Working Together for the Best Sex Ed

 

The Public School’s Approach

It was the first week of middle school for 12- year- old Maddie. She was excited, but nervous to start the adventure of middle school. Just as the tardy bell rang, Maddie slid into her seat at the front of the class. The class began with the ordinary introduction of material, including a “getting to know you” survey.  As she filled out the survey, Maddie was surprised to see a question asking students which pronouns they preferred. The survey also asked if the school could share that information with their parents.

Across the street, high-schoolers were being presented with a worksheet entitled, “The Gender Unicorn.” The worksheet was supposed to teach students about the differences between gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and physical vs. emotional attraction. In a school that requires parent signatures for watching movies rated anything over PG, gender education was taking place without parental consent or knowledge. 

The Debate: Moral vs. Secular 

With the introduction of the Equality Act, incorporating sex and gender education in schools became a hotly debated topic. Of course, there are strong arguments for both sides of the issue, and the debate has left many communities divided. Educators are being asked to teach about a topic that covers both secular and moral principles. On the other hand, parents are mad about being left in the dark when it comes to the sex education of their children. 

Our country is at a crossroads when it comes to the gender and sex education of our children. Whatever your views on gender and sexuality, our children are growing up in a society that includes pronouns and genders beyond he/she, male/female. Carrie Hunt clearly stated the issue when she said, “what once brought purpose, clarity, definition and identity to a child both individually and socially, now comes in so many varieties that many children struggle to find their grounding.” 

What Can We Do?

So how do we help children find their footing? Should schools continue to push such education without parental consent in the name of protecting and leading children? Should parents try to shelter their kids from such education because only two genders really exist?

It seems the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Having a healthy understanding of sexuality and gender is crucial to finding purpose, clarity, and identity in life. Because of this, it’s important for children to receive some form of education on the topic. Parents and educators tend to see eye to eye on this. Over 93 % of parents feel that sex education is important for their middle and high school students. And 33 states have emphasized the importance of sex education by mandating it for public schools. The division then comes down to the lack of curriculum transparency between the school and parents. Surprisingly, only 5 of the 33 states that mandate sex education require parental consent in order for children to receive instruction. 

Even though parents want their kids to learn about sex, many families fail to teach their children in the home. Data shows that this vital instruction is not occurring often enough. Maybe this is because parents don’t know  how to appropriately broach these topics with their children. That being said, national surveys find that nearly all teenagers have received sex education by the age of 18. Where do they get this education? Through public schools. Since gender and sexuality education isn’t happening in the majority of homes, public educators have taken upon themselves the role of teaching kids about sex. 

Schools & Parents Working Together

For the most part, we can agree that parents and educators have the child’s best interest in mind. While parents are generally responsible for instilling moral values and religious beliefs in their children, schools are responsible for teaching secular subjects. But gender and sexuality education encompasses both secular and moral teachings. 

Because of this, the best solution involves clearly defining the boundary between the two. With the ever-changing terms and ideas children encounter, schools should first and foremost encourage parents to be the preeminent voice in teaching their kids about sex. In addition, parents and schools must work together to decide on appropriate sex education curriculum. As parents and schools work together to establish an honest, transparent relationship, they will be able to clearly define the line between public sex education and private sex education. This open and transparent communication is vital in order to teach sex education in a way that allows our children to find purpose, clarity, and identity both at home and at school.

Laura Ellis is a Junior at BYU-Idaho studying Marriage, Family, and Human Relations. As a mother of eight, she is passionate about child and family advocacy. She has actively worked within her community to help change policies that threaten children and the family.

3 Keys to Having the Best Date Night Ever!

date night

 

What was once the best day of the week while you were dating can easily become mundane, boring, or even forgotten about once you’ve been married. Date nights have an incredibly important role within marriages. Unfortunately, the plethora of responsibility we each possess relating to roles in school, work, church, and community often make it difficult to prioritize date night like we should.

