Abstinence seems to be one of those topics everyone has a definite opinion on. To this day, I have yet to find anyone who has been on the fence. It’s always “Wait until you’re married,” or “You don’t have to wait til marriage, but you better use a condom!” Regardless of which of these statements rings true, we can all agree that they’re both better than not saying anything, can’t we? (Waiting for you to nod your head.)
Yes, I know this is the new millennium and we have a black, Al Green-singing president, but there are still those who believe in good old fashioned abstinence. In fact, there are a lot more than you would guess, but many shy away from taking that route for fear of setting their children up for failure.
You’ve heard the argument: Abstinence doesn’t work. “While you’re out here selling abstinence and promise rings, kids are busy getting pregnant and contracting diseases.” That’s what many say–and there is some definite truth to that statement–but that doesn’t make the message of abstinence ineffective. It makes the delivery method ineffective. And that’s why I’m here, to offer a method that goes far beyond repeating “Wait til you get married!”
1.) Make it seem realistic– Talk about setting your kids up for failure. Many parents do just that by saying things like, “Well, you know you should wait until you’re married, but that isn’t exactly realistic, so I just want you to be smart and make good decisions.” You might as well say, “Abstinence sounds cool, but ain’t nobody doing that mess. You feel me!” (High-fives exchanged.) Ok, so you probably wouldn’t high-five, but you get my point.
Your children need to know that, regardless of what everyone else is saying and doing, they CAN abstain, and it doesn’t even have to be that hard. If you waited, share that with them. Even if you didn’t, let them know that there are many people who are. Don’t focus on how hard it is (because that sets it up in there mind as unrealistic). Instead, focus on how doable it is.
2.) Monitor their exposure- These days, sexual images are everywhere (and I mean everywhere). It makes it hard for you to talk to your children about abstinence when everything else around them is pushing “sex, sex, sex!” Turn the TV off, turn the radio off, and be aware of who is around your children and what they’re talking about. Of course, you can’t raise your children in a bubble. They’re going to be exposed to and influenced by others, but you have to do your best to control the images and ideas they get about sex because they will definitely influence future behavior.
3.) Don’t make sex the enemy- Sometimes, in an attempt to steer their children away from premarital sex, parents make it seem like it is the worst things on earth. (“Sex is a big sin you will be punished for… PUNISHED, I say! PUNISHED!”) This will only do one of two things:
-create an unhealthy complex about sex that can last well into their adult, married life
-make them uncomfortable about topic, which means they won’t talk to you about it at all.
Give them the real deal. Let them know sex is wonderful, but that it is a big responsibility that should only be done under certain circumstances. The more comfortable you are talking about it, the more comfortable they will be coming to you with any questions they may have (and that’s what we want, isn’t it? For our kids to come to us about sex instead of the girl that sits next to them in math class.)
4.) Give them the HOW- This is a biggie. If you do all the other steps wonderfully but skip this one, you probably won’t be successful. Saying “don’t have sex” does not teach them how not to. If you are serious about what you’re saying, you will have to let them know how to behave. No, they can’t listen to the same songs as everyone else. No, they can’t watch the same movies and shows as everyone else. No, they can’t date. (Yea, I said it.) A main reason this approach doesn’t work is because even though the message is being sent, the children (teens) are still allowed to engage in behaviors that encourage sexual activity. You can’t tell your son, “Sure, you can kiss that girl, but that’s it. Don’t you do a thing else, and I mean it!” Come on, now. Who ever stopped at just kissing, and if you did, how easy was it? Let’s be real. Kissing ain’t nothing but foreplay.
I am a firm believer in the necessity of balance, so I wouldn’t be here suggesting you tell your kids no to so many things without suggesting you say yes to something else. People thrive best when they have options, so that’s what I’m about. While I won’t allow my children to listen to most music or watch most shows, I will go out of my way to find music and shows that I feel are appropriate. While I won’t let them date, I will make sure they are able to socially engage other people in their age group, both male and female. I would hate for them to grow up feeling deprived. Those are often the feelings of sheltered kids who hit college and go crazy. I’d rather they grow up feeling informed and guided.