Life in the twenty-first century moves pretty fast. The pace of innovation is mind-blowing and seems to reshape how we live, work, and play every few years. Yet when it comes to parenting a teen and addressing the subject of sex, the biggest challenge many parents face is not the task of keeping up with tech or pop culture trends; rather, it is talking about
sex with their kids. While anxiety about this is understandable, it is no justification for inaction.
Dr. John Townsend provides a useful framework for parents in his book Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No. Three primary recommendations should guide our approach as parents:
- Have “the talk” and keep on talking. Parents need to look for teachable moments and bring up the topic of sex and sexuality so often that it becomes a comfortable topic of conversation between the two of you. No matter how much they moan and groan, your kids want your guidance, your attention, and your opinion on this subject.
- Listen and find out what is really going on. Your teen has real feelings, desires, experiences, and fears about sex. Get to know them, show that you care, and develop a trusting and grace-based relationship through dialogue. Offer support, help them understand their feelings, and be open and honest about your own experiences. Stories help all of us, especially adolescents as they struggle to navigate change in an often hostile world.
- Confront any sexual activity you know about. If you learn about any sexual activity, address it with your teen; he or she is probably in way over their head and desperate for your help. Your reaction will make all the difference; overreaction and condemnation can create deep wounds, while a loving and understanding (yet firm) response can lay the groundwork for healing and growth.