A Guest Post by Eliz Huie
A Note from Bob: You’re reading a guest post by Eliza Huie. Learn more about Eliza by reading her bio at the end of this post. And read his post to learn more about 2 Words to Help Foster Needed Conversations with Teens. Today’s post is derived in part from Chapter 4 of Raising Teens in a Hyper-Sexualized World. You can find the book at 10ofthose.us or at Amazon.com.
Parenting teens is challenging. The culture teens are growing up in is one highly saturated with sex. Kids are exposed to things at earlier ages than ever before and even the most engaged parents can find themselves feeling like it is hard to keep up. Parents seeking to raise their children in a Christian environment will often place healthy parameters or create protected environments to seek to avoid being bombarded with all the sexual content flooding the culture. These parameters can bring a bit of relief, but this also needs to be coupled with a word of caution.
Christian parents need to be aware that just because there is a safeguarded environment that may be more shielded from the influences of the world’s pervasive messages of sex, this won’t mean your child will be immune to the struggle of living in this culture. It may be surprising that in many ways the statistics for teenaged sexual exploration are the same between “churched” and “unchurched” kids. Take, for instance, the following statistics.
- 9 out of 10 boys are exposed to pornography and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography before the age of 18.[i]
- Another study reported that 93% of boys and 62% of girls have seen online pornography before the age of eighteen.[ii]
- A website dedicated to preserving family values states that 90% of kids between the ages of eight and sixteen who have viewed porn have done so while doing homework.[iii]
- A survey cited by the Christian Post found that 61% of young single Christians questioned said that they would have sex before marriage.[iv]
With statistics like this, it is naïve for parents to think that their children are not affected by the readily accessible reality of sexual material. Kids who are homeschooled, in a Christian school, raised in a Christian home, or actively engaged in a church youth group are just as susceptible to sexual exposure and interaction as any other teen. While not every teen will fall into these statistics, hoping your kids are exempt from sexual sin and temptation makes talking about these issues all the more difficult.
So how can parents create an environment that allows for conversations that by nature are awkward and uncomfortable?
One way to welcome challenging conversations or questions and create an environment of openness is by saying “Thank you.”
When your teen mentions something to you that may be touching the fringes of the topic of sex, porn, temptation, or the like, encourage their willingness to bring it up to you by thanking them for talking to you. In some cases it may be appropriate to praise the courage it took for them to share it with you.
One of the best things you can do to encourage open communication is by responding first with “thank you.” Thank them for sharing the story with you. Thank them for asking the question. Tell them you are glad they shared it with you and that you welcome those kinds of conversations. Even if inside you are wanting to start with instructions, directives, or even questions, instead let the first thing you say be—“Thank you.” Setting aside any shock or embarrassment will help them see that it is OK to have these conversations with you and that you are not assuming anything by them bringing them up.
In addition to saying thank you, another thing that parents can do is to be devoted to prayer for your teens. Pray for conversations. Pray for wisdom. Pray for your words to be filled with grace when the opportunity to talk arises. I cannot help but think that that is what Paul meant when we exhorts believers about speech. Not only are we to avoid words that are corrupt but we are to seek to bring “only such a word as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Parents will have many opportunities to bring correcting words to teens. Seek to bring encouraging words as well. A simple “thank you” can go a long way in fostering conversations with teens.
Eliza Jane Huie: Eliza is a biblical counselor at Life Counseling Center in Marriottsville, Maryland. Experiencing God’s redeeming grace through the hope of the gospel is her motivation for counseling. She also teaches workshops on counseling-related topics and mercy ministries and writes for various venues related to biblical counseling. She is the author of Raising Teens in a Hyper-Sexualized World. Eliza and her husband, Ken, have three children in their late teens and early twenties and enjoy exploring the outdoors as a family. Areas of special interest in the counseling realm are relational difficulties, marriage and family, depression, sexual brokenness, and suffering. You can follow Eliza on twitter or contact her at www.elizahuie.com