I think we can agree that sex is inherently risky for teenagers. But I also think we’d agree that we want more for our young people than to avoid sex. We want them to enjoy genuinely healthy relationships. So let’s go deeper. How do we help our kids to develop relationships that are emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually healthy for them?
- Ask open-ended questions to foster conversation. (Need some ideas? Send me an e-mail, and I’ll send you a list of suggestions for conversation starters.)
- Teach healthy relationship patterns from the time your children can interact with you. (Model these!)
- open, thoughtful communication
- asking forgiveness
- enjoying meaningful activities together
- Value your children, and let them know that you will always be on their side. Encourage them to bring their friends to your home, so that you can be part of what is happening in those friendships. You will also have a front-row seat to observe how your teen is treating others and being treated.
- Be factual about the risks of sexual activity. Let them know that it’s healthy to delay sexual activity and that they are not the only ones not “doing it.”
- Help them to see that sex, while amazing in the context of marriage, is only one facet of a committed relationship. It was never intended to stand on its own as an event. God designed it to be one aspect among many other aspects of a growing, maturing relationship. That’s why it doesn’t work well when it’s pulled out of context and used on its own.
- Use current situations (movies, ads, other relationships) to illustrate good examples and poor examples of how to build a relationship.
- Keep your own walk of faith authentic. Nothing will drive your child farther away from Jesus than for you to say one thing on Sunday and to live something else the rest of the week.
- Teach boys what it means to honor girls, how to show genuine respect for women, and how to express care without obsession.
- Help girls to have confidence that they are more than sexual organs, and that they don’t have to give in to pressure when they don’t want to. Almost 10% of females ages 18-24 indicated that their first sexual encounter was non-voluntary (“they didn’t want it to happen”). Help your daughter recognize unhealthy control, then actively protect her by being aware of her relationships. Almost 1/3 of girls have been in abusive relationships by the time they graduate from high school.
The way you model relationships will have more impact on your children than anything else you do. Your relationship with him is one of the most amazing, powerful layers of protection your child has against destructive, unhealthy relationships. Help them to vision-cast about the relationships they desire with a future spouse. Pack your relationships full of such humor, honesty, and grace that a relationship that is anything less will hold no appeal!