Teen Purity Begins at Home

Teen Purity Begins at Home- Parenting Like HannahI blame Anna Wintour. Okay, the infamous editor of Vogue is not the only contributor to the problem, but she has definitely done her part. At some point in time, models went from the clean cut, natural looking Audrey Hepburn types to the hyper-sexualized photographs you can find today in almost any fashion magazine.

When I lived in New York City, I worked very briefly for Harper’s Bazaar magazine. They had Calvin Klein speak at a sales meeting I attended. This was when he introduced the first highly sexual ads and they were still controversial. I will never forget what he said. Basically, he admitted his intent was to shock.

It really wasn’t about beauty at all. He believed if he could shock you, he could get you to look at his ads and buy his clothes. He must have been right, because since that speech in the late ’80’s, other designers have picked up the trend and made it the norm. Unfortunately, the designers’ desire to sell clothes has morphed into sexy being the standard for beauty.

As a society, we have let people like Anna Wintour and Calvin Klein tell us what is beautiful. Even Christians buy in to the lies we are told. Beauty is defined by heavy make-up, “sexy” hair, form fitting clothes and exposed bodies. The natural look may flitter in the fashion world for a moment every few years, but rarely stays long as the “pure” look is not sexy enough to sell clothes. God’s standard of inner beauty is never really considered.

So what is a parent to do? How can we keep our sons and daughters pure in a world where sex not only sells, it has become the acceptable norm for beauty? How can we help our children be godly without forcing them to look like little Puritans? It is possible, but I think we need to change our focus a bit.

Christians tend to focus only on modesty – especially for girls and women. Hemlines, necklines and bathing suits are often constant sources of discussions between teen girls and parents in many Christian homes. While clothing is an important part of modesty and purity, it can be a deceptive and unreliable safeguard. The same parents who will fight for hours over the length of a hemline are celebrating photos of their young girls and teens posing in highly sexual ways. They are encouraging their boys to show off their abs and read the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit edition. Many are sending their teens very mixed messages about sexual signals and then wonder why their children are confused.

In my next post, I will break down some very specific things we are allowing our sons and daughters to do that I think are sending messages we don’t want our children to send. In the meantime, talk about these main categories with your kids. Ask your teens what sorts of messages the different ways of approaching these areas can send. If they see other teens approaching these areas in certain ways, what assumptions do they and the people they know automatically make?

  • Posing – whether it is for a selfie, a professional photo shoot or just standing in the hall at school, certain poses were designed to be sexual in nature.
  • Make-up – certain styles of make-up were created to attract men at bars and clubs for not necessarily the best reasons. Add to that the idea that make-up used by pre-teens can send a questionable message.
  • Hair- believe it or not, although not as common, hair can be styled to send out a sexual message.
  • Voice – there are certain ways of expressing ourselves that send out messages we may not even be aware we are sending through our tone, timber and the words we use.
  • Physicality – certain ways of touching members of the opposite sex can send messages that our teens are ready for something they don’t even want yet.
  • Attitude – are we raising our kids to have healthy, yet godly attitudes about their bodies, purity and sex?
  • Clothing – this is obvious to many, but I think we need to shift our focus a little, too.
  • Heart – this really should have been first, because as Jesus made clear, everything ultimately comes down to the heart. Is your child’s heart God’s or is it slipping closer to the world every day?

Want to get some specifics on the areas above? Curious how your daughter might accidentally come across like she is posing for Cosmopolitan instead of a school picture?  Come back to Parenting Like Hannah on Tuesday for all of the details. Once you help your kids send out healthy, godly messages, you may improve their chances of staying pure.

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Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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