by Focus on the Family
The world we live in is awash with sexual images, wrong messages and dangerous advice about sexuality. With all these negative influences, it has never been more difficult for our teenagers to remain sexually pure. How can we, as loving parents, help them achieve this seemingly impossible task?
Create a Safe Environment
The best place to start is to create an environment in which your teenager feels comfortable talking to you about the entire scope of his life interests and concerns. Within that context, healthy discussions about sex and sexuality can be encouraged to blossom and grow in a natural way. Research shows that teens who have a close, warm relationship with their parents, and whose parents clearly communicate their expectations regarding sexual behavior, are less likely than others to engage in pre-marital sex.
Your teenager also needs to know you are comfortable with the subject of sex. It is normal for parents to feel nervous or awkward about broaching this subject, but having the courage to be open and honest with him will help to protect your child. Remember, if your teen doesn’t hear about sex from you, he will hear it from someone else who may not have his best interests at heart.
Maintain a Balance
It is important to note that these “sex talks” should not be monologues, but dialogues. Asking your teenager thought-provoking questions and giving her the liberty to express her thoughts, uncertainties and opinions will be much more effective than having her simply listen to you. Also, this subject of sex shouldn’t be relegated to a one-time talk, but should be discussed throughout her upbringing.
Educating your teenager on the negative emotional, social and physical consequences of having premarital sex is of utmost importance. However, don’t just focus on areas of concern and danger; it will help to balance the negatives with a strong positive view of sex and marriage. Talk about the joys of unfailing commitment and lifelong companionship with a faithful spouse, and share about the value of purity and respect for self and others.
Empower and Affirm
During adolescence, teenagers want their parents’ reassurance that they understand what they are going through, but they also want their parents to communicate values and standards for behavior. It is important that you be clear about your expectations on dating and physical intimacy. However, remember that while you can and should set appropriate boundaries, you should also entrust him with increasing responsibility to make his own decisions.
Even if you have a conviction that sex is reserved for marriage, this does not mean your teenager shares that belief. Convictions require being convinced, and providing logical explanations and compelling reasons is necessary for cultivating convictions.
Finally, do your best to give your teenager a strong, positive sense of identity. Teenagers who experience consistent love and affirmation are less likely to embark on a desperate search for fulfillment that could lead to unwise sexual decisions. Make every effort to affirm her every chance you get, and communicate that she is a precious and valuable individual.
Parents have the greatest influence on their teenagers’ lives, even when it doesn’t seem the case. Your involvement, communication and, most of all, love will have a tremendously positive impact on your teenager’s decisions regarding relationships and sex.