My daughter made me write this. It wasn’t my idea. She is 21 years old, and on a recent visit, she informed me that, after reading my blogs, she felt I wasn’t being totally honest. She explained that the personal examples I include when writing to parents always end with everything working out smoothly for our family. She didn’t disagree with anything I said, she just felt I was not presenting the entire truth about how our conversations have gone with our children. So, for her sake, I am setting the record straight. She is somewhat of a force of nature, and I ignore her at my peril.
Life Gets Messy for Us All
Life gets messy. That’s it in a nutshell. I’ve given examples of when my wife and I interacted with our children about issues like pornography use, masturbation, the difference between lust and normal feelings, interactions within social media, and so on. I suppose I have to admit that I chose the examples I shared in my blogs to be ones when the way we interacted did go well. That’s not to say it always goes this way.
Our family has not always agreed on issues like the appropriate age to start dating, some dating guidelines, how much time is healthy to be online in general, and what movies are acceptable to watch. In those particular examples, and there are likely more I can’t remember right now, we never came to a family consensus. Everyone has always been encouraged to express and explain their opinions, but sometimes my wife and I laid out family rules that our children obeyed but did not agree with. Sometimes the family would concede to only one parent, though no one else in the family completely agreed. Our house is not a utopia, just to set the record straight. For good or bad, we are four very vocal and sometimes hard-headed individuals.
Although my wife and I worked very hard to help our children reach some semblance of sexual integrity, everything didn’t work out exactly as we, or our children, hoped. Sometimes our parental guidance and protection went too far and caused our children to feel stifled. Relationships were strained at times. In some areas, one or both of our children began fearing sex rather than looking forward to it in marriage. This is never a good thing. In other areas, we were too lax and allowed influences to take hold, even if only for a short time, that caused damage. We tried really hard, but we made mistakes in judgment along the way.
Tips for Parenting for Purity
I asked both my adult children what they would want to say to parents in relationship to parenting for purity. Sometimes it’s nice to hear from people who’ve been on the receiving end of parenting. Here are their responses:
My daughter, age 21, “While it is important to start having these conversations early and to keep having them often, they should not be solely stressing the dangers of sex and intimacy—the positive side is equally important in the context of an appropriate relationship. Too often that is neglected and young adults are left with this general fear of relationships and view them as somehow sinful. If all that a child hears about intimacy is negative, it is extremely difficult to suddenly switch into a new mindset of acceptance once they turn a suitable age to be in those kinds of relationships.”
My son, age 18, “It is true that talking about pornography, masturbation, fantasy, and dating will cause some arguments with kids and can lead to areas of distrust on both sides. Butting heads will likely happen along the way. It is also true that while it may reduce tension when a parent avoids talking about these things, it will leave really important issues unaddressed, leaving the kids really messed up.”
My wife, my daughter, my son, and I all agree that the end result of our attempts at teaching healthy sexuality are far better than what would have occurred had we done nothing. None of us are perfect, but all four of us learned a lot through the process of talking openly about sexuality as our children grew up. What I, as a parent, am most proud of is that both of my children are comfortable and open when it comes to talking about sex. They are highly informed and feel no shame in talking about sexuality. They also have more sexual integrity than almost anyone I know.
I guess that is my point. Integrity isn’t cheap; it comes at a cost. Our family is very close, but being close also causes friction. In the end, we wear off each other’s rough edges, but that takes a while. In the mean time, this parenting stuff is a little messy: completely worth it, but messy.
I hope any parent reading this is encouraged, rather than discouraged, to talk with their kids about sexual integrity. You don’t have to know all the answers, but don’t pretend you do to your kids. You don’t have to be perfect, just apologize when you aren’t. Always listen to your kid’s opinion, even if you don’t agree with it. Focus more on healthy relationships than “stopping” some negative behavior. That way, after the messy stuff happens, your parent-child relationship is still in tact and maybe even stronger than before.