“Mom, what does sex mean?” The question seems to come out of nowhere, often taking us completely off guard. And no matter how prepared we think we might be, sometimes, we surprise ourselves. We stutter and stammer, thoughts flash through our mind, “Why are they asking? Who was talking about it? What do I say?”
Though not the best answer we had planned, “Go ask your Dad,” or “We’ll talk about it later,” may flow out too quickly. Thoughts spin crazy when we don’t know what to say.
But the questions persist over time, they don’t go away for times more convenient or when thoughts seem clearer. They get tougher, real, raw, honest. They press. Young hearts seeking truth, young minds needing guidance.
“Is it wrong to take drugs? Why do people get drunk? What does sexting mean? Sex trafficking? Pornography? Is it wrong to have sex before you’re married? What does STD mean? What is a sex predator? What does rape mean? One of my friends is pregnant. What should she do? So did you have sex before you were married?”
Let’s face it. Some things are difficult to talk through. But the truth is this, if we don’t open the door for frequent, honest communication with our kids, from early on, the world’s doors will inevitably swing wide open, and invite them to listen, learn, and soak in all they have to share.
In our technology-saturated culture, kids and teens are often exposed to more in their young lives than they may be ready to fully understand. Parents are vital for providing the foundation and balance that kids need to figure out what is true and what is not.
A family rooted in the truth of God’s Word can navigate through the toughest of topics, because they realize that their own opinions are not what matter most. They understand that God is the One who gives wisdom and clarity for every scenario we face in this life. Studies have shown that teens with involved, open, communicative parents, who have strong family values, provide boundaries, and consistent consequences, are better equipped to resist negative influences when faced with temptations and peer pressure.
10 things that may help:
1. Be willing to listen. Ask open ended questions. Ask for their opinions. Resist the urge to lecture and head down a one way rant. You may be passionate about what you believe, but maybe your child just needs to talk.
2. Choose to keep a consistent, calm attitude - no matter what. It’s often easy to overreact when we hear information that seems troubling or wrong. Stay open. Stay honest. Stay approachable.
3. Have a series of ongoing conversations and not just one “big” one, on any subject. Just as parenting is a continual journey, discussing the tough stuff never ends. It’s a process through learning, sharing, and coming to grips with what one believes. Share at age appropriate levels. Often, kids are not looking for an entire teaching segment, they’re just looking for a simple answer to one question.
4. Create a comfortable atmosphere. You don’t have to sit down eye to eye. Talk about some of the tough stuff when you’re doing something together, driving in the car, working on a project, or going out for a lunch. Sometimes it seems more natural to talk about things when you’re in an environment where discussion doesn’t feel forced or pressured. You may feel awkward wherever you are. Chances are they do too. But whatever you do, don’t let it stop you from keeping conversations flowing.
5. Ask for their thoughts and opinions on things instead of just waiting for them to come to you. Open up the door for conversations with them. Use the media for hot topics of discussion. Resist the temptation to use their friends as examples of negative behavior.
6. Choose love and compassion. Seems simple enough, until you hear something that bothers you. Make the choice ahead of time not to judge and to resist using shame and anger as a tool to change behavior or to reflect your disapproval. This may only slam shut any door of communication you were hoping to crack open. Remember that it’s never too late – for anyone – to start fresh. No matter what has already been done. God is forgiving and gives grace to cover any sin. We all need his constant grace and forgiveness.
7. Don’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing. Or of not having all of the answers. You may not always know how to respond. You may not know where to find the right verse. But the truth is - they may not be looking for an answer to every question and a verse for every problem. They may just be looking to talk. Remember, you are building trust and on-going, open communication.
8. Stay connected. And keep the connection strong. As kids grow, peer pressure determines much of their tastes for music, clothing, and what they believe about drugs, sex, and alcohol. Know who their friends are, who their friend’s families are, what they’re doing, where they are, who they’re spending time with. Don’t fall for the lie that your teens don’t need you as much. They may not act like they need you. They may even tell you they don’t. They do. You are vital in their lives. They need your wisdom, your guidance, your input, your boundaries, your consistency, your protection. They need you to be their parent and not simply try to be their friend.
9. Base your views on God’s Word. It’s helpful to share what you believe. It’s even more helpful to share what God says is true. You may think they’re not listening. You may feel like they’re a million miles away and could care less. But you can still share. Because God’s words are powerful and he says they will not return empty. You don’t have to be “preachy,” or pound it over their heads, but it’s so important that we show our kids the wisdom of his words for the toughest of life circumstances.
10. Be a positive role model. Be on the same team in your marriage. What you say is important, and how you live is even more important. Know that they’re watching. They’re listening. They can sniff out hypocrisy, sarcasm, and ridicule. They need you to live strong, honest lives. Because deep down, they want to be like you. They’re not looking for perfection. They’re looking for what is real.
The Bible is not based on changing trends. It doesn’t shift with the latest hot topics. It is not an ancient book with no significant value for today. It is living and active, and clearly relevant for this technology driven, sex saturated world in which we live. Because the truth is, God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And based on that, his truth is still the same, from generation to generation.
That gives such strength to carry on. There is freedom in knowing it’s not all up to us to have all the answers. He’s not out to steal our fun. His desire is to protect and guide us by living within the safety of his boundaries.
Wisdom says we must talk to our young people long before the temptations are staring them in the face, calling their names, luring them to rationalize behaviors to make any wrong decisions seem OK. They need to be empowered to say “no” in a world that presses them to say “yes.” They need to feel prepared, equipped with the Truth.
Keep the communication flowing. Between you and God. Between you and your spouse. Between you and your kids.
He is with you, he is for you, in it all.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Debbie McDaniel is a pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids and a few too many pets, dramatist and writer. She has a heart to communicate God's hope though the everyday moments of life - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the ones that take your breath away. A lover of every sunrise, forever needy of his grace, this Texas girl finds joy in the simple gift of each new day. Debbie invites you to join her at www.freshdayahead.com, and Facebook and Twitter.
Publication date: October 3, 2014