When my kids have said “I do” and I watch them drive away to their honeymoon, I want to know that I have done all I can to ensure that they will have a Christ-honoring marriage. Part of my job as a parent is to prepare my kids for their own great marriage someday. They need to understand that their actions now have great impact on their future marriage.
In our Sunday school class (parents of high schoolers, most of whom also have younger kids), we recently focused on the topic of how to parent our teens so that they will understand God’s plan for sex, with intentions of helping them have the best possible marriages when that time comes. I took pages of notes over several weeks of this series, and I’m sharing what I consider the highlights.
Fences keep kids safe.
The reason God set rules about sex is the same reason we fence in a playground to keep children from running into the dangerous street. God wants us to enjoy the playground (married sex) but He also set boundaries (sex is only to be in the context of marriage between one man and one woman).
We’ve all heard the terrible statistics on divorce rates these days, but this statistic jumped out at me: couples who are BOTH virgins when they marry have a divorce rate of only about 9%. That is amazing! God created us to be “one flesh” with our spouse; every time we “cleave” to someone who is not our spouse, a part of us stays with that person. The more you stick duct tape together and pull it apart, the less sticky it becomes. When we have sex before marriage, we don’t “stick” to our spouse as much as we will if we save sex for marriage only. This is vital for our kids to understand, or they will miss out on all that God has designed married sex to be!
A very important point: kids typically don’t begin to comprehend abstract thoughts until about fifteen or so years of age. Until then, they are concrete thinkers. This means we cannot expect them to be able to thoroughly think through all of these things on their own; they need our help to do so!
We often fall into parenting decisions based on what we did, or what our parents allowed. But we need to be making parenting decisions based on God’s wisdom, rather than our notions of “I did it this way, and I turned out okay.”
So what’s a parent to do?
- Focus on our relationship with our children. This is critical! Do we have their hearts? Rules without relationship only lead to resentment and rebellion. Invest time — on their terms — to get them to open up to you.
- Get the topic of sex out in the open. Kids are already hearing messages about sex everywhere else (television, movies, advertisements, peers, etc.), so we must work to counteract the worldly messages they are receiving elsewhere. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
- Christ-followers are not to marry those who are not Christ-followers; this means they should not date them either. Dating is not intended to be a mission field. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
- Emphasize modesty — and explain the reasons behind it. Girls should strive to protect their brothers in Christ.
- Teach our kids media discernment. (Try Plugged-In for movie reviews.)
- Help your kids define WHY they want to date. If this relationship will not draw them into a closer relationship with Christ, then it’s probably not the wisest choice.
- Establish clear principles for dealing with the opposite sex. What is wise, and what is not? What is appropriate, and what is not? Define parameters for dating, texting, etc. Define what steps need to be taken to avoid — or get out of — risky situations.
- Give accountability to your dating kids. Let them know that we’re watching, that we care, and that we know what they are capable of — both good and bad.
- Dads must discuss “the unmentionable” subject with their sons. The regular practice of mental adultery will have consequences. (Matthew 5:27-30) It’s unlikely that a boy can train himself to physically satisfy himself, and then be able to connect and satisfy his wife in marriage.
- Teach our kids that emotional purity is as significant as sexual purity! (Proverbs 5:23)
This is all a process! If you become convicted about needing to do things differently than you have been doing them, be honest with your kids about it; tell them you feel the need to establish new parameters, and begin to define what those will be. Help them understand that we are going to think and act differently than some of our friends, even within the church. Doing things Biblically is often very counter-cultural.
If you’d like to listen to the original messages I took these notes from, you can find those at the INFO for Families blog here:
A new resource to help parents!
Barrett Johnson, teacher of the lessons above and author of those posts I mentioned, now has a book to help parents tackle difficult conversations about sex, dating, and “other unmentionables.” The Talk(s) is available in both paperback and kindle format.