A few fancy dates per year on special occasions aren’t enough, either. Research has shown that couples who have weekly date nights are 3.5 times more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriages, 3.5 times more likely to report sexual satisfaction within their marriage, and almost 3.5 more likely to report above-average communication satisfaction. Plus, there is a direct correlation between the amount of times that couples spend together and the probability
of divorce.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that date nights are crucial to marital success, the majority of couples report that they “hardly ever” have it. For the sake of our marriages, it’s time to break the status quo and recommit to regular date nights, and we have a few suggestions on how to make them the best they can be.

 

1. Try Something New Together

 

If your date nights are feeling so stale that they aren’t worth it anymore, why not try reinventing them? While it’s fun to have a location or restaurant that’s “yours” as a couple, it’s also important to switch things up every once and a while. Social psychology professor Arthur Aron suggested, “Rather than visiting the same familiar haunts and dining with the same old friends, couples need to tailor their date nights around new and different activities that they both enjoy.”

Research suggests that when you do something new with your spouse, brain circuits are ignited. These brain circuits are the same ones that were ignited when you first fell in love, so trying a new activity together can truly take you back to the most thrilling stage of your relationship, helping you remember what made you first fall in love with your spouse. It doesn’t have to be anything major, either. You can try a new restaurant, swap the time of your date and plan a sunrise or breakfast, visit a landmark that you’ve never been to, or take advantage of community arts classes, like pottery or social dance. With a little planning, it’ll be easy to plan a novel, economical, and totally memorable date night this week.

 

2. Put Your Phone Away

 

Having your phone out during a first date is considered rude and taboo, yet phones often work their way into marital date nights. If you want to plan the best date night ever, phones can’t be anywhere on the itinerary.

Dr. Emma Seppälä, author The Happiness Track, stated, “Intimacy comes from being able to share authentically with another person. If you are looking at your phone rather than in your partner’s eyes, there can be no intimacy.”

A study completed by the University of Chicago proved that simply having a cell phone in the room causes decreased cognitive capacity and focus. Your spouse deserves the focus and attention that you gave them on your first date. Turn your phones on silent, put them away, and if possible, just leave them at home. If you want date night to be special, you need to treat it differently than the other nights of the week, and that means leaving social media, the news, and entertainment apps out of it.

 

3. Take Turns Asking Each Other Out

 

While considering how date night was different now that my husband and I are married, I realized that perhaps the most exciting aspect of our date nights had been entirely lost. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how genuinely ecstatic I felt when I was asked out on the first date with my now-husband, and the second, and the third, and the fourth, and so on. Every time he called to ask me out on another date, I truly felt over-the- moon excited. So why was that practice now lost?

We decided to experiment with this. We took turns planning weekly date nights and made the rule that the respective spouse had to formally ask the other, just like we had when we were first dating. I’ll admit that initially the formality seemed a little silly, but then something happened. I began finding myself looking forward to getting asked out by my husband and wondering when the invitation was coming, and when it did, some of those exact same over-the- moon feelings came back. I found myself taking extra time to get ready for the date night and documenting the date nights with photos and videos, just like we had early in our relationship. Date nights quickly became more like a special event, and less like a necessary weekly formality.

If you wish date nights felt as exciting as they used to while you were dating, why not make them more like when you were dating? Whether it’s formal invitations or something else entirely, examine some of the aspects of your former date nights that have since been forgotten and commit to incorporating them once again in your relationship.

If you aren’t currently having regular date nights and the idea of working a weekly date night into your schedule seems overwhelming and unrealistic, strive initially for some sort of progress and work your way up. Start where you are now, and as you prioritize increasing the frequency and quality of our date nights, you’ll also be prioritizing your family, your marriage, and your spouse.

 

Miriam Merrill has a Bachelor of Science in Marriage and Family Studies with an emphasis in Family Advocacy and Policy. She recently interned with both The Sutherland Institute and Family Policy Resource and attended the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. When she isn’t writing or researching, you can find her performing, singing, and making happy memories with her husband, Sam, and puppy, Jimmy Stewart.

Scrolling Our Way to Addiction

technology addiction

We’ve all heard the jokes about how short a child’s attention span can be, but is an adult’s really that much better?

