More Than “The Talk”
by Chris Sasser
Let’s be honest. There are some conversations that we as parents would just as soon not have with our kids, especially in their teenage years. When they are young, it’s almost easier to have the hard conversations. Even if they are a bit rebellious, they still have some sort of appreciation for the authority we have, and they listen to what we have to say. As the pre-teen and teenage years arrive, our kids may tend to think they know more than they do, and they certainly think they know more than we do. The most difficult and ominous thing to talk to our teens about is the one we can’t get away from. It’s not necessarily “the talk,” but it certainly is that topic.
When we don’t talk to kids about sex, it makes it seem taboo. When something is seen as taboo, it can even be seen as something bad. One thing we should consider including in the conversation is that sex was created by God, and it is good. But God created it with parameters – that God intended sex to occur within a married relationship, and He did so with our best interests in mind.
As we think about what it looks like to help our teens navigate the world of sex and dating, the first thing we have to remember is it’s not just one talk. It’s an ongoing conversation that takes twists and turns. It can move from awkward to normal and then quickly go back to awkward again. It doesn’t always cover everything at once, but it is a slow drip of ongoing information and advice that hopefully leads your teen into a place of health when it comes to how they think about the topic. When it comes to sex and dating, here are a few things to remember:
- It’s everywhere, so don’t avoid talking about it. You can’t watch a sporting event, a YouTube video, see a billboard, or scroll Instagram and not get hit with some sort of message about sex. From their elementary school years, your kids have been receiving messages about sex and dating. The world has no problem trying to get your teens to think about it, so do what you can to speak into their thoughts about it.
- Someone is talking to them about it, and you want it to be you. I can promise you that teens are having conversations about what they believe when it comes to sex and dating. They are molding each other’s thoughts. Aside from the messages we mentioned above, your kids may also have older siblings, older friends, teammates, or co-workers speaking into their thoughts on how they will navigate dating. If all these other people are talking to them, shouldn’t you be too?
- They need your guidance on it. Even if you would say you didn’t handle this area of your life in the best way when you were younger, your teens need you to push them in a healthy direction. This doesn’t need to be the “don’t make the same mistakes I did” talk, but you have the potential to offer them a good perspective on how they can make their own decisions. They need to know that you are there for them to offer advice and guidance and help them make wise choices.
- They need to understand the consequences of their actions in this area of life. The choices they make will have a lasting impact on both them and any of their partners. As a parent, you can help them see this not by trying to scare them but by trying to help them see things differently than the picture they might be developing. They also need to know that God will forgive them for any mistake they make. His grace and mercy are sufficient for anything they do.
- If you are looking for a specific way to encourage your teens in this area, we like to suggest that you talk to your teens about developing sexual integrity. One way to think about it is as an ethic about how we interact with others with our bodies. Ideally, we want to do this in a way that shows honor and respect for ourselves and others, as Jesus would have us do. We want to live a life worthy of the calling we have received, and no other area of life will challenge our teens more than their dating life.
So, let’s just talk. Begin the conversation about sex and dating with your teens as soon as you feel like it’s appropriate, and remember that it’s a talk that can and should last a long time.