Category Archives: Parenting

Sex before marriage? Reclaiming choices for our kids

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We live in a world that is having a one way conversation with our kids. That one way conversation is this: “You will have sex before marriage. That’s ‘normal,’ a given, the only question that remains then, is how soon will it happen?” Read the headlines of popular magazines while waiting to check out at the grocery store. Watch a Miley Cyrus music video. Watch just about any music video. Follow Lady Gaga on twitter. Read an article in Seventeen magazine. Read an article in Cosmopolitan magazine. Watch a movie. I challenge you to find one piece of media-TV show, magazine article, movie, any media vehicle, any tv ad spot, anywhere, anytime-I challenge you to show me one of these sources that simply says “Um….You have a choice. You can say no to sex….” Show me one. Okay, maybe the abstinence message built into my girls’ 6th grade health class curriculum. Or maybe the various “Let’s Wait..” programs found for teens in faith based religions. But from a media source? Show me one. We have taken a little bit of an unorthodox approach with our kids with regard to this subject matter. We actually told them, “Yes, you can have sex before marriage, undoubtedly, that is true. But, (and here’s the clincher), you don’t have to! And then we have followed that up with a healthy dose of unconditional love, boundaries, natural consequences for their behaviors, right and wrong, and a great big open door to come tell us ANYTHING. We fully understand that this ugly, self centered, self gratifying world that we live in-the one who craves immediate gratification in all of life, and sells that as a total possibility in advertising-is sending ONE message to our girls. “You will have sex before marriage. The only question is when.” Like I said, it’s a one way conversation. We realized quickly that we needed to make it a two way conversation. We did a simple thing, guided by our faith and convictions, and as importantly, a deep seated love for our precious daughters, we did the only sensible thing we could do. We gave them back the choice. We told them, “Oh and by the way, you can say no!” This is something that everyone can sink their teeth into, regardless of your faith, your belief systems, or your political position. Giving our kids a choice is certainly something we can all agree on. So why then do most parents conform to this cultural message about their kids, effectively taking that choice away? Because, sex in our culture is an easy sell. The message is embedded in a self gratifying culture that we live and function in every day, and therefore, in the very fabric of our lives. Sometimes it’s easier to go along with the “Jones,” than it is to have such serious conversations with our kids beyond the ones that just cover the day’s logistics. For instance, “I’ll pick you up from school at 3:00. Don’t forget you have a dentist appt. at 3:30 and soccer at 5:00.” But if we all know and agree that having sex too early, too young, and outside of a loving, intimate marriage relationship, is emotionally damaging to our kids, then why aren’t more of us making this a two way discussion? Why are we sticking our heads in the sand, and allowing total strangers to have so much power and influence over our children’s decision about their sexuality, their worth, and their potential to succeed in life? It may be because no one ever talked to us about this important subject matter. As children, many of us were thrown to the wolves when it came to learning about sex and sexuality. But that doesn’t mean we should perpetuate that cycle. It could be because we are too dang busy. Who has time for “special weekends,” family dinners at the kitchen table, board games, family vacations? It could be that we have allowed our children to watch Rated R movies and TV since, well, I don’t know when, and the mindset has already been set in stone. Maybe it’s a combination of all the above, and consequently, you don’t feel adequate in having this loving and honoring conversation with your son or daughter. Don’t believe that lie. No one loves your child like you do, with the one exception of their Creator. And God is greater than all of our mistakes. So wade into the waters with your babies. Be a spiritual leader in their life. Be their champion. For God’s sake, don’t give that job away.

So, say we don’t buy into the lie that almost everyone will have sex prior to marriage. What does that mean and what does it not mean?

1. It doesn’t mean you lie to your kids about your own sexual virtue. If you were not a virgin before you were married, for goodness sakes, tell them the truth when the inevitable can no longer be avoided. You can bet the question is going to come up. Lying to our kids is treacherous ground and makes navigating through life situations in the ensuing years very difficult. There were a lot of things I did as a teenager and a young person that I don’t want my children to do. I mean-think about it. If you are a recovered narcotics addict, would you say, “Well, I did it, so my kids will too!” I hope not! On the contrary, you would be all the wiser about those choices and their consequences. And you can and should share that with your kids at age appropriate times and in the right setting. You will know when it is right.

