This post is Part 5 of the blog series: How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex. Learn more about the series.
This section informs parents how to help their children think about these situational issues or how to biblically guide their children through each of these issues in the event one of them takes place in the family. While we desire for parents to be the first point of reference, peers are often the first counsel another young adult will seek out. Equipping children to think and speak truthfully and lovingly in these situations is vital to the Christian witness and impact of the Church.
While premarital sex is common among evangelicals between 18 and 29, it is less common among those younger than 17. Premarital sex as entertainment or a testing ground for marriage is both emotionally and physically unhealthy as it opens a person to relational issues, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, abortion, etc.
Women who have had an abortion are 34 percent more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, 37 percent more likely to experience depression, 110 percent more likely to abuse alcohol, 155 percent more likely to commit suicide, and 220 percent more likely to use marijuana.
Gender dysphoria does not necessarily mean a child is attracted to their same-sex, but it certainly can. Less than 0.01% of men or women are diagnosed with gender dysphoria. This typically means a child may struggle to understand gender and sexuality, and while confusion should be addressed, overreacting is not helpful.
Whether they pursue their attraction or not, the struggle for men and women who are attracted to their same sex is often less about their attraction and more about the shame and judgment associated from their family, friends, or the onlooking world. Less than 5% of the population claims to be gay although this number has risen in recent years due to the growth of LGBT rights and reduced stigma related to homosexuality.
When a child is practicing premarital sex, many parents feel forbidding a relationship will only drive a child away from them and seek to appease the situation by ensuring a young adult has birth control. Premarital sex compromises God’s design and sets up a young adult for a myriad of consequences. Because of this, parents should uphold their expectations while correcting and repairing areas in their relationship where parents may have poorly discipled their child. While this is not always the case, a posture of humility while continuing to teach God’s truth is essential.
If a young adult is a minor still living at home, funding a rebellious child’s sinfulness is not an “olive branch,” although being vindictive towards a child is also not productive. Align your expectations with their choices and make the consequences predictable, so your young adult is not uninformed. Be a good listener while encouraging your child to talk to you about how they came to decide to have sex.
If they are a professing Christian, explain that compromising on premarital sex and submitting to the lordship of Christ are not compatible and begs the question, “If sex can be compromised what else is negotiable?” If a child is not a professing Christian, encourage them to be thoughtful about their choices, rather than experimenting in sex while they consider the claims of Christianity. Premarital sex is not just bad for Christians. A teenager or young adult already knows you disapprove, so your concerns can be expressed directly with a measure of respect. Engage your Community Group and Student or College Ministry leaders for support and help.
If a teenager or young adult is pregnant, there are some serious considerations to discuss regarding the circumstances which led to the pregnancy. Despite that, your child is pregnant as either the mother or the father, and another life is now involved. Parenting will bring more responsibility for your son or daughter, but their lives and dreams are not over. Shame does not need a seat at the table when providing counsel on this matter.
Encourage your child to understand love and life are consequential. Share in their care and provide for this child as you are able, without enabling them to continue to make decisions outside of God’s design (i.e., perpetuate adolescent behavior or irresponsible choices). Help the new parents make decisions and plans without letting the surprise of an unintended pregnancy lock them in indecision. Marriage may not be the best next step. Pray and seek wise counsel from your Community Group and others invested in your child’s life.
If your son or daughter is considering abortion, understand that most women with an unintended pregnancy will choose to keep the child if family and friends support them. Unfortunately, most family and friends advise, “We will support whatever decision you make.” This statement conveys the idea that the woman is alone in making this decision when she needs wise counsel and those who are going to deter feelings of shame in exchange for courage, hope, and fortitude.
Discourage feelings of hopelessness where a mother or father’s dreams and life plans can only be achieved if an abortion takes place. Engage your Community Group and those you know who will biblically counsel your son or daughter. In the event an abortion takes place, express your sorrow and care for the mother and father of the child. Due to the gravity of that decision, the parents will require healing and repentance in the immediate or distant future.
