“Welcome to McQuick-Fix. May I take your order?”
“Yes, I’ll have your Keep My Kid Abstinent value meal with a supersized cup of I Need This To Sink In Before Prom. Please hold the You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About, Mom.”
“Please drive through to the second window, ma’am.”
If only it were that easy! Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for instilling abstinence in our kids. Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, however, confirms that parents can be highly influential: 91 percent of teens ages 15 through 17 who have not had sex said they were influenced by what their parents taught them about sex.
Faced with the reality that as of 2007 nearly half of our nation’s high school students are sexually active, parents are desperately seeking effective ways to instill abstinence in their children. Sadly, many traditional methods prove unsuccessful.
Let’s take a look at three common mistakes parents make:
“Because I said so”
Just because we have a conviction that sex is reserved for marriage does not mean our kids share that belief. Convictions require being convinced, which is made possible through convincing arguments or evidence. When we warn our kids not to have premarital sex simply “because I said so,” we are failing to provide the logical explanations and compelling reasons necessary for cultivating convictions. As a result, our kids learn to avoid getting caught having sex rather than avoiding premarital sex altogether.
STDs and pregnancy
While we should spend ample time discussing the serious risks of STDs and pregnancy with our teenagers, our approach to instilling abstinence should also include the spiritual and emotional implications of sex. Otherwise, kids are likely to conclude that as long as they protect against disease and pregnancy, there’s nothing wrong with premarital sex.
Depending solely on the church
While youth programs and church services can be highly beneficial, parents must take the lead in training their children. We should utilize church programs but focus our efforts on at-home measures.
Here are a few ways to effectively convey the importance of abstinence to our kids:
- Have dialogues, not monologues. During parental “sex talks,” moms and dads often do all the talking while kids sit and nod. A more productive approach involves engaging our kids with provoking questions and two-way conversation so they have the liberty to express their thoughts, uncertainties and opinions. The subject of sex should not be relegated to a one-time talk, either, but should be discussed throughout our kids’ upbringing.
- Explain why the Bible says premarital sex is a sin. Most people know the Bible warns against premarital sex, but few can articulate why. We should help our kids understand and appreciate the reasons the Bible calls premarital sex a sin.
- Stress the value of virginity. When our kids understand that their virginity is a special gift that can only be given to one person one time, they start to view virginity as something valuable and worth protecting. We should ask our kids to imagine the thrill of telling their spouse someday that they saved the gift of their virginity for him or her.
Although McQuick-Fix may not really be an option, we’re much more likely to find success when there’s less emphasis on forcing standards on our kids and we start inspiring standards in them.
Physical reasons for abstinence: Risks include unplanned pregnancy and the spread of STDs.
Consider: The United States continues to have one of the highest teen pregnancy and abortion rates in the developed world. Due to both biological and behavioral factors, teens are at a greater risk for acquiring STDs. Research proves that nearly one-half of all newly infected STD cases in 2000 (the most recent year for data) was among teens and young adults ages 15-24. Although youth are at a higher risk for STD infection, only one-third of sexually active teens are tested for STDs.
Spiritual reasons for abstinence: God’s Word says that sex outside of marriage is wrong — not because God wants to inhibit pleasure but because He knows what’s for our best.
Consider: Matthew 15:19-20; Mark 7:20-22; 1 Corinthians 6:12-13; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4
Emotional reasons for abstinence: Birth control cannot protect a heart from the bonding and hurt that come when teens are sexually active. Research supports the fact that sexually active teens are at a greater risk for emotional stress, depression and even suicide.