Christian Living

Spiritual Life

How to Raise Sexually Pure Kids

I was driving down the highway listening to the familiar voice of Dr. James Dobson. Suddenly, the host asked his guest, "What is the most common question a young girl will ask her mom about sex?" Without delay the woman responded, "Mom, did you wait?"

I pulled my minivan to the side of the highway and allowed ten years of tremendous denial and grief to engulf me. I reached for my brand new baby girl in the back seat and held her as I cried. I would not lie to my little girl.

My heart's desire was, is and always will be to live a lifestyle of purity, but in high school I detoured from that pursuit long enough to get tangled up by lust. Like no other sin, moments of unbridled passion had intertwined my life painfully into another's.

That evening, it took me three hours to tell my husband in the darkness of my bedroom. Satan had me cornered into a prison of blackmail until the very moment that my lips uttered my long-awaited confession. Oh, how I wish I had done that sooner. Christ's forgiveness finally verbalized in the midst of my husband's warm familiar embrace suddenly began to heal the deep tear in my heart.

The church is as plagued by Satan's sexual blackmail as it is by the actual sins of sexual misuse. Forty-two percent of today's married, "religiously active" women engaged in premarital sex. Forty-three percent of women overall will have at least one abortion by the time they are 45 years old, many of them sit in the pews next to you and I on Sunday morning. These women are often suffering silently, desperately praying that healing will come someday. In a world where AIDS, pre-teen pregnancies, abortion, infertility and sexually transmitted diseases are all-too common, there is a consequence to sexual misuse that is being overlooked ... the broken heart.

Where does healing for you personally come from?

The day that I confessed my sexual sin to my husband, I did not know that it would unlock the key to my healing. Certainly forgiveness came because I have a great loving Savior, but why didn't healing naturally follow my confession to Christ? James 5:16 says "Confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other so that you may be healed." God's Word clearly says that healing from damaged emotions -- whether from a sexual sin or any other type of sin -- comes from confessing that sin to another member of the church body.

While it's true that at some point young people need to be given freedom and to be trusted, that probably doesn't have to take place as early as "everyone else" does it.

Tim and Beverly LaHaye, authors of Raising Sexually Pure Kids, write about a special moment on their youngest daughter's wedding day. As they drove her to the church, she leaned forward and said, "Mom and Dad, you can be proud of yourselves. You raised two daughters in Southern California, and both of us were virgins on our wedding day!" Probably a bit teary-eyed to begin with, the family drove to the church enjoying a downpour of joyful tears. The LaHayes are so proud that their daughters have no regrets.

No doubt, the LaHaye girls had moments when they did not like their parents' involvement in their dating. They had to endure their dad's "pre-date" interviews with their guy-friends, could not single date at all until they graduated from high school, and they had to share a full itinerary with their parents prior to each day. The LaHaye's aggressive, authoritative involvement certainly doesn't fit the current teen-parenting trends today, but social science is uncovering proof that just that kind of involvement is what it takes to raise sexually pure kids.

According to the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, there are eight easily identified factors in student's lives that show the greatest influence in reducing the risk of premarital sexual activity. Parental involvement is mentioned in three of those eight factors including "high levels of parent-family connectedness," "parental disapproval of adolescent being sexually active," and "parental disapproval of adolescent using contraception."

But how is a parent to successfully bring those risk reduction factors into the lives of their teen children who've suddenly come upon hormones and bad hair days?

Start Talking About Sex Early

One study evaluated an abstinence curriculum's effect on differing age groups. Students in upper elementary grades were most likely to make favorable attitude changes about delaying sexual activity as opposed to the high school students who were less likely to change their thinking. Since sex education in your children's school may begin in the upper elementary and they may be receiving the "safer sex" message, it is vital that you are providing information that you want to positively shape their sexual values. In upper elementary school or even junior high school, they may not be terribly interested in a lot of details. The basic fact that sexual contact creates babies and is a special gift for marriage may be as far as the conversation needs to go.

At every age, but particularly the younger ones, don't forget to focus on the heart issues. After all, the distinct difference between human sexuality and other mammal's mating rituals is that for us it is both spiritual and emotional. Focus on the love, commitment and emotional bond that sex requires for true fulfillment. Sex is far more than the biological responses your child will be taught in health class.

Above all, always remember that each child is unique and will require an individually customized approach. Your first child may be passive and uninterested and require you to push him or her at an age appropriate opportunity in upper elementary, while a second child may be inquisitive at a surprisingly early age.

Talk About It Often As They Approach Their Sexual Peak

Teenagers hit their peak years of sexual activity starting at ages 15 and older. Most teens say they want to learn about sex from their parents. One study asked both mothers and daughters "Are you communicating effectively about sex?" Nearly 3/4 of the mothers said that they were. Only 1/3 of the daughters could agree because they wanted their mothers to bring the subject up more often. Remember the insatiable curiosity you had when you were fifteen? Rise to the challenge to meet that curiosity so that it is not quenched elsewhere.

Raising Them Chaste, a book by Richard C. Durfield, Ph.D. and Renee Durfield, outlines the concept of a "key talk" between parents and children. This "key talk," while it should not be the first mention of sexuality, is an opportunity as they enter their teen years to make a formal commitment with your teenager to remain abstinent. ("A pledge to remain a virgin" is another of the eight risk reduction factors outlined by the Medical Institute.) This "key talk," the Durfield's urge, should take place at a nice restaurant or another special place and often includes a covenant contract signed by both parents and teens and a gift to remind your teenager of their commitment. It is, at its heart, an open invitation to discuss the topic in depth from that point on.

My book, And the Bride Wore White: Seven Secrets To Sexual Purity, uses a fun, narrative style to introduce seven risk reduction factors to young women. Many mothers are reading this on a weekly basis with their daughters in an effort to keep the lines of communication open.