2. It also doesn’t mean you abdicate the responsibility of sex education for your children. C’mon parents! Put your big girl and big boy pants on, and talk to them. They want to hear it from you. They might not act like it. But if you want your girl to learn about sex and ALL that is involved in her sexuality from “Johnny boy,” the kid in her 9th grade biology class, then don’t tell her anything. “Johnny boy” will most certainly take care of that for you. Just know that if you don’t, sadly someone else will! And the likelihood of that being emotionally devastating for your son or daughter is great.

3. It does mean that if you are the mom, you designate a “special weekend” with your girl, just you and her. If you can, go out of town. If you can’t, do a day trip or have everyone else in the family leave the house for the weekend. Give yourselves time to prepare. Have her write down questions or listen to CD’s about sex and sexuality beforehand. Passport to Purity is a great source (milylife.com/find-help/key-resources/passport2purity#.UmrmwaXn2LE) But there are many! Google! Go out to eat. Shop. Do something fun. Send her the message that she is precious and special to you, that she is special to her Creator. I think 6th or 7th grade is a great time to do this with your girl or boy. It should closely coincide with onset of puberty. I wouldn’t do it much earlier or later than this. Likewise, it means if you are the dad, you do the special weekend trip with your son. Prepare in the same ways moms do with their girls. Tell him how special he is to you and his Creator. You answer his questions and talk to him about your expectations and you also teach him how to treat women, starting with his mom and sisters and then of course other girls and women. Buy a special small gift or piece of jewelry for your son or daughter at the end of the weekend which reminds them how much they are loved and cared for, and that their purity is honorable and healthy.

1 Corinthians 10:23 says “You say, I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do everything, but not everything is constructive.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 says “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Verse 19 tells us “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

I see kids all the time who are disconnected from the people who love them the most. I have also seen unbelievable sexual text messages to my girls from other teens (boys and girls), and unbelievable sexual posts on social networks by tweens and teens. But I never see them lose their social networking privileges, and I see the posts over and over again. Be involved with your teen. They need to know there is no person on earth that loves and cares for them like you. For them to know that, we have to actually spend time with them. Passing them like ships in the night doesn’t give them what they need from us. Having conversations is a good start. And when it comes to their sexuality, love them enough to make this a two way discussion. Reverse this cultural message they get clobbered with every single day. Give them back the choice!

What are we teaching our girls?

We need to let our girls read this. We need to remind our girls that the rights they have as girls-as women are not had by all. We need to teach our girls to be generous and compassionate, not shallow and petty. We need to teach our girls that what they have is secondary to what they give. We need to teach our girls that there is a big world out there, one where pain and suffering go hand in hand with the plight of oppressed and mistreated women. We need to teach our girls to never stop fighting, never quit, never give in, and to always hope!  What example are you laying down on the path in front of your girl as she walks and grows?  We should not be so naive, so apathetic as to read articles such as this one and compartmentalize. “That happens over there. It doesn’t happen here. Therefore, I won’t concern myself.”  Perhpas it behooves us to remember that the US State Department has recently reported that the good “ole” USA is the number one destination of human traffickers.  Human trafficking is a huge problem in this country, and it involves the lives of hundreds of thousands of girls and women.  Maybe that will bring violence against girls a little closer to home for us.  Malala’s story is incredibly sad and should do anything but render us all helpless.  You might ask “well, what can I do?”  If you have girls of your own, start with them.  Teach them what is important in life, and I can tell you that it really isn’t extra curricular activities or weekly allowance or choosing paint colors for the new house.  It is serving others, serving someone besides themselves. it is teaching them that God created them for a purpose, and that purpose involves making life better for those around them.  It is exuding hope, love, and compassion for others. It is teaching them justice. It is teaching them to stand up for themselves while respecting the rights of others. It is teaching them to never stop fighting against the struggle of abused and mistreated girls-girls just like themselves, like Malala.  Never stop fighting for justice. What are you teaching your girl? 


