an important time for their parents and other adults who shape their child’s future. Expectations for behavior, and the new roles and responsibilities the children will assume as they enter adulthood, including education about sex, were shared through stories, instruction, prayers and songs. That is not always the case today.
A first drink, a first cigarette, the first chance to have sex; each of these “coming of age” moments require teens and pre-teens to rely on their values in deciding what they will do. Teens are engaging in sex at younger ages. Almost half of our first-time Native mothers are giving birth under the age of 20. But, like most children in America, the majority of our Native youth learn more about sex from friends, television and celebrities than from the people who love them the most.
The one bright spot is that despite all these outside influences children still say the most important factor in developing values is their families. So, despite the fact that the topic of sex can be uncomfortable, our children want to know what we expect of them and how we can help them get through adolescence by making the right choices.
When my children were young, their mother and I talked constantly to each of our four sons and one daughter. But, I am a little closer to my sons because we were able to talk in our sweathouse about life and the way to live today. I think the traditional way of counseling our young people might be the most effective way."
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Andy Joseph Jr.: Our children need to hear from us
(Indian Country Today 12/7)