Have you ever thought about how many times per day you use your phone? On average, that number is somewhere around 2,617 times a day.

I can’t even tell you how often I have reached for my phone while doing homework, or looked up from my beloved screen to notice that everyone around me is also staring at theirs. When was the last time you went out to dinner with a group of friends and no one touched their phone? Or the last time you played a game with your kids without also mindlessly scrolling through Facebook?

It’s like we think we deserve a break from life, or a reward for our 5 minutes of effort. But the question we really need to ask ourselves is, are we rewarding ourselves because we think we deserve it, or because we literally can’t help it?

Technology Addiction: Is That Even a Thing?

You bet it is. Addiction was once only considered relative to substances, but now it includes things like internet and smart phone usage, too. In a survey of 200 college students at Stanford University, 10% reported being fully addicted to their phone, and 34% considered themselves almost addicted.

In the same survey, 75% reported that they slept next to their phone, and 69% felt that they would forget their wallet before their phone. Almost half said they would consider losing their phone to be a “tragedy.”

If we take a look into the homes of Americans, we will see that 90% of households have at least one smartphone, desktop/laptop, tablet, or other media-streaming device. While this may not come as a surprise, nearly 20% of households have at least 10 of those devices. In some cases, that means there are probably more devices than people. Let that sink in for a moment…

What Technology Addiction Looks Like in Romantic Relationships

Dating in today’s world is a little different than it was 20 years ago. Sadly, too many of us have had those awkward conversations where we had to repeat ourselves because our date was distracted by his or her phone. It often feels like we can’t even carry on a regular conversation.

If you can relate to this, you’re not alone. There’s even a term to describe it! “Phubbing” is when a person ignores or snubs someone in a social setting by paying more attention to their smart phone than the person they’re with.

Unfortunately, this kind of behavior has become the norm. When we walk into a restaurant, it’s not uncommon to see couples physically sitting together but mentally existing in completely different worlds. We seem to be losing the very human connection that makes our relationships meaningful.

What It Looks Like in Families

In a poll of 1,240 U.S. parents and children, about 60% of kids ages 12-18 reported that they could not give up their smartphones, and 1/3 of parents reported that they argue about screen time with their children on a daily basis.

Spending 6-9 hours per day using digital media, kids and adolescents feel pressure to stay connected, incessantly check for notifications, and respond quickly to texts for fear of missing out (FOMO).

What kind of effect does all this screen time have on families? Sadly, not a positive one. Family relationships are weakening. Teens are isolating themselves even more than they were in the past. Children and parents alike need instant gratification and are becoming more concerned with self than with family.

Speaking of parents, if mom and dad are constantly on their devices, why shouldn’t their kids follow suit? The old saying “Do as I say, and not as I do” isn’t nearly as effective as we sometimes wish it was. We have to be careful and think about the example we’re setting for our little ones.

What It Looks Like in Society

At this point you might be thinking, “Yeah, yeah I get it. Technology addiction is bad for me. But is it really affecting society?”

Actually… yes. Addiction to smart phones and other devices are causing us to have shortened attention spans. Kids are having a harder time focusing in school, and adults are experiencing the same problem at work.

A more obvious issue is texting and driving. In a survey given in 2012, 75% of teenagers said that they text and drive, and 56% of parents also admitted that they check their phone while driving.

Lastly, we cannot ignore the effect that technology addiction has on mental health. Those who struggle with a technology addiction experience a high increase in anxiety and depression symptoms. Naturally, this affects their educational, professional, and family life.

What can we do?

Before you get too worried that I’m going to ask you to burn all of your smart phones and other devices, I want to be clear: I’m not saying technology is inherently evil. Technology is amazing and can serve many useful and wonderful purposes. The important thing to be aware of here is the danger of addiction that comes from using it too much.

So knowing what you now know, here are 3 simple things you can do to make a change:

  1. When you go on a date with your loved one, turn your phones off. You won’t believe how much more connected you will feel even after just one uninterrupted hour together.
  2. Set a limit on screen time for your kids AND yourself. Find more quality activities for your children instead, and be a good role model by abiding by the same rules as much as possible.
  3. Leave your phone at home and go for a walk or a jog. Regular exercise is not only great for mental and physical health, but it helps with concentration, as well.

