Parents often start talking about dating when their child comes home announcing he or she wants to go on a first date. Sadly for many teens, creating a heart that is ready to date on God’s terms, should have begun many years earlier when they were still children.
Christian parents often think they are protecting their kids by refusing to talk about dating, sex, purity, marriage and other similar topics until the teen years. What these parents don’t realize is that their children are most likely already having these conversations with peers or using television shows, movies and the internet to learn about them.
Having these conversations with your kids is uncomfortable even for those comfortable talking about those topics with their spouses and other adults. And for those who aren’t comfortable, having their teeth pulled without novocaine sounds a lot more fun.
If you don’t have these conversations though, you are setting your kids up for failure. The pressure to act in ungodly ways is hard enough on any teen or young adult. For those who haven’t been given enough tools to deal with it in godly ways, they will be particularly likely to give in to peer pressure.
So what sorts of conversations should you have with children about these sensitive, but important topics?
- Basic facts. This should begin in age appropriate ways in the preschool years. There are even Christian book series with each book containing appropriate information for a specific age group. If you are uncomfortable, use these books as a bridge for conversation.
- God’s Perfect Plan. Your children need to understand God created sex for marriage. Period. They need to understand as they approach the teen years what is considered sexual behavior by God. Many young people are having oral sex under the mistaken belief that this doesn’t “count” as sex to God.
- The consequences of disobeying God. I’m not talking about threatening a 12 year old with going to Hell for kissing too many times. There are real physical, emotional and mental negative consequences for sex outside of marriage. Your kids need to understand what those are. They also need to understand that just because it appears as if no one they know has suffered any of those consequences doesn’t necessarily mean they haven’t or won’t at some point. And even if they have, it doesn’t mean your child will avoid them. Your child also needs to understand the consequences of sin regardless of what earthly consequences God may or may not give them.
- Tips and strategies for staying godly in relationships. This will be their toolbox when they do begin to date. Knowing for example that being in a bedroom alone with a date can make disobeying God much easier, can help them avoid more temptation than they are able to resist. It’s also important for them to understand that there is no perfect contraception and that babies are born and STD’s caught every day by people using contraception.
- Dating and marriage plans. This is something many families never think to discuss. If your child starts dating someone seriously at 15, are they realistically going to get married in a year or two? Can they really be expected to stay sexually pure for that long? You and your kids need to have discussions about what age they believe they will be ready for marriage. They also need to think about the idea of having close friends of the opposite sex and later dating someone that is already a close friend. This allows them to get to know the good, the bad and the ugly without having to go through a nasty breakup when they discover this isn’t the right person. They should be encouraged to only date people they believe would make a good Christian spouse.
- Missionary dating. This is so vitally important. Your kids need to establish before dating someone if they are truly Christian. Young people are not equipped to date a non-Christian and evangelize them at the same time. More often, they are pulled away from the church or the other person becomes a Christian to continue the relationship rather than to obey God. There are really rare exceptions to the rule and your child should be strongly encouraged to consult with you or other trusted Christians before considering even one date with someone who is not obeying God (even if they are “Christian”).
Teaching your kids about God’s plans for their love lives before they are old enough to date will make them much better prepared to date in godly ways when they are ready. It takes time, effort and courage, but it can save a lot of heartache in the future if you do.