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When doing premarital counseling for young couples I often ask where their first information about sex came from. It’s usually a rather awkward conversation but typically they tell me a story about how their parents either totally ignored the subject, gave them a book to read, or just told them, “don’t do it!”. Of course most of us got our information about sex from older siblings or school friends.
Having a healthy and appropriate conversation about sex with our kids is absolutely crucial to setting them on the right track. This evening I want to invite you to check out a FREE webinar designed to support you as a parent in having THE TALK.
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The spirituality of teens and young adults is largely built on experiences. In other words if they can feel it, see it, or touch it for themselves then there’s a greater likelihood that they will actually believe it to be true. It isn’t uncommon to hear of a young person being turned off by a visit to a local church because people weren’t “nice” to them. While we may question their juvenile screening methods it still affirms the notion that young people care more about the way a church makes them feel than the propositional truth it adheres to. They will likely walk away from a church that has accurate doctrinal positions yet the experience is cold, distant, and unconcerned.
Thus to engage the American Seventh-day Adventist suburbanite young person in an immersion experience abroad through a short-term mission trip can be, and most often is an effective way to deepen their spiritual commitment.
It is also true spiritually of young people that their decisions are largely influenced by their relationships both with their peers and adults in their lives. Youth expert and modern day apologist Josh McDowell provides this insight about young people, “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” This is a very telling commentary on the nature of most local church subcultures. It goes without saying then that relationships are often strengthened in the context of shared experience. While the Sabbath morning worship gathering contributes to this to some extent I believe it is insufficient in dramatically moving young people on to full devotion to Jesus Christ.
I’m hearing from a lot of parents these days. They reach out seeking help on how to deal with a young child they suspect has been exposed to porn. Then the question that every parent has is, “what on earth do we do about it?” So I’ve put together a bit of a first response list. There may be other things that could be on this “high priority” list but for now this is what I recommend:
1. Remain calm but proactive. Doesn’t do anyone any good to freak out! Don’t think that because your child saw porn he or she will automatically become the next Jeffry Dahmer or out of control sex addict. Remember that the average age for first time exposure is somewhere around 11 so it seems inevitable. It’s not your fault as a parent if your kid is exposed because a classmate at school has a magazine or has a smart phone with unfiltered access to the web. On the other hand if your child discovers porn on your own home computer then it may be that you haven’t thought seriously about protecting your family. Exposure at any age to porn is really a reflection of the times in which we live. The challenge is to address it in a healthy way and make sure that porn doesn’t rule the day. The worst thing we can do as parents is ignore the subject altogether and just assume that our child will get through it and be ok. This is a time to engage and provide guidance through the awkward stages of early childhood and adolescence.
2. Keep the conversation ongoing. As parents we have to keep the talk about sex and sexuality (age appropriately) going in order to correct misinformation, and keep the conversation God-focused. If we provide a safe, open, environment for conversation about puberty and body changes our kids are informed and empowered to handle ongoing encounters with porn or other unhealthy sexual messages. Ignoring the issue generally creates greater curiosity and kids are resourceful enough today that they can find the answers with a simple google search. Most likely they won’t find the answers we want them to read or the images/videos we want them to see. Make sure it’s as much of a dialogue as possible. It’s easy to want to lecture our kids on sex but that tends to be less effective. Remember too that it isn’t just one awkward conversation. It may get slightly more uncomfortable and more complicated as our kids get older. Let them ask questions and avoid the cliche, pat answers. Give them a vision of what purity looks like. With pornography comes the issue of masturbation. Tough subject, but again much is gained by open, appropriate conversation. One very good resource that I highly recommend is the Passport to Purity curriculum through Family Life Ministries.
3. Build in some protections. If you haven’t already done so you should build in some protections by installing filters and accountability/monitoring software. There are great products out there such as X3Watch, SafeEyes, Covenant Eyes, NetNanny, and OpenDNS. Keep in mind that these aren’t full-proof. But they do provide an extra hurdle for someone to have to navigate in order to access adult sites. It could also help prevent accidental exposures to the youngest people in household. Be very intentional here and set real parameters around access to the internet. Remember too that mobile devices such as ipads, ipods, iphones, and even game systems can all access the web. Be sure to keep all screens in public view and limit access in the bedrooms with doors closed. I also highly recommend that families just “go dark” for a period of time and observe a media/screen fast from time to time. This does everyone a ton of good.
