If you believe sitcoms, sex is the topic most parents want to avoid talking about with their kids. It’s unfortunate really, because as recent events have shown, handling sexual desires in ways that aren’t pleasing to God can cause a myriad of negative consequences. In fact, ungodly sexual behaviors have destroyed not only the careers of politicians, Hollywood types and more, but often their lives and families as well.
It’s somewhat understandable we are uncomfortable talking about something with our children, that is meant to be so special, so meaningful and so private in the context of our marriages. Yet because we aren’t having these vital conversations, our children are picking up their knowledge from their peers, movies, television shows, music and even pornography. No wonder so few young people are doing what God wants for them and from them regarding sexual purity and their dating relationships. They honestly have no idea what God expects and the possible consequences of disobeying Him in this area.
So what are some important principles and tips to teach your kids when you begin talking with them about dating and sex? Here are a few of my favorites.
- Boys don’t have to “be boys”. The idea that “boys will be boys” and do everything they can to have sex with no constraints is just ungodly. Whether you express it plainly or imply it, don’t communicate that message to your kids. There is nothing in scripture to indicate men are incapable of behaving in godly ways with their sexual desires without someone else enforcing them in some way. Teaching your sons they can’t control themselves is placing them in the role of victim. It communicates they are somehow unable to get out of the trouble their sexual desires cause by practicing self-control. Recent studies have shown those who view themselves as “victims” of their desires will be less likely to take steps to correct their actions – after all it isn’t really their fault, is it? Don’t give young men an easy “out” for ungodly sexual behaviors – they can and should be expected to obey God just as much as the young women in their lives.
- Teach your sons and daughters they are capable of practicing self-control against sinful desires – especially with God’s help. I can’t stress this enough. Self-control and obedience are tied together and essential godly character traits for your kids to possess. If your child can’t deny himself that extra cookie, the odds lessen he will avoid anything that is tempting to him – including sex. Do everything you can from an early age to teach your kids how to have self-control. It’s essential for avoiding other sins, too. The world will tell your kids, it’s impossible to avoid sexual temptation. Fight the lie before they hear it, by teaching them God will help them avoid any temptation.
- Teach your kids to be careful about where they meet their dates. Back in the day, bars were the dangerous place to meet guys. Today it’s the Tender app. Tomorrow it will be something different that doesn’t even exist yet. Teach your kids to find potential dates in places that attract people who are doing godly things and looking for real relationships not just a “hook-up”.
- Teach your kids the possible earthly consequences of having sex outside of marriage. Not every bad consequence will happen to every person who has sex outside of marriage. Many of the consequences though are serious and can “break” your kids in ways that may leave lifelong scars. Scripture is great and important, but give your kids real world examples of the things that can happen. Don’t just focus on disease and pregnancy, but the emotional, mental and other scars that can be found in sex outside of marriage. Make sure they understand the difference between lust and love and how each changes the relationship, but not God’s commands for it. Remind them God knows how they can live their best life in a fallen world – and much of that revolves around obeying His commands.
- Teach your kids they won’t “die” if they don’t fulfill their sexual desires. Warn them they may feel as if they will burst or that they won’t be able to take it any more if they don’t release their sexual tension by having sex. Explain that to your knowledge, no one has ever actually died from practicing self-control. Teach your kids to ignore the lie and help them find godly ways to lessen the tension without disobeying God.
- Teach them it isn’t necessary to have sex with a potential mate before marriage to make sure they are “compatible” sexually. This is one of the biggest lies promoted by the world about sex and relationships. If they are attracted physically to the person (and possibly even if they aren’t), they can have a great sex life after marriage with some effort. Great sex is about having a strong, loving relationship. It’s about taking care of your health. Mostly, it’s about communicating to each other what feels good and what doesn’t and honoring what the other person needs and wants. And even if your kids headed the advice of the world, I can promise them great sex is not necessarily an indicator of a great marriage – sex is only one component of a marriage.
- Teach your kids to avoid situations while dating that will make it easier to give into temptation and have sex. Encourage them to have their dates in public. Discourage them from being alone in apartments and bedrooms with anyone they are dating. Encourage them to do things with other people. Give them all sorts of ideas for fun dates – sometimes young people default to sex because they can’t think of “anything better to do” on a date. I’m not a big fan of official chaperones, but for some kids it may not be such a bad idea. Teach them to do whatever they need to do in order to be tempted less when with their significant other.
- Teach your kids to “draw their sexual purity lines in the sand” early and don’t shift them. It’s easier to decide you are going to save sex for your wedding night, before anyone even asks you to have sex with them. In the heat of the moment is not always the best time to try and make moral decisions. Sticking to a decision you have already made is easier than making a godly decision for the first time in the midst of the temptation. They also need to communicate very clearly and very early in a relationship their intentions regarding sex before marriage. If the other person rejects them for making a godly choice, they probably wouldn’t have been the best potential future spouse either. As old-fashioned as it sounds, it also doesn’t hurt to have discussions about the early behaviors that should be curtailed in order to lessen the chances things go too far. (Ex. Clothes stay on at all times, etc. None of these are “chastity belts”, but they are early warning signs things are beginning to go too far.)
- Teach your sons and daughters to recognize the signs they are getting tempted to the point where they may shortly give in and to extricate themselves immediately. Every person is different. What may push one of your kids into sinning won’t even tempt another of your kids. Teach your kids how to recognize when the temptation is ramping up and walk away from the activity or situation before they are really tempted to sin. They should never depend on the other person in the relationship to know when things are getting to be too tempting and stop things for them.
- Reassure them they are not the only one in the world obeying God. I will never forget having to read a Judy Blume book in college for my children’s literature class. She did an amazing job of convincing young people something was dreadfully wrong with them if they hadn’t had sex by the time they went to college. Satan will make sure your child feels like the only person in the world who is waiting until marriage to have sex. It’s not true, but believing the lie will make your kids more vulnerable to giving into temptation to avoid being weird. Find people they can look up to who waited until marriage to have sex. (Word of warning – pick someone who is already married. Too many “purity ring” celebrities end up breaking their promise, reinforcing your child’s fears. Rebecca St. James has some great resources.)
- Warn them about the engagement trap. Too many Christian young people resist the temptation to disobey God right up until they become engaged. Then Satan begins “whispering” into their ears that they have waited long enough – after all they will be married soon. Warn your kids to be aware of the trap – they have been godly this long – they can last a few more weeks or months.
Be brave. Prepare your kids really well for making godly choices in their sex lives. Save them from the brokenness doing things counter to God’s will causes. It’s uncomfortable and a bit scary, but if you want your child to have a great Christian marriage in the future, this is an important building block. It’s worth the time, effort and potential embarrassment for you and your child.