Posted: Jul 10, 2013 9:00 AM
 
There are so many stories in the news, but how do you talk to your son? Date rape isn't just an issue for your daughters. We talked to experts about what to say to your son — to make sure he respects the young ladies he knows.

Think you can put off talking to your children about such heavy topics as date rape? While you may feel your kids are too young for such heavy — and sexual — discussions, the foundation for developing a healthy relationship with others begins when your child is young.

It starts with respect

The best way to train your sons to respect women is by doing so yourself.

Teaching your sons to respect women begins when they are young. A young man learns by example, looking to his father or father figures to see how they treat women. The single most important issue with any relationship is respect — and that doesn't include only sexual relationships. Nancy B. Irwin, Psy.D., is a speaker and author who has worked on a professional basis with sex offenders. "The best way to train your sons to respect women is by doing so yourself," she says. "I believe it was JFK [John F. Kennedy] who said, 'The best gift you can give your son is to love his mother.' I would add 'to show respect to all women.'"

By showing your young sons the respect that should be paid to women — and anyone, for that matter — you are giving them tools they can use for a lifetime. Any adult role models in your son's life are modeling behaviors that he will likely model his behavior after, so be aware of these outside influences as well.

Don't blame the hormones

Be as strong and confident as a woman as you can, even if you don't have a relationship with a man. Your son needs to see that women aren't just something he can use for his own purposes.

While some may say that teenage boys just have hormones raging and can't control their urges, it's not as simple as that. Respect issues aside, these issues may begin in the first three years of a young boy's life. "In the first three years, Mommy is a little boy's first 'girlfriend' and she is the unconscious template for all future relationships," says Irwin. "If he observes her through all his years of growing up as a doormat, passive [or] something to be used or controlled, he may indeed respond accordingly to all other girls — that they are objects for his discretionary use," she adds. While it may be difficult to think about, the relationship a mother has with her son is laying the groundwork for all of his future relationships. Be as strong and confident as a woman as you can, even if you don't have a relationship with a man. Your son needs to see that women aren't just something he can use for his own purposes.

Yes means yes!
Not hearing "no" does not give anyone consent.

Mike Domitrz founded The Date Safe Project in 2003, after his sister was raped in college. It has become a leading organization for creating educational materials on consent, respect and sexual assault, as well as supporting survivors. "Yes mean yes! Not hearing 'no' does not give anyone consent," he says. Teach your sons (and daughters) that respecting someone means listening to their answers. Younger kids can understand this as it relates to playing games together or deciding on something to do.

Pop culture influences

If you hear lyrics or see a video you are concerned about, ask your son what he thinks about the message. Keep the lines of communication open from the time he's young, and tough topics will be easier to discuss.

Pay attention to the music, videos, movies and video games that your young son is interested in. Do they contain images of women in submissive roles? Do the characters routinely treat women as lesser people? Even just the lyrics in songs can contribute to a young man's view of gender and respect. If you hear lyrics or see a video you are concerned about, ask your son what he thinks about the message. Keep the lines of communication open from the time he's young, and tough topics will be easier to discuss.

Bottom LIne^ Talking about date rape is hard, but if you start with a healthy attitude about respect when your son is young, you are ahead of the game already. The ties between healthy relationships between friends and classmates extend to sexual relationships when your son is older.

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Topics: teen dating