Malala Yousafzai’s Courage »

A vicious Taliban campaign against girls’ education crystallized in the cowardly shooting of a 14-year-old girl who fearlessly promoted going to school.

A lesson in real faith in a beautiful part of the world….

A beautiful lookout
A beautiful lookout

IMG_8460 IMG_8503 IMG_8548Over Christmas break 2011, we traveled to Prague, and then on the way home, through Nuremberg, Germany.  The Nuremberg exhibit was absolutely incredible. Apparently the exhibit just opened (unbeknownst to us when we traveled there) on Nov. 22nd of this year.  The girls were really moved by it.  It is a very lengthy audio guide exhibit. But even so, they remained engaged through the majority of it. Every entry in the audio guide is intriguing. Even Halle and Katie listened far longer than I would have imagined them capable. Plus, there was video on hand also that was used as exhibits in the trial, and I think they knew their limits.  It was sobering and troubling.    I had a great discussion with the girls that night about their impressions of the trials, and unwittingly that led to the history of the church, and that led to us discussing how 75% of Czech republic (according to Helena our tour guide the first day in Prague) is agnostic. She said it is  “a practical matter.”  They have seen the church only as abusive and they want nothing to do with it. (The remaining 25% of the population is split-mostly catholic of course, some Protestant. Typically, those too are not evangelistic in nature. Traditionally in Catholic and Lutheran Protestant churches in Europe, faith is defined by a religion that is very legalistic in nature. It is a routine matter.)  The girls and I talked about how this approach by the church has continued on many levels for 100s of years.  The Catholic church literally ruled with an iron fist for centuries. They were indeed the law and the church in one.  In the 16th century, william Tyndale was the first to translate considerable parts of the Bible into English, for a public, lay leadership. In 1535 he was tried by the church for heresy and was strangled and burned at the stake for taking the word of God to the populace. For centuries Catholic Leadership imprisoned the Jewish population in ghettos all over Europe, exposing them to horrible living conditions, disease and isolation. Now, there’s an argument for separation of church and state. (we shan’t open that can of worms in this post). 


The girls and I discussed how we are guilty of that today-burning people at the stake, not literally but emotionally and spiritually.  How often do we ignore those in need, that kid in your class who is hard to get along with, the next door neighbor who needs a helping hand, someone in our life who needs something we have plenty of?   And then we ended by dissecting 1 Peter 3:15. The first part (“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord,”)  was the starting point. This is the foundational premise of this verse. Then I reminded the girls of different instances for each of them wherein they were distraught over some sin they had committed or something they had done wrong, and how their joy was restored after they had confessed that sin and asked for forgiveness. It is amazing to me how faithful God is with our experiences. Nothing is wasted on God. The girls had immediate recall to those vivid memories.  And that connected to the middle part of that verse (“be prepared to give everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that you have”)  I reminded them it is never enough for this hard hearted world we live in to tell them only part of the gospel, that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins and gave us eternal life as a gift.  We live in a pretentious and 
Self-centered world who believe they have no need for a Savior.  The key to breaking through that wall lies in our sharing our own personal experience, how that truth has impacted you personally; this is paramount in our message.  We all have a story. We must be prepared to share it. Otherwise, it is the same rhetoric that the unbeliever has been listening to for 100’s of years just as the hammer fell.  Finally, the last part of the verse, (“But do so with gentleness and respect.”) We may set apart Christ in our hearts as Lord, we may  have a story to tell, but try delivering that information to someone in a spirit of anger, abuse, self-righteousness, or disrespect, and she will not hear a word you say.  


The girls were intrigued and engaged.   Yes, it is true, the very next morning I was refereeing a ridiculous disagreement between them, but that night in that moment, God gave us a relevant conversation that everyone was engaged in. And he provided the material effortlessly.  It was something I will never forget.  I hope they don’t either.