In my early years as a family minister at a large church, I was shocked to hear some of the stories that parents would tell about their kids' struggles. In the past few years, I have stopped being surprised. It's all too common now.
One dad is concerned that the cute “boy crazy” behavior his daughter exhibited when she was ten has evolved into something entirely different at 15. She seems obsessed with making sure that she always has a boyfriend. Then she gets depressed when she doesn’t have one.
As her teenagers have begun dating, one mom is insistent upon putting some clear guidelines in place for whom they should date and what they should be allowed to do. Her husband, on the other hand, feels that their kids can figure things out on their own. He figures that they will learn the best lessons if they learn the hard way.
A dad worries that his Christian daughter’s relationship with her non-Christian boyfriend has gotten way too serious. What started out as a friendship has evolved into something much more significant. He is beginning to notice how their differences are affecting his daughter’s behavior and priorities. Unfortunately, the daughter doesn’t see a problem.
But the stories get more complicated. Beyond the typical dating struggles that young people have had to work through for generations, many of the issues today have a sexual dimension.
A dad shares with frustration that his 14 year-old son is overwhelmed by the sexually aggressive nature of the girls at his middle school. Their never-ending texts and flirtations are building his ego, but the drama of it all is distracting him from just about everything else in life. The dad is worried that the temptation of it all will be too much for his son to handle.
A mom and a dad are concerned about the pornographic websites that they have discovered in their son’s computer history. They aren’t sure if this is normal teen behavior that should be left alone or if they should confront him about it.
One mom is troubled that her 17 year-old daughter has been dating the same boy for more than a year. She has reasons to believe that they have become sexually intimate.
I feel for these parents. They want to do all they can to coach their teenagers through some very emotionally taxing and extremely hormonally charged seasons of life. When they come to me for help, I do my best to provide them with biblical wisdom and practical steps to take. It's the reason we wrote The Talks in the first place.
However, in moments like these, I can’t tell them what I REALLY want to tell them. Because what I really want to tell them is this:
“You need to get your hands on a time machine."
“That’s right…you heard me: a time machine. Just like in “Back to the Future.” Used DeLoreans are pretty cheap these days and surely you can find directions for making a flux capacitor online somewhere. Once you finish building it, use your time machine to go back to a time when your kids were very young, very innocent, and very open to your parental perspective and influence.
“Once you have successfully removed yourself and your child from the tumultuous stage of life they are currently in and into a climate when they are a blank canvas regarding the opposite sex, you can start preparing them for what lies ahead. You can deal with the issues that you already know they are going to face. Best of all, you can do it before they are a raging cauldron of hormones and caught up in all the drama usually associated with boyfriend/girlfriend relationships.”
But I can’t give that advice, because the last time I checked, time machines aren’t readily available to the public. (Though I think they can still be found in Hollywood.)
What is a Parent to Do?
For those currently in the middle of challenging struggles like the ones mentioned above, know that there is a God who wants to walk through these things with us. He offers hope to even the most hopeless of situations. He wants us to trust in His ways for coaching our kids to healthy relationships with the opposite sex today and, if they choose to marry, to a long and satisfying marriage in their future. Much of our book, The Talks, is about helping to equip parents for that very purpose.
Because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, we must begin talking about these things with our kids.
The million-dollar question is “When?” As parents wanting to prepare our kids well, when do we have “the talk?” When do we discuss sexual attraction? When do we start laying some ground-rules for dating and social media and what to look for in a mate? When do we start talking to our kids about pornography and even masturbation?
Every child is different and every family’s situation is unique, but I would suggest that, given the sexually charged culture our kids are growing up in, if the big question is “When?” then there is a common answer for every parent.
The answer is “Sooner.”
Parents need to start training and preparing their kids for this stuff sooner than we think, because our kids will be encountering these issues far sooner than we could ever imagine. If we want them to have a biblical (and even a holy) perspective of their sexuality, then we must begin to paint that picture to them before the world messes it up.
I used to say that parents need to “get these issues on the table,” but the reality is that they are already on the table. Our kids are being exposed to a constant stream of messages from their friends and the media and the world about relationships and sex. Most of these messages are far from the truth. Okay, let me be blunt: they are outright lies. These lies have the power to create in our kids a worldview that will impact their sexuality and their marriage for the rest of their lives. And these issues are definitely on the table.
Instead of telling parents to “get these issues on the table,” what I now direct parents to do is this: “Get these issues on your table.” Current research, common sense, and the biblical directive all scream this one truth: we have significant power and influence over this dimension of our kids’ lives. We must enter into the discussion early and start defining some truths before the world begins to overwhelm our kids with lies. We must boldy start building a framework of truth and preparing our kids for the challenges that they will inevitably face.
Parents, we must start talking about sex with our kids.
Our book, The Talks, has helped thousands of families get a plan for navigating our hyper-sexualized culture.