~Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality # 96
When parents of young adults are asked if they prefer to become grandparents
before their child is married or after the wedding, nearly all parents say that they prefer to wait until after the marriage. In fact, most parents will express grave concern that teen parenting is harmful for everyone involved; the young adult, the child, the family and society. And, if parents are asked if they prefer their children to marry for life or to marry for a while and then divorce, nearly all parents will again say they want to avoid divorce. There is consensus among parents that babies should be conceived within marriage and that youth should marry for a lifetime.
What is very interesting is that the same group of parents will hesitate before answering another question on the same topic. When the same parents are asked if they want their children to wait until they are married to engage in sexual activity, most will respond that they are unsure of how to answer this question. Many parents will admit that they don’t want their children to become sexually active. However they will quickly add that they do not believe that their child has the ability to wait until the wedding night.
Why do so few parents believe that their young adults can wait? The most frequent answer is that most parents know that they didn’t marry as virgins either. So, if they couldn’t make it, why should they expect something more from their offspring? Another reason is that parents think that sexual activity is nothing more than a rite of passage into adulthood. It is something that you do to prove you have matured. But the most damaging reason given by parents is that kids today can engage in sexual activity without getting pregnant because of contraceptives. Parents believe that if the fear of creating a baby is eliminated, then it really doesn’t matter if the kids engage in extramarital sexual activity or not.
Isn’t it interesting that what parents want can be so different from what they expect? In the case of sexual activity, parents want their children to freely express themselves in ways that are loving, lasting and fruitful. But, they waver on supporting behaviors that lead to sexual restraint. This lack of expectation for actions that lead to what one wants results in a lack of direction for the young adult and that lack of focus can be deadly.
o understand this, it is necessary to look at current research which shows that sexual activity affects more than just the ability to become pregnant. It impacts the emotional, social, educational and psychological parts of a person as well. Youth who are
sexually active have higher levels of depression, more risk of being abused or being abusive, a higher likelihood of dropping out of school or underperforming, and a greater chance of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Conversely, youth who remain abstinent avoid the physical risks of sexual diseases, perform better in school, experience lower anxiety and report more happiness. Clearly, sexual abstinence before marriage leads to a better outcome.
Sexual abstinence before marriage can be expected by parents if they are willing to teach their children about the virtue of chastity. Chastity allows us to do what is right, good and loving in the area of sexuality and relationships. It is more than just “abstaining” from sexual activity. It is the ordering of one’s sexual desires towards what God intends. In this case, God intends all sexual expression to happen within marriage. People who are chaste know that sexual expression is a way to bond spouses to one another and to create new life. Persons who are chaste value these purposes by waiting to become sexually active until they are married. They also seek these purposes in marriage by practicing respectful self restraint when necessary. They also understand that chaste behavior will help them find the right person to marry because it is the clearest way to differentiate love from lust before marriage.
Even though a message of chastity is challenging, it is not impossible. Parents can set expectations for their young adult that remaining a virgin until marriage is realistic. They can send a constant message that sex is beautiful and should be shared with only one person within marriage. Parents can share that sex means much more than physical pleasure; sex speaks a language of love and life. They can make themselves available to listen and guide when the culture tries to pull their kids away. Parents can elevate chastity as an important standard for the family and remain constant in their unwavering support of sexual purity.
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