Help Your Daughter Develop a Healthy Sexual Identity
- Monday, October 23, 2006
The following is a report on the practical applications of Sharon A. Hersh's new book, Mom, Sex is NO Big Deal! (Shaw Books, 2006).
As a mom, you naturally want what’s best for your teenage daughter, and the thought of her experimenting with sex breaks your heart. But in our sex-saturated culture, the majority of teens end up doing so, anyway – even Christians who had planned and tried to stay sexually pure.
It’s a tough battle to fight. But if you help your daughter develop a healthy sexual identity, you can help her win it. Here’s how:
Build a close relationship with her. Realize that educating your daughter about sex and asking her to sign an abstinence pledge is only a start, and not all you need to do to help her stay pure. Understand that, while "head" knowledge is good, "heart" knowledge is even better. Seek to build a close emotional bond with your daughter so she comes to truly respect you, trust you, and enjoy being with you. Know that sharing a relationship like that with you will motivate her to genuinely listen to you and give her the confidence she needs to risk hard decisions when confronting temptation and pressure.
Make it a priority to spend as much time as possible with her on a regular basis. Have fun together doing some activities she likes to do. Let her know that she can talk to you about anything without fear of criticism or punishment. Encourage her to share her experiences with you openly and honestly; react with a positive attitude. Ask her questions about her life to demonstrate interest and get to know her well, but don’t pry or try to manipulate her. Help her know that she’s safe with you and doesn’t have to try to hide anything.
Make it clear to your daughter how valuable she is to you, so she’ll come to value herself and be more likely to protect her body and guard her heart. Give her the love she needs, so she’ll be less likely to seek it through unhealthy relationships with guys.
Don’t be afraid. Ask God to give you the courage you need to talk openly and honestly with your daughter about sex. Remember that your daughter needs to you be her ally as she navigates through some of the most crucial decisions of her life. Don’t shy away from discussing topics like these on an ongoing basis: romance and dating, faith and dating, married sex, sexual limits, media and sex, God and sex, sexual harassment, abortion, sexual intercourse, alcohol and drugs and sex, date rape, your sexual history, abstinence, oral sex, HIV/AIDS, STDs, condoms, other forms of contraception, kissing, sexual pleasure, making out, sexual orientation, and pregnancy.
Affirm her longings. Don’t diminish the importance of your daughter’s natural longings for relationships and romance. Acknowledge that those yearnings are an important part of growing up into a woman, and that it’s good to have them. Let her know that God gave her those longings for a good purpose, and that it’s worthwhile to wait to fulfill that purpose in the right way – through a loving, committed marriage.
Examine your own views about sex. Consider your beliefs about sex. Do you dread it or enjoy it, and why? Think and pray about your own sexual experiences, and seek healing for whatever you need to achieve a healthy perspective on sex. Realize that you need to present a healthy example to your daughter to help her understand why sex is valuable and worth saving herself for. Write what you have learned as a result of your sexual experiences, and make time to discuss that with your daughter so she can see how God has been working in your life. Ask God to help you connect your story with her story in redemptive ways. When you share your story with her, be direct, focus on what God has taught you through it, and invite your daughter to follow up by telling you her own story so far.
Explore the media’s messages together. Watch TV, surf the Internet, read magazines, and listen to music with your daughter. Then discuss the messages presented about sex. Talk about what you each agree or disagree with – and why.
Teach her that sex is much more than just "hooking up." Help your daughter understand that, contrary to what our culture tells her, sex is a big deal. Contrast God’s view of sex as a sacred act that deeply bonds two people with the culture’s view that sex should be a casual act engaged in by people in uncommitted, loveless relationships.
Point out that not everyone is "doing it." Confront messages from your daughter’s peers that she’s a "freak" for choosing to remain sexually pure. Let her know that she’s not alone in her choice, and give her the support she needs to encourage her.
Help her count the cost of sex. Explain the heavy price she’ll pay if she has sex outside of marriage – physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
Let her know that there are rewards for waiting. Give your daughter some real reasons for waiting by explaining the joys of sex in a healthy marriage.
Remember that there is grace for sexual sin and foolishness. As much as you wish your daughter will never make a mistake, know that God’s grace will redeem any mistakes she makes. Don’t communicate that sexual sin is the end of the world for her. Be willing to rely on God’s strength to forgive and help her learn from it.
Be a haven for her. Make sure your daughter knows that she can ask you anything, tell you anything, and count on your support no matter what. Do all you can to be there for her.
Learn about how the world has changed since you were a teen. Understand that types of sexual pressures your daughter currently faces. Know that today’s teens are engaging in more sex and different types of sex at earlier ages than previous generations. Realize that sexually explicit material is more readily available than ever before, thanks to the Internet. Keep all this information in mind as you work to support your daughter.
Teach her that what she does with her body matters. Let your daughter know that she should respect her body because God made it and wants her to use it for good. Help her recognize her body’s cues of arousal and know how to respond to them to avoid going too far with her boyfriend.
Teach her that what she does with others matters. Help her realize that her choices about sex don’t affect only her, but also other people – her boyfriend, family, friends, and even the larger society in which she lives. Emphasize that she needs to keep her responsibility to others in mind when making decisions about sex.
Teach her that what she does with God matters. Tell your daughter that God desires a close relationship with her and wants the best for her. Encourage her to let her love for God motivate her to follow His design for sex. Help her see how her sexual longings can lead her to intimacy with God, who invites her to be one with Him.
Show her that waiting is actually a gift. Guide your daughter to wisely use the time she must spend waiting to find the right person to marry. Help her understand that waiting doesn’t have to be a frustrating experience; it can be a joyful time of discovering more about who she is as a person and how God wants her to grow. Be sure to notice positive qualities about her and affirm them as she waits. Encourage her to pursue a love affair with Jesus.
Give her plenty of opportunities to make choices. Don’t try to control every aspect of your daughter’s life; allow her to make her own choices as much as possible so she can develop critical thinking skills, grow in wisdom, and become more independent. Realize that allowing her to make decisions about things such as what music to listen to or how to wear her hair will give her the confidence she needs to learn how to make choices about far greater issues – like sex. Understand that teens often rebel by becoming sexually active; let your daughter know that she has the power to live her life without fear of being overly controlled by you. Show her that you respect her enough to let her grow.
Help her recognize and avoid abusive or addictive dating relationships. Talk with your daughter about what constitutes emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Get to know her boyfriend well and discourage any secretive, isolating behavior. Never hesitate to intervene when you suspect trouble. Be your daughter’s advocate, helping to protect her from unhealthy dating relationships. Help her make a complete break from any unhealthy relationship she may be involved in now. Give her new, healthy activities to focus on to replace the time and energy she had been spending on the relationship. Evaluate any new potential boyfriends carefully.
Offer hope if your daughter thinks she’s gay. Try not to react in fear or anger. Instead, pray for the wisdom and strength to talk with your daughter openly about the issue without driving her away. Reassure her that you want a close relationship with her no matter what. Be humble and compassionate as she struggles. Provide counseling for her to talk about her sexuality with a professional who can help her deal with her concerns.
Adapted from Mom, Sex is NO Big Deal!: Becoming Your Daughter’s Ally in Developing a Healthy Sexual Identity, copyright 2006 by Sharon A. Hersh. Published by Shaw Books, an imprint of WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, Co., www.shawbooks.com.
Sharon A. Hersh is a licensed professional counselor and the mother of two teenagers. Author of the acclaimed Bravehearts and three previous books in the Hand-in-Hand line for mothers of adolescent girls, Sharon is a sought-after speaker for retreats and conferences. She lives with her family in Lone Tree, Co.
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