How to Encourage Sexual Responsibility and Purity in Your Teen

How can I reduce the risk that my teen will become sexually active? I'm aware that sexual encounters among high school students are more common today than at any time in the past, and I'm anxious to help my son avoid serious mistakes in this area. What can I do to raise up a "hedge of protection" against sexual temptation?

Start by talking with your son about his personal attitudes towards sex. Many parents feel nervous or awkward about this subject, but if you really want to protect your child you’re going to have to find the courage to be open and honest with him. Listen to what he has to say. Do your best to draw him out. Teens have a natural interest in sex and they want to know what Mom and Dad think about it. If you leave the subject in the dark, you’ll only make it seem more attractive by surrounding it with a cloak of mystery and intrigue.

This initial conversation should be the first in a series of ongoing dialogues. As the discussion proceeds, help your son grasp the many compelling reasons to postpone sex until the wedding night. Don’t be overbearing or obsessive, but do make an effort to cover all the bases in a normal, natural, easy-going fashion. If your communication is smooth in other less volatile areas, it will likely flow more easily with a sensitive topic such as sexuality.

It will help if you can balance the negatives with a strong positive view of sex and marriage. In other words, don’t focus just on areas of concern and danger. Instead, talk about the joys of unfailing commitment and lifelong companionship with a faithful mate. Be a role model for the kinds of relationships you want your teen to develop with members of the opposite sex.

If you’re single, make a concerted effort to affirm your son at every opportunity. Create as stable a home life as you possibly can. And be sure to practice what you preach. If you’re unmarried and sexually active yourself, don’t expect your teen to pay attention to lectures about the virtues of abstinence. Sound sexual values are caught rather than taught.

Reasons to wait for sex that can help you form and share your thoughts

  • Devaluation. Sex outside of the commitment of a marital relationship devalues the act and the individuals involved.
  • Sex never enhances a teenage romance. It almost always overwhelms and stifles the relationship. Condoms can’t prevent a broken heart, and antibiotics can’t cure one.
  • The “damaged goods” self-concept. Early sexual experiences never enhance self-esteem. Instead, they usually leave one with a strong feeling of having been used, violated, and devalued.
  • Despite the rising tide of sexual anarchy in our society, many people still believe the words “right” and “wrong” apply to sexual behavior. Even for those who do not follow specific religious precepts, basic decency and concern for the well-being of others should curtail the vast majority of sexual adventures, which are often driven by selfish agendas.
  • The incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has reached epidemic proportions. Several of these conditions are incurable, some are fatal, and many have long-term physical and emotional consequences.
  • Sex is how babies get started. Each year more than 730,000 teenagers will become pregnant, resulting in more than 190,000 abortions and roughly 430,000 births. Whatever the circumstances of the sexual encounter that initiated it, a pregnancy cannot be ignored. Whatever follows, it will have a permanent impact on the young mother’s life.
  • Infertility. It’s calculated that six percent of couples have difficulty conceiving. A significant number (but not all) of these infertility problems arise as a consequence of sexually transmitted diseases and could have been avoided if both husband and wife had postponed sex until marriage.
  • “Safe(r) sex” isn’t. Many people believe that teens can avoid the physical consequences of sex if they take certain precautions, including 1) limiting their number of sexual partners, 2) knowing their potential partner’s sexual history and avoiding having sex with someone who has had many partners, and 3) using a condom. Unfortunately, scientific study and experience have shown that “safer sex” is not foolproof. The results can be devastating.

Factors that consistently reduce the likelihood of adolescent sexual behavior

  • Strong religious commitment.
  • Educational accomplishment and a commitment to academic excellence.
  • Friends who have a similar commitment to abstinence.
  • The presence of both parents in the home, especially the biological father. Positive involvement of a father with his teenage offspring has been shown to be a particularly effective deterrent to early sexual activity. There are a number of reasons for this. A boy who sees his father treat his mother with kindness and courtesy and who is taught to do likewise will be more likely to carry this behavior and attitude into his own relationships with women. Girls who are consistently affirmed, cherished and treated respectfully by their dads aren’t as likely to begin a desperate search for male affection that could lead to sexual involvement. They will expect appropriate behavior from the other men in their lives.
  • Parental and community values that support sexual abstinence until marriage and making them clearly known.
  • A host of other interesting activities and passions. Adolescents who have other burning interests – such as earning academic honors, starting on a career path, participating in ministry, or excelling in music, drama, or sports – are less likely to allow premature sexual involvement to derail their plans and dreams.

These are just some of the considerations you’ll want to keep in mind as you discuss the important subject of sex and sexual morality with your teen. For additional advice, feel free to get in touch with Focus on the Family’s Counseling department. Our trained counselors would be more than happy to discuss your concerns with you over the phone if you think that might be helpful.


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