Convincing a young adult to reserve sexual activity for marriage is one of the greatest challenges a parent will face. There are many reasons for this. First, many parents themselves did not wait until marriage so they do not think they can expect their children to wait either. Secondly, some parents think that sexual activity before marriage is beneficial – something that can actually help the youth become a better spouse. Finally, some parents think that the pervasive sexual culture is a more powerful influence then they are. Thus, the best they can do is to teach how to engage in sexual activity safely.
All of the above ideas are based on flawed morality and logic. First, parents can and should expect their children to live according to God’s standards (not theirs) – and His standards are very clear. Sexual activity is a right and good of marriage. As the saying goes, ‘what you expect is what you get’. If you expect that your child can’t wait, they probably won’t. But, if you expect that they can wait (and make your thoughts known to the youth), they probably will wait.
Secondly, there is no evidence based research that indicates that sexual activity before marriage prepares an individual to enter into a lifelong, committed and loving covenant. On the contrary, a person who comes into marriage with a ‘sexual history’ that includes multiple partners and fornication brings more emotional baggage and relationship ills with them.
Finally, while it is true that the media today is oversexed and insidious, it is less influential than the love and care of a parent. Parents still sit in the chair of greatest influence when it comes to their children. When parents talk, the child does listen.
Let’s outline several strategies a parent can use to teach sexual purity to their young adult.
Model What You Want
This is the top parent strategy. If you want your child to respect their sexual powers of bonding and making babies – honor your sexual powers. Remember, honor involves three steps:
- recognize the value and innate dignity of the sexual act
- use extra effort to do what is right in all sexual matters
- maintain a positive attitude
Every time that you choose to mismanage your sexual powers (inappropriate relationships, viewing pornography, making sexually explicit comments or jokes…) your youth is watching and being impacted.
Expect the Best
All youth deserve the best from their parents. In this case, the best is to make sure that your youth knows and understands your position on sexual activity. Talk slowing and let the conversation unfold. Be ready to talk for more then a couple of times on this topic. Include the following:
- Explain God’s standards for sexual activity
- Explain how following God’s standards actually free a person to give themselves totally to their spouse.
- Firmly share that you believe in God’s standards and you want your child to follow what God has planned.
- Empathize with your child that waiting is difficult – especially because the physical attraction of sexual activity is so strong. Learn about their feelings and listen without reacting.
- Assure your youth that you will be there for her – you will pray for her.
Learn More about God’s Plan for Love and Life
The teen years present a great opportunity for parents and their youth to learn more about the true meaning of sexual love. As was previously mentioned, today’s culture does not hold sexuality as a fundamental component of each person – one that should be revered and honored. Thus, most resources on sexuality and it’s meaning will not be found in secular resources. That is why we suggest that parents team up with their young adults to learn the basic teachings of the Catholic faith on love and life.
- Consider studying the Theology of the Body together as a family.
- Purchase a book like Theology of the Body for Beginners to read together and then discuss.
- Watch a DVD series on Theology of the Body together and talk about what you saw.
- Visit an on-line resource (www.theologyofthebody.com) to read articles on the Theology of the Body and then discuss what you read.
- Get out the Catechism and read Part Three on the Life of Christ
- Consider forming a Theology of the Body study group in your parish