4. Dad needs to be a part. I’m learning that this is far more important than most of us want to admit. Us dad’s play a vital role in helping our kids (sons and daughters) develop a healthy sexuality. That’s why it will demand that we engage wholeheartedly in the process. It means we’ll have to take the lead on many of these discussions especially with our sons. Our daughters are watching and listening too. Their very sense of self worth, body image, and assertiveness my be derived from how we as dads interact with them. So as awkward as it may be let’s make sure we are there with our girls and boys. Dads, let’s let our daughters know that they are deeply loved because they are God’s precious creation and they are inherently valuable and have immense worth. Let’s let our son’s know that they are deeply loved and called to a life of integrity and purity in the sexual arena even at an early age.
5. Keep your eyes on the prize. Obviously none of these strategies are full-proof, but it does create a bit of a wall. It also lets your kids know you are being intentional about keeping inappropriate stuff out of the home. Keep in mind the goal isn’t just behavior modification or even abstinence (although we want them to be). The goal is to shape character, help your son/daughter become people who value the opposite gender and are offended by something that objectifies them. Help them have a godly understanding of the beautiful, God-given gift of sexuality so that when they grow up they can handle it in the context of an adult, marital relationship. Doesn’t mean that our kids won’t stumble along the way, but you will have given them the tools to work with and a heart to make the right decisions in the “heat” of the moment.
Remember too that it’s not a one-time, “it’s solved” type of thing, we have to enter the journey to help our sons and daughters become healthy, young Christians who understand their bodies, sex, and how to relate to the opposite gender.
In summary: remain calm, keep an ongoing conversation, build in some protections, make dad a big part of it, focus on character and not just behavior modification.
There are three stories that have emerged in the news recently that should give us all cause for great alarm. Personally I was deeply disturbed by all three stories and what appears to be a growing trend among teenage boys and young men just entering their twenties.
Audrie Pott (15), Rehtaeh Parsons (17), and a third unnamed 16 year old girl, who is still alive were all victims of senseless, cowardly, and violent, gang rapes by their High School classmates. To add insult to injury the young males in all three cases photographed their victims and distributed the images via social media sites essentially celebrating their assaults on human dignity. In the case of Audrie Pott, the four young men who raped her, when she was passed out from drinking too much at a party, scrawled sexually explicit messages on her naked body.
Haunted by the attacks and embarrassed and humiliated by the photos both Audrie and Rehtaeh committed suicide. Suicide is a tragedy in and of itself, but we have heard other stories of teenagers taking their own lives. In fact suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers and young adults ages 15-25 according to the American Society of Suicidology. These stories are different in that they involve not only the tragedy of teenage suicide, but an egregious “group” violation of basic human dignity.
What I’m shaken by is the utter disregard for other human beings demonstrated by the boys accused of these crimes. I’m appalled that these boys would interpret an intoxicated, unconscious, peer as an invitation for sex. Perhaps more unsettling is the fact that these boys didn’t see their classmate as vulnerable and in need. Whatever happened to chivalry, and the notion that should I find someone in need, I do all that I can to help them, not take advantage of them, especially a female.
It’s the equivalent of looting a store of all it’s high-end merchandise in the wake of a devastating storm. Only this is far more heinous as it is the soul of a young woman who is of far greater value. Please don’t interpret my altruism as male chauvinism. I’m not suggesting that females are weaker than men or somehow inferior. I am saying that they can be more vulnerable and that violence against females young and old is a problem in our culture and has been for centuries.
A recent article by psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow provides some insight into why some of this generation have such a disregard for the vulnerable. He says, “Genital contact (along with brawling) is now America’s reflex antidote to losing contact. And the antidote is being peddled indiscriminately to kids, who are being dragged right out of childhood by a vicious undertow of eroticism fueled by tides of primal fear that we are not really living life at all, nor are we male, nor are we female, nor need we be troubled (just take Prozac), nor need we be distracted (just take Adderall), nor need we be anxious or bored (just take medical marijuana), nor are we responsible for ourselves (just apply for government entitlements).” (Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/03/11/seventeen-magazine-pushing-sex-to-12-year-olds/#ixzz2S35y33KI)
This “loss of contact,” I interpret as kids growing pretty callous, and cold toward others. There is no longer an intimacy with other human beings. We’re disconnected and thus see others as less human. Our constant online lives provide a false intimacy incapable of withstanding the weight of real life, flesh-and-blood, scenarios.
That is why I issue this plea to the young men as well as young ladies of this generation. Be courageous. Don’t go along with everything you see around you. Don’t assume that the others in your group know something that you don’t. No one ever has the right to strip someone of their dignity and then broadcast it to the world. Know that you have a right to challenge other’s behavior and if need be strike out on your own and do the right thing. Passivity must not rule the day.
Young ladies, please watch out for one another. If you see one of your peers getting in trouble it’s only decent to step in and protect them even if they have put themselves in a bad place.
Take these words to heart from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”