1.   If your kids are young, the time to start talking is when they start asking questions. It’s always before we, as parents, believe they’re ready. But it’s not one “talk.” It’s an ongoing conversation that fosters trust. Model that you are the expert, who is willing to answer any questions your kids might ask. If you don’t have an answer, it’s okay. Don’t fake it. Find the answer and get back to them.

2.   Avoid making a list of don’ts. Try to focus on the big picture and be sure to talk about natural consequences of behavior. Like giving pieces of your heart away and dragging the ghosts of past relationships into new ones. Break ups, loss of friends, STIs, and pregnancy. Then there are the spiritual consequences of guilt and shame. Get them excited about the plan God created to protect them, emphasizing that it was not created to spoil their “fun.”

3.   Try to move past the details and get to the purpose. For example, instead of being adamant about not dating before a certain age, talk about the reason for dating - which is to find a spouse. Then ask them if they are ready for that kind of commitment. Also talk about the importance of taking their fully developed personality into an adult relationship instead of relying on someone else to validate them.

4.   Don’t forget to focus on the positive. Talk about the perfect and pristine plan of our loving Heavenly Father who created sex for our pleasure and His divine purpose. Just saying, “Don’t do it until you’re married,” makes sex seem dirty and crude. When teens start to learn that sex feels good and is exciting, they may feel as though they’re missing out instead of waiting to explore a hidden treasure.

5.   Stay in the loop enough to know your teens’ friends, but outside enough to be an observer. Don’t try to be their best friend; they need you to be their parent. Keep your ears and eyes open. Pray for God to show you any red flags that need addressing. Also put your teens in touch with other godly adults that your teens respect, and who hold similar values to your own.

6.   As you point your kids away from sex and to relationship, take note of your own example. How does your life represent what you want for your kids? Dads, do you treat all the women close to you the way you want your daughter to be treated? Even if you have sons, you are modeling how your sons should treat women, and to your daughters how she should be treated. Moms model what you will and won’t put up with. If you allow or endure mistreatment at any level, so will your daughters, and/or sons.

7.   Don’t forget to model grace. Make sure your teens know that even if they fail, you will still love and support them. When others fail, respond with grace because your teens are watching! Always point their attention back to Christ and His forgiveness. He is the only one with all the answers, so go to Him together.

My desire is not to instill fear but to empower parents through their love to be proactive. Regardless of the choices our teens make (some will be good and some bad), God is big enough to use all choices for their growth and His glory. Parenting is not for the faint of heart! No one knows this better than our Heavenly Father, who loves us and guides us through the terrifying, terrific teen years.

[1] CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2007 [pdf 1m]. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 2008;57(SS-4):1–131.

[2] Weinstock H, Berman S, Cates W. Sexually transmitted diseases among American youth: Incidence and prevalence estimates, 2000. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 2004;36(1):6-10.

Published February 16, 2009.

Meg is a regular speaker to women’s groups, Bible studies, and conferences. Five years ago she founded the Healing Hearts Ministry to offer help and hope to women whose husbands are caught in the web of sexual addiction. Her book Hope After Betrayel: Healing When Sexual Addiction Invades Your Marriage (Kregel Publishers) was released last year. You can visit her website at www.hopeafterbetrayal.com.