1 in 4 women will have an abortion in their lifetime. So, while Roe v. Wade was intended to make abortion safe and rare, it has become quite common. Many women and men choose the private shame of abortion to maintain the convenience of life without caring for a child over the public shame and responsibility of parenting.
While consent laws exist in some states for minors, this is not the case in all States, and a young woman may feel the disappointment she will cause her family is unbearable. The weight of an abortion decision on a woman is dramatic. If you notice your child distancing themselves, press in, ask good questions and affirm your love for them. When your child informs you, grieve with them, both for the death of the child and the anguish involved in that decision.
It is rare for women and men to decide to abort haphazardly, and even then, abortion procedures sear the conscience, requiring women and men to suppress the memory. Healing doesn’t come from burying an abortion. Seek out an after abortion care ministry and encourage your daughter or son to participate. When you have processed, extend forgiveness where you can.
A child who expresses interest in things or exhibits behaviors commonly associated with the opposite gender may struggle with their gender identity. Typically, peers, parents, or other factors encourage them to follow unbiblical stereotypes for gender, believing there is one continuum for gender with masculine or feminine at the extremes. A better approach is to recognize there are two genders and each gender can fluctuate in its expression. A boy is not a girl simply because he is more artistic, soft-spoken, or emotionally expressive, and a girl is not a boy because she is athletic, assertive, or doesn’t like wearing dresses. Help your child understand this paradigm.
Additionally, affirm that feelings are important, but feelings do not override God’s design or truth for our lives. A simple, memorable statement is, “feelings are real, but not reliable.” Furthermore, a parent may feel they have nothing in common with their child’s interests. The commonality is found in the centrality of who we are as humans in relation to God, not in the accessories of compelling activities. Focus on God’s design and the parent-child relationship of God’s design.
Children who struggle with these issues should be discipled to be patient and not give in to the whims or accusations of their peers. Parents should be mindful of any bullying related to this and actively safeguard their child. Gender reassignment and hormone therapy is damaging to children and adults and should not be entertained.
If parents are proactive in discipling their children, a child who is attracted to their same sex may be confident enough to share this with their parents. Most young adults, however, do this only after it has been affirmed or normalized by peers. A child or young adult may have already been convinced of their same-sex attraction when telling parents. Parents should keep in mind, that a recognition of same-sex attraction does not mean a child or young adult is sexually active. In the event a young adult is sexually active, parents should uphold the same expectations regardless of same-sex attraction.
Same-sex attraction is typically a lifelong attraction so parents should help a child or young adult process their desires in relation to God’s design. Common questions include, “Did God make me this way?”, “Is homosexuality a cultural sin that no longer applies today?”, “How do I fulfill my sexual desires with a member of the opposite sex?” The Bible affirms homosexuality is a sin. Through our sinful nature, God’s created order is broken. This does not mean those with a same-sex attraction are any more or less broken than the rest of humanity. Everyone has unfulfilled sexual desires they must discipline themselves through to benefit from the blessing of living by God’s truth.
Same-sex attraction does not require a child or young adult to be ostracized from their family. Parents and siblings can oppose gay marriage and acknowledge homosexuality as a sin and still love and care for a child or sibling in a same-sex relationship. Acknowledge the conflict a child or young adult is experiencing, especially when recognized at an early age, and regularly encourage them toward biblical teachings related to sex and purity.
While parents pray for children to have godly relationships and marriages, sometimes a dating relationship or marriage becomes abusive due to drug, alcohol use, or other reasons. At the first sign of abuse, parents should intervene to ensure their child is safe and not compelled to mend the relationship immediately without invested accountability from friends and family. While abuse may not be justification for divorce, the perpetrator cannot be enabled to abuse others physically. This is neither helpful to those being abused, nor the perpetrator in need of healing.