This blog was adapted from the sixth episode of our podcast, DriveTime.
So often parents can feel overwhelmed and defeated before the conversations surrounding sexual integrity even begin. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Simply having a willingness to engage in this subject with your children makes a world of difference. Here are four things to remember as you engage in this conversation.
Parents, your voice matters!
Study after study shows that a parent’s voice has a lasting impact. For instance, one study asked parents who they thought had the most influence on their teens’ sexual choices. Close to half of the parents thought their teens’ friends had the most influence, but here’s the good news: in reality, 45 percent of teenagers ages 12 to 14 said parents were the most influential, with friends coming in a distant second at 31%.
In another study, in which 15,000 7th-12th graders were surveyed, it was found that kids who perceived that their parents disapproved of teenage sexual activity were less likely to become sexually active. Finally, another study of more than 1,000 12 to 16 year old’s found that the more parents communicated with their kids about sex, the less likely the kids were to have sexual intercourse. This is good news. It means your voice matters… but this means your voice needs to be heard. Your value needs to be shared!
Provide a map for your children.
As you are teaching and giving good biblical sex education you need to understand that you are providing a map. Our children are swimming 24/7 in a soup that is flavoring the way they think, act, and reflect on sex. Because the cultural stuff they swim in everyday serves as a map (telling them what to believe and how to live), we must know where the cultural map is sending them. Then, we must respond by showing them the way of God’s map for their lives. Effective ministries to children and teens–whether in the church or home – are marked by a balanced, three-fold response to everything we see in the soup.
First, respond to what you see in the soup prophetically. Make an intentional effort to look for and seize opportunities to speak biblical truth into their lives in response to the realities that exist. Looking in the soup will reveal the realities that exist. Spending time with Jesus in his Word will shape your prophetic response. At times, you will find yourself affirming where the map of culture is sending kids in the right direction, yet at other times you’ll challenge the map where it sends them down the wrong road. Maybe the best way to put forth a prophetic response is to follow the lead of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Do you remember how he did this? He would begin by saying something like, “You have heard it said that. . .” Then, he would lay out whatever the popular cultural belief was. Then, he would continue by saying, “but. . . I tell you. . .” Then, he would lay out the Kingdom way of looking at the matter. Your kids are soaking in a culture that shapes their values, attitudes, and behaviors with lots and lots of “you have heard it said that’s.” Your responsibility it to expose the “you have heard it said that’s,” and then correct them with the scripture’s “but I tell you’s”. That’s what it means to respond prophetically.
Second, respond to what you see in the soup preventively. All parents share a great concern for their kids’ physical well-being when they are young. We know enough about children to know that they might wander into the street, talk to strangers, or reach for hot stuff. As a result, we do our best to prevent them from wandering into the street, talking to strangers, and burning themselves on a hot burner or dish. Likewise, if we care about the spiritual health of our children, we should answer the map’s faulty directions preventively, by going out of our way to equip them to face all of life and its challenges in a way that brings honor and glory to God. They need us to pass on the valuable information we’ve learned about life so that they adopt values, attitudes, and behaviors that keep them from harm and tend to their spiritual well-being. One very practical suggestion is to regularly offer your kids opportunities to evaluate their music, media, and advertising from a Christian perspective. Not only does this preventive measure teach them to think through a Christian lens about all of life, but it opens the door to address all the topics in the media “soup” from a biblical perspective.
Finally, respond to their sin, failures, and mistakes redemptively. All children face temptation, and all children will make dangerous and sinful choices. Remember, they’re young, impressionable and very vulnerable. The determining factor in whether or not a bad choice turns into a situation that gets better or worse depends largely on your response. Your goal should be to help the child redeem these situations by turning a mistake into an opportunity for the them to become a more Godly and Christlike person. Don’t ever write off any child as hopeless or irredeemable. Rather, treat her as you know your heavenly Father treats you – regularly! – when you are the offending party.
Conversations surrounding sex are complex.
Finding the right words, scripture, moment and clarity to effectively communicate your values in a world that is quickly changing can be difficult and it can cause you to freeze up and do nothing. But recognizing this truth will help you as you prepare to enter into this dialogue. You may not know the answers to the questions your children ask…and that is absolutely okay. One of the best things you can say to your son or daughter is “I don’t know but let’s find out together!” Make these conversations an opportunity to enter into the messiness of all this and point to God’s good plan for sex and sexuality.
First, protect what you can! There are elements in your son or daughters world that you can help eliminate. Parental controls on computers and phones can help prevent exposure to pornography. Setting tech boundaries will assist you in the ways you protect against unwanted content from making its way into your home. Also, look into signing a digital covenant with your children. This will help in developing healthy boundaries that lead to better understanding around the use of phones, tech, computers, and even TVs.
Second, recognize your response matters in times of crises. Because your voice has an impact you need to put into place a rhythm that helps you respond to your children when they disobey or disappoint us. Some of these include, controlling your anger when they do something you don’t approve of and remembering to go after their heart, not their behavior. Use the times they make a mistake as opportunities to discuss God’s VERY GOOD intent for their lives.
Each of these will help you in this journey as you engage the complexity of sex in today’s culture. It might not be easy but we are thankful for parents that have willingly stepped into this journey and started a conversation that will positively impact your children’s lives.
DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.
Check out further discussions around parenting and all the reasons you should be encouraged on our podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts, or right here:
Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.