Technology addiction is real and very much alive in the U.S. today. If we can pay attention long enough, we might just be able to improve relationships, strengthen families, and better society as a whole without ever touching a smart phone.

 

Paige Gibbs is a student at Brigham Young University – Idaho studying Marriage and Family Studies with a Professional General Emphasis. She is from Soda Springs, Idaho and is the youngest of 5 daughters. Paige and her husband, Bracken, are high school sweethearts and have been married for almost 3 years. She is passionate about protecting marriage and the family and also loves sports, outdoor recreation, and trying out new recipes. 

Valentine’s Vows: Recommit to Your Marriage Today!

happy couple Valentine's Day

Falling in Love While on a Chemical High

Do you remember how much time you spent with your spouse when you were first dating?

I’m guessing that you spent every possible moment together. Other “stuff” wasn’t as important as spending time with your new love.

Many students see their grades begin to slide when they fall in love. Similarly, work performance often suffers during this time.

Why is that?

As couples begin to fall in love they experience an initial “chemical high”. According to Dr. Pat Mumby “Falling in love causes our body to release a flood of feel-good chemicals that trigger specific physical reactions.”

You remember those days right!? Sweaty palms, a racing heart, and when you were apart (which wasn’t that often) your thoughts were still centered on your guy (or your girl).

These chemicals (dopamine, adrenaline, oxytocin, norepinephrine) are actually quite useful in helping us fall in love as well as helping us desire to progress to courtship and marriage.

But, what happens when the chemical-levels drop?

Something better?!

This “high” doesn’t last though. After a few months, our body’s chemical levels return to a more normal level.

This is actually a really good thing- otherwise most of us would have flunked out of school or been fired from our jobs. The “love high” can be fun, but it is difficult to live a productive life in that chemically altered state.

But, does our love fade when this “high” is gone?

Well, it depends!

There are plenty of neglected marriages which leave both individuals riddled with hurt, disappointment, bitterness and anger.

By contrast, when couples choose to continue to prioritize their marriage (long after the initial “high”), then this relationship can grow into something much deeper and sweeter than anything experienced during the “chemically aided” beginning of their romance.

The Intentional Marriage

Before you were married, you were likely very intentional about spending time with your significant other. Sure, the “chemical high” helped, but by choosing to prioritize your relationship, you grew closer and had an ever increasing amount of love for each other.

However, according to William J. Doherty, PhD:

When we get married and especially after we have children, this reverses. Other things – the children, our work, our hobbies, even our religious involvement – become central and the marriage recedes to the background and only receives our attention when something is wrong.

Does this describe your marriage?

I hope not . . . but it might.

I have seen countless couples (even marriages between two wonderful people) who allow their relationship to fall into the background.

Valentine’s Day Vows

If your marriage is currently in the background, will you decide today to recommit to your sweetheart? Will you decide to prioritize him (or her) above all others?

Commit to prioritize your sweetheart about your career!

Commit to prioritize your sweetheart above your hobbies!

And, yes, even commit to prioritize your sweetheart above your children!

When describing this type of a marriage, Dr. Doherty noted that the happiest of couples have an absolute commitment towards each other and their marriage. He noted that happily married couples make these type of vows to each other:

  • “Nothing will break us up.”
  • “We will fight through whatever obstacles get in our way.”
  • “We will renovate our marriage if the current version gets stale.”
  • “If we fight too much or too poorly we will learn to fight better.”
  • “If sex is no longer good we will find a way to make it good again.”
  • “We will accept each other’s weaknesses that can’t be fixed”
  • “We will take care of each other in our old age.”

He then concludes that in these happiest couples, these commitments aren’t simply made one time but are renewed over and over throughout a lifetime.

 

Please help us strengthen families by sharing this article with your friends and family! Likewise, to see more of Dr. Rob’s articles (as well as articles by Dr. Tim), please also check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.