Parenting teens is hard. Part of you is proud of the adults they are becoming. The other part of you is terrified of the adults they are becoming. Not because they are necessarily doing anything wrong. Being a teenager just looks really different from the parental perspective. We thought we were so grown when we took on adult tasks like driving. Now as the parent of a teen the same age, we become almost panicky at the idea of our “baby” driving that huge hunk of metal!
The same goes for dating. We thought we were absolutely ready for the challenges dating presented. Now, older and wiser, we know all of the things we were totally not prepared for when it came to relationships. The idea of our kids dating is terrifying. We know every bad thing that ever happened in a dating relationship and we want to make sure none of those things happen to our kids.
Since we can’t keep them isolated for the rest of their lives, we need to find a way to prepare them for the world of dating and marriage. Not just prepare them, but help them want to seek the godly spouses we want them to have. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t have many shall and shall nots with the word “dating” in them. Probably because, no one dated in those days! Marriages were arranged and the whole exercise was tightly controlled by societal rules. God is wise though and gave us lots of general guidance on love, marriage and relationships. We just need to know where to look for the basic principles we can teach our children.
1. Pull out your Bible and your trusty concordance. look under words like love, marriage, husbands, wives, divorce and any others you can think of that may apply. Read the scriptures and if you don’t understand them, ask your minister, elder or a trusted Christian for help. You may want to ask more than one person to see if people have different perspectives.
2. Examine marriages in the Bible. Think about Abraham and Sarah or David and Michel, even Mary and Joseph. Not all of the examples are good, in fact some are awful. Sometimes we can learn as much from other people’s mistakes as we can from their successes. What did the various couples do that was godly and wise? What did they do that was ungodly or foolish?
3. Re-read Proverbs. Not every Biblical principle regarding marriage, specifically states it. Much of what makes a marriage successful is if the two people treat each other in godly ways. Proverbs is full of advice on how to treat people in general. It is always good to review and make sure we are treating the people in our lives the way God would want us to do.
4. Help your daughters discover Rebecca St. James and Dannah Gresh. Both of these women have written several great books for women in their teens and twenty’s about love, relationships, modesty and purity. I love Rebecca St. James especially because she was late getting married by worldly standards, yet was able to remain her purity while being a very “cool” Christian music star. I also appreciate her books because they specifically address what to do if you have already made mistakes and want to get back on track. All of the books of both authors are easy reads, but give the girls tons to think about. Some even have room for the girls to journal as they read. Any would make great studies for your daughter to do alone, with you or with her friends and another Christian woman.
5. Work on your own marriage. Much of what your children know about love and marriage is from their parents. If you have made mistakes, share your regrets with your children. It doesn’t have to be graphic (that part is really none of their business) for them to learn lessons. You may want to read this previous post on teaching your children about love and marriage for more ideas. If your marriage is struggling, I urge you to get help from your minister, elders or other Christians prepared to offer marriage counseling. One of the best gifts you can give your children is for their parents to have a healthy marriage. Teaching them to constantly work on their relationships is also a gift you can give them for their own future relationship’s health.
6. Talk to your children and teens and then LISTEN. Sometimes what they say or don’t say can give you an indication of not only their maturity but also their heart. Is dating going to bring them closer to God or farther away? Is their strongest yearning for God or for a “special friend”? Dating can be great, but it is no replacement for a strong relationship with God. Take the time to point out things to watch out for or to look for in a potential spouse. You may save your child a lot of pain by drilling some basic warnings in their heads at a young age. (Check abuse web sites for some of the warning signs. I also have cautioned my daughter that if her family and friends think a guy is “bad news”, there is a 99% chance he is.)
I know this goes without saying, but I hope you are covering your child’s relationships with prayer. All of the above suggestions can help, but only God can change hearts. He knows what is best for our children even better than we do. Let God guide your children and train your children to follow God’s guidance in everything they do. You may just discover your children marry better spouses than even you could have picked for them!
P.S. I am still desperately seeking any good Christian books on dating and purity for boys. Please comment below or email me if you know of any I can share with others.