What can we do as parents to help our teenager remain sexually pure?
It all begins at home, and preferably as early as possible in a child’s life. Children should be introduced to age-appropriate sex education and Biblically-based instruction in God’s design for marriage and human sexuality while still very young. If this hasn’t been the case in your household, just remember that it’s never too late to begin. Here, as in so many other areas of life, an ounce of positive preparation and prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Build a strong relationship with your teen
Your relationship with your teen is the key to the entire process. Psychologists tell us that there are strong connections between dysfunctional family relationships and all kinds of sexual problems. The best place to start, then, is with creating an environment in which your child 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 behaviour are less likely than others to engage in pre-marital sex.
Trusting and setting boundaries
If and when your child becomes involved in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex, it would be a good idea to take the same approach in monitoring it that Ronald Reagan adopted in his dealings with the Soviet Union – "trust but verify." In other words, if you have a teenage son, let him know that you’ll take him at his word when he says that he is remaining sexually pure and not engaging in any kind of inappropriate behaviour with his girlfriend. But don’t stop there. Proceed to make it clear that you’re going to help him avoid temptation by placing firm limits on the amount of time the two of them spend together. Specify that it’s fine for him to go on supervised group dates and to invite his girlfriend over when you’re home, but that you don’t want him spending one-to-one time with her alone. This might mean that he won’t be allowed to use the car without you or another adult along for the ride.
Create a community of accountability
It would also be important to have a conversation with the girlfriend’s (or, in the case of a daughter, the boyfriend’s) parents. Both mum and dad should take part in this discussion. Perhaps you could invite the other couple out to dinner on the grounds that, since your kids are dating, you’d really like to get to know them. Ask them about their values and the type of guidelines they’ve established for their child regarding sexuality. If you don’t like their response, then don’t allow your teen to spend time at their house.
The value of character
In addition to discussing sexual purity with your teenager, it would also be a good idea to talk about character discernment. Make sure your child understands the critical qualities that God would want him or her to look for in a dating partner and eventual spouse. Read Galatians 5:22 and 23 together and spend some time unpacking the essentials of the characteristics manifested in the "Fruit of the Spirit" – love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness and self-control. Underscore the point that while physical attractiveness may initially draw us to a person of the opposite sex, the quality of that individual’s character is going to be far more important in the long run.