Some fathers of teen boys have been submitting along with their sons to internet filters in an attempt to keep temptation out of the home. Joining with their sons in this commitment opens the door for talk about sexual temptation because the young men know their dads are in the same boat with them.

Set Firm Dating Guidelines

Most teenagers don't claim to set out one day to have sex, but it "just happens." (In fact, most of it "just happens" between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. while mom and dad are still at work.) Sadly, 42% of conservative Christian teenagers will be sexually active by the age of 18 and that does not include those who play around with sexual contact other than intercourse.

A strong set of dating guidelines and expectations will avoid opportunities for things to get out of control. While it is true that at some point they do need to be given freedom and to be trusted, that probably doesn't have to take place as early as "everyone else" does it.

"Maybe our kids wouldn't give in so much to peer pressure to dress, act and date like everyone else if we, as parents, didn't give in the peer pressure of other parents to let them dress, act and date like everyone else," challenged one father.

Some behavioral guidelines might include:

  • Dating is something that is to be reserved for special occasions and weekends, not after school.
  • You may group date beginning at age ___.
  • You may car date/single date after high school.
  • You may date a boy or girl after they have spent an evening with us.
  • You may date a boy or girl if he or she is a Christian.
  • You must tell us what you have scheduled prior to each date and call us if your plans change.

Sound pretty tough? Well, living a lifestyle of purity is pretty tough!

While you set some firm rules, you also need to discuss some things with your teens such as "How far is too far?" or "What guidelines do you think you need as far as being alone on a date?" and "When is it OK to commit my heart?" These aren't things you can really establish as rules for they must be internalized to be effective.

Determine to Spend as Much Time with Your Teens As You Can

"High levels of parent-family connectedness," as the Medical Institute puts it, doesn't occur among families where the parents are more committed to their careers than their kids nor in homes where the teenagers hold a job, participate in after school activities and squeeze in a large slate of social opportunities. Yet, that pretty much describes the average home where teens reside today.

Girls, especially, who lack a positive father/daughter relationship are very much at risk to be sexually active. David Blakenhorn in Fatherless America wrote, "Many studies confirm that girls who grow up without fathers are at much greater risk for early sexual activity, adolescent childbearing, divorce and lack of sexual confidence."

Now, as much as ever your child needs you. Though they may not need you physically, they need you mentally and emotionally to sort through complex new issues.

Spend time with your teens. Play laser tag. Race go-carts. Go to a good movie. Do things they enjoy and they might just end up opening up and even attempt to do things you would like to do.

Feed Them Spiritually

The Medical Institute states that early sexual activity is less likely when a teen has an "importance ascribed to religion/prayer." Even the Center for Disease control has stated that religiously active kids tend to be less likely to be sexually active.

Titus 2:12-13 says, "God's grace teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." You must encourage your teen to stand before God and to say, "OK, teach me to say no. I know these worldly passions exists, but I know the only way I will be able to say no is if You teach me!"

Your child cannot attain purity on their own, though they can make a commitment.

Experts cannot unveil some formula, though they can offer solid advice.

You, as a parent, cannot shelter them, though you can set up good guidelines.

Only God can teach them to say "no" to worldly passions.

Take them to His feet. Offer to have devotions with them on a regular basis. Encourage them to pursue a relationship with a youth leader who is willing to really invest in their lives. Invest in weekend youth conventions and missions trips without reluctance. In fact, stop right now and ask God to teach your precious son or daughter to say no to worldly passions and to teach you how to guide them through the labyrinth of temptation.

Related articles by Dannah Gresh:

The Seven Secrets of Sexual Purity

Mom, Did You Wait? 


Great Bible-based resources on the subject of sexuality:

The Song of Solomon: A Study on Love, Sex, Marriage and Romance
by Tommy Nelson
This twelve session video series for adults offers Biblical encouragement and inspiration on such subjects as attraction, intimacy, conflict, romance and commitment.

Her Choice to Heal
By Sydna Masse
This book offers useable information and activities to guide a women through the process of healing from post-abortion syndrome.

Pure Freedom "Seven Secrets to Sexual Purity"
by Dannah Gresh
This eight session retreat or weekly study for junior and senior high through college-age young women is an easy-to-use curriculum companion to Gresh's book And the Bride Wore White.

The National Abstinence Clearinghouse
This national resource center for sexual abstinence provides a comprehensive guide to books, tapes, video series, promotional items and speakers. Most target youth, but some are appropriate for adult use.

The Medical Institute
This medically-based organization is on the cutting edge of the abstinence movement. Their resources and conferences can help you to be intelligent about the subject of sexuality so that you can approach it with excellence.

* How safe is "safer" sex? Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common viral STD today, causing more than 2.5 million new infections each year. Not only is it gross and uncomfortable (it causes genital warts), but it also causes more than 90 percent of all cervical cancer in women, making it deadly. How much protection does a condom offer against HPV? None. HPV is spread through skin contact, not body fluids. The truth is that "safer" sex isn't really safe at all. Source: Sexual Health Today, a slide presentation available through The Medical Institute.

Much of the content in the article is taken from And the Bride Wore White by Dannah Gresh, a new book for young women which unveils seven secrets to sexual purity. Other sources used include The Power of Abstinence by Kristine Napier (New York: Avon Books, 1996), 73; an interview with Josh McDowell conducted January 1, 1999, and used by permission; an interview with Becky Tirabassi conducted in May, 1999, and used by permission, and Ed Young's book Pure Sex (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah, 1997), 17.

Used with permission. Copyright 2000 by Dannah Gresh.

To find out more about the ministry of Dannah Gresh, click here.

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