Helping Teens Stay Sexually Pure

What can we do as parents to promote abstinence before marriage and help our teenager remain sexually pure?

It all begins at home, and preferably as early as possible in a child’s life. Children should be introduced to age-appropriate sex education and biblically based instruction in God’s design for marriage and human sexuality while still very young. If this hasn’t been the case in your home, just remember that it’s never too late to begin. Here, as in so many other areas of life, an ounce of positive preparation and prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Your relationship with your teen is the key to the entire process. Psychologists tell us that there are strong connections between dysfunctional family relationships and all kinds of sexual problems. The best place to start, then, is with creating an environment where your child feels comfortable talking to you about the entire scope of his life-interests and concerns. Within that context healthy discussions about sex and sexuality can be encouraged to blossom and grow in a natural way. Research shows that teens who have a close, warm relationship with their parents, and whose parents clearly communicate their expectations regarding sexual behavior, are less likely than others to engage in pre-marital sex.

If and when your child becomes involved in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex, it would be a good idea to take the same approach in monitoring it that Ronald Reagan adopted in his dealings with the Soviet Union – “trust but verify.” In other words, if you have a teenage son, let him know that you’ll take him at his word when he says that he is remaining sexually pure and not engaging in any kind of inappropriate behavior with his girlfriend. But don’t stop there. Proceed to make it clear that you’re going to help him avoid temptation by placing firm limits on the amount of time the two of them spend together. Let him know that it’s fine for him to go on supervised group dates and to invite his girlfriend over when you’re home, but that you don’t want him spending one-to-one time with her alone. This might mean that he won’t be allowed to use the car without you or another adult along for the ride.

It would also be important to have a conversation with the girlfriend’s (or, in the case of a daughter, the boyfriend’s) parents. Perhaps you could invite them out to dinner on the grounds that, since your kids are dating, you’d really like to get to know them. Ask them about their values and the type of guidelines they’ve established for their child regarding sexuality. If you don’t like their response, then don’t allow your teen to spend time at their house.

In addition to discussing sexual purity with your teenager, it would also be a good idea to talk about character discernment. Make sure your child understands the critical qualities that God would want him or her to look for in a dating partner and eventual spouse. Read Galatians 5:22 and 23 together and spend some time unpacking the essentials of the characteristics evidenced in the “Fruit of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control. Emphasize that while physical attractiveness may initially draw us to a person of the opposite sex, the quality of that individual’s character is going to be far more important in the long run.

If you have further questions in this area or would like to discuss your concerns in greater depth with a member of our staff, feel free to call our Counseling department.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Boundaries in Dating

The Focus on the Family Guide to Talking with Your Kids about Sex: Honest Answers for Every Age

A Chicken’s Guide to Talking Turkey With Your Kids About Sex

Teen and Young Adult Books on Dating and Purity

John Rosemond: Parenting with Love and Leadership

Parenting Teens

Talking About Sex and Puberty

Teens and Sex

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