As parents, you love your children. You should be the ones to tell them the truth about sex.
Parents are the primary sex-educators of their children; this is a blessing and a sobering responsibility.
Our teens live in a sound-bite world. Kids born since the 1980s have grown up in a world of instant gratification – information instantly. Teens cite the Internet as their most common instant-information resource. Much of this information is brief; short on meaning and mostly devoid of orthodox Christian values.
Research, however, also tells us that teens listen to their parents. The number-one reason teens give for abstaining from sex is their parents’ disapproval. Given this truth, it’s a tragedy that parents are not also the primary information source for their teens. You love them—you should be the ones to tell them the truth about sex.
If you have not already begun to do so, how do you begin?
Beginning the conversation
Getting started is the hardest part. If teens sense your openness to talk—and listen— typically, over time, they will open up about sex and relationship issues. But, keep in mind how information is conveyed in today’s teen world: Sound bites. Instant messages. Real time.
How can parents’ messages about sexual truth be delivered within the context of a teen’s world?
At first, the same way other messages are delivered, through sound bites and instant messages. With such brevity, we need to keep in mind the most important points of the message. Teens need messages short in length, long on meaning and grounded in orthodox Christian values. In other words, no matter the process, it needs to be the truth.
Keeping it short
Being mindful of the what of the message, let’s tackle the how of the message delivery. Since we know that teens are used to information bites, our lessons should be short at first. This sound-bite delivery does not mean conforming to society’s standards. Rather, it involves relating to teens within their culture. As time goes on and trust and comfort levels increase, longer conversations often follow.
Watching and discussing a television program with your teen is one way to impart truth “bites.” Have a seat in the family room when your teen has a TV program on. If you hear a lie or you object to something within the program, address it right away. Probably sooner than later your teen will either ask you a question or be very frustrated and ask you to leave. Either way, it’s an opening to further conversation. Watching a video is another way to teach truth in short segments. Allowing your teen to make the movie selection gives you the added advantage of understanding his taste in programming. This information can be essential in counseling your teen concerning appropriate media choices.
Use teachable moments
Sometimes going out to a movie with your teen can provide you still more teaching opportunities. One inescapable place to talk to you teens is driving in the car. But be careful not to employ this technique each time you get into the car with your teen; you may find that you take a lot of car rides alone!
You also can find teachable moments at sporting events or concerts, when driving groups of teens to events, and in opening your house to your teen’s friends. Any of these occasions can allow you and your teen to observe behaviors and to share important truths. In-depth conversations about these instances might need to come later, but on-the-spot discussions will help to illustrate points and have a lasting impact.
Actions speak louder than words
Talking about sex, sexuality and God’s truth needs to be a constant stream of messages, some spontaneous and others planned. One talk is not enough. When children are small they accept our messages as truth. For middle-schoolers, our actions speak louder than our words.
As children enter their teen years and beyond, we continue to speak the truth in love, and we begin negotiating with them. Negotiation can be a painful process for parents, but we must speak the truth and trust that ultimately God will lead our children through the thousands of decisions they make every day.
One additional note on modeling behaviors is needed and it can be a difficult issue to address. Given the reality of single parents due to death or divorce, being the lone adult in the household means even greater scrutiny by teens. Children, especially teenagers, instantly note discrepancies between what is said and what is done. Be very careful to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk” with teenagers. Otherwise, your words may be useless.
A final word
Many Scripture passages talk of the grievous nature of sexual sin, but in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 God calls us to a higher plan. He calls us to live holy and honorable lives. This is the essence of sexual abstinence until marriage. We are not called to live as the rest of the world lives. God raises the bar by calling us to live chastely throughout our lives.
For Christians it is not only a matter of controlling our behaviors or even controlling our thoughts and feelings. We are called to exhibit a spiritual purity that comes from loving God and to allow this love to inform our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
When we live such lives, we model the truth of God’s word to our children. When our children live such lives, they bring honor to us as parents. But most importantly they honor God their Father.
This is our highest goal in life. Let’s reach together to accomplish that goal for ourselves and for our families.
Visit PureIntimacy.org to find more tips for parents.
About the author: Linda Klepacki is a registered nurse and has taught abstinence education for more than 20 years.
Originally published in 2004, revised in 2010. Revisions have been made byChad Hills, a research analyst for gambling policy and sexual health for CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family.