Home Life by Bev and Phil Haas
Nearly half of all babies born in the United States are born to unwed mothers and almost 80 percent of these are born to unmarried teens. The teenage girl you’re writing about is by no means alone. Regarding the girl’s family, they need outside support now more than ever. Be empathetic and non-judgmental. All of us sin, but in this case, the entire family has an audience watching the consequences of their daughter’s choice to be sexually active. The compassion of Jesus toward the woman caught in the act of adultery rather than the condemnation of the religious leaders should be your model (John 8:3-11). Now is the time for your family to be a living expression of God’s love.
Many parents struggle when it comes to talking to their teens about sex; they’ve seen that vacant, glazed-over look. Push past it and begin talking. Don’t worry about having “the sex talk.” Watch for times when your discussion can be woven into ordinary activities or situations. Talking to your teen about sex can be an intimidating task, but research shows teens listen to their parents. In fact, research also shows that parents’ disapproval is the number one reason teens abstain from sex before marriage. There are plenty of resources to help you talk openly with your daughter about sex. Focus on the Family (www.focusonthefamily.com)
provides excellent resources to guide you. You can also use television or movies to begin a conversation. Ask your daughter how she would handle the situations depicted on the TV screen. Give her the information she needs and the opportunity to think through a plan in advance. Even in this age of abundant sexual information, teens can still lack some basic information. Remind your daughter that she has a free will and every choice brings consequences. Your level of comfort with the subject and your reaction (nonverbal a well as verbal) to your daughter’s comments and questions will affect whether your daughter is more open or closed with you regarding the topic of sex. So relax and remain calm during these crucial conversations.
Keep the communication lines open and stay involved with your daughter. Some parents mistakenly think that as their children become teens they no longer need them. It’s not just young children who need their parents to stay close; teens need this too. Below are some tips for guiding children as they enter the teen years without smothering them.
Establish clear rules and curfews. If your daughter is alone in the afternoon because you are at work, find a way to ensure her safety. Most teenage sex occurs in homes between 3:00 and 5:00 PM. Perhaps she can be involved in after-school activities. She should not be allowed to have friends over unless an adult is present. A nightly curfew will help her avoid other temptations.
Know your daughter’s friends and their parents. Have her invite them to your home. If several families share similar values, the parents can provide a united front. (And, hopefully, you won’t have to worry about boy/girl sleepovers or having alcohol served to underage teens.) Your daughter’s activities should involve church youth outings and friends from church. Most teenagers do not want to sit home on the weekends with their parents. Having Christian friends to hang with will satisfy her emotional and social needs.
Encourage groups of teens rather than steady dating. Frequent, steady dating can lead to trouble, especially with young teens. While teenagers normally “pair off” to some degree, if they’re part of a larger group, peers will hold each other accountable for their actions. Having 30 teens gathered in the family room isn’t very conducive to “making out.” (And, of course, you’re still checking on everyone!) Being part of a large group relieves the pressure of needing a steady boyfriend. The “group date” gives everyone a chance to get to know each other without sexual expectations.
There are no guarantees that our children will abstain from sex. However, we can raise the odds in our favor by keeping the communication lines open and staying close by them.
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org.We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children, and they have one grandson.