When our kids were preteens, we took each one individually on a mother-daughter or father-son “getaway.” The purpose was to have “the talk,” but more. We wanted to introduce God’s plan for sexuality to our kids, in a way it had never been introduced to us.
“The Talk” isn’t easy. When I was growing up, it was often avoided, or a book was thrown at you to read. One never felt at ease asking parents questions about sexuality (even today I know it’s not easy), often because parents reacted so negatively to the questions. I wanted it to be different for our kids. I wanted them to be able to come to us if they wanted, and I asked my husband if we could please keep those lines of communication open (contrary to our own experiences growing up).
Because “The Talk” really didn’t happen for SJ or I, we never were given the “God’s-eye view” on human sexuality. We were basically led to believe it was wrong to think of, much less do it, outside of marriage– for no clear reason. We were led to feel guilty for sexual thoughts, feelings, or actions. The “logical message” was that God didn’t like sex, and it was bad. We talked to equally clueless peers, we heard the messages in the media and the world, and we may have experimented. We both endured extra-long singlehood. So by the time we’d become parents of preteens, and stronger Christians, we wanted a better way to address sex education.
Enter Passport 2 Purity, an interactive program designed by Dennis and Barbara Rainey for parents and children to do together. We liked the format, and we liked that it helped kids to openly have the discussions with their parents, and ask questions. We especially liked the purity message, one we thought as believers we needed to teach our children (in spite of our own personal shortcomings). There were many hands-on, illustrative “projects” you could do with your child through your weekend together, which provided powerful visuals about the issue of purity before marriage.
In Session 3, I liked how Sex was described:
- Your sexuality is a marvelous creation of God.
- God designed sex within marriage so that children would come into the world.
- God designed sex within marriage so that you could experience closeness with your husband/wife.
- God designed sex within marriage to bring you a great deal of pleasure.
Each of our kids reacted differently to the program. One daughter was clearly ready to hear the message and easily talked about it. The other freaked out on me and would hide under the bedcovers in our hotel room when it got “icky” (which was most of the time). I think my husband much abridged the material with son, and skipped many of the “crafty” visual projects.
At the end of your weekend, you asked your child IF they wanted to sign a purity pledge, or to if they wanted to pray and think about it:
“In the sight of Almighty God, I promise in the power of the Holy Spirit to maintain moral purity by abstaining from sexual immorality and by giving Christ first place in everything.”
All signed. All signed a separate “Wait to Date” contract, essentially saying they’d agree to wait until their parents believed they were mature enough to go on a date.
We offered them an optional outward signs of their pledge; one daughter chose a ring that said “True Love Waits.” The other chose a more understated ring with a cross within a heart. The son declined.
There. God’s plan presented (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Message delivered. Door opened for future discussions on the matter. They had clear reassurance that their parents were open to discussing these matters.
I feel perhaps we really didn’t follow up adequately in the years to come, but we more or less told them no one-on-one dating until 16. We asked that young men come into the house to meet us before a date, so that Dad could deliver the message that this was his precious little girl and that any young man would be expected to treat her honorably. The double standard was at play and son wasn’t held to this same requirement, but we showed a clear interest in knowing the girl he dated, and inviting her into our home for meals. As with most teens, our kids wanted to be “private” about their dating experiences, and we gave them some space and latitude, and just prayed for good judgment. We felt by restricting them on dating (or interrogating them), we’d just tempt them to use poor judgment, rebel, and sneak around (as I know I did).
At the same time, we also felt we didn’t want to naively believe this “Purity Pledge” was going to be an easy thing for them… and we educated them on the misleading messages of the world, safe sex, protection, and birth control. The message was, “We only want the best for you. While our prayer and hope for you is that you can save your purity to give to your spouse, we also wouldn’t want you to expose yourself to disease or pregnancy. We might not always agree with all the decisions you end up making, but we will always love you no matter what.”
Our kids were surrounded by the “corrupt” and morally neutral world, in an era of internet, strong and blatant sexual messages in the media and music, cell phones, texting, and sexting. By the time they hit High School, many of their friends’ parents were delivering the message of, “if it feels good, do it… just don’t catch a baby or a disease.” Some parents were divorced and pursuing their own shack-ups or back on the dating scene. In an era of “It’s bad to judge people,” our kids at times of course felt their parents had an extreme and possibly unrealistic view. We were challenged to reveal our stories… had we remained pure? Were we hypocrites? This obviously is one of the hardest questions a parent can answer. We chose to leave it at “it doesn’t matter what we did, it matters what we now know: about God’s Word on this; that God holds us accountable to raise our children in the admonition of the Lord; and that we love you unconditionally and are committed to your well-being.” As my girls matured and persisted in the questioning, I allowed that yes, I had fallen to sin, and seriously regretted it, which spurred me on to wanting to encourage good decisions and a better future for them.
I don’t know that there was 100% success as a result of our efforts to choose to honor God’s Word on teaching our children about sexual immorality and saving the gift of sex for marriage. I know that the kids did come to us when they were burdened or confused with something in this realm. Our kids’ friends (gay and straight) frequently chose our house as the “hang out” spot even though alcohol wasn’t permitted and there was no big-screen TV or fancy electronics, but where setting an extra place at the dinner table was ALWAYS possible. Hugs were always offered and appreciated, and unconditional love provided. Decisions were made (and confessed) which we didn’t agree were good choices, but true to our word we still loved them, didn’t judge them, didn’t condemn them. We listened and encouraged. And we know full well about making mistakes, having regrets, confessing past sin, and being redeemed and forgiven.
We knew that all we could do was deliver the message, and then step back and pray.
This might not be the model everyone agrees with, but it was the best we had. In retrospect I’m happy we did it. The story is not completely played out and only time will tell the outcome.