Nearly every religion teaches the principle of chastity before marriage, but fewer and fewer people are observing it. The Family: A Proclamation to the World states that “God has commanded that children are entitled to birth within the bounds of matrimony.”
In today’s culture, most people consider sex before marriage normal. Movies, television shows, and popular music all reflect this. God, however, has not rescinded the strict standard of chastity he taught in the Bible. The Proclamation warns that sexual permissiveness is a major contributor to the disintegration of the family. Research supports this point of view.
The parent article to this one discusses the benefits of chastity in our own lives and for our marriages. In this article we discuss ways of helping young adults, teens, and children learn the value of chastity so as to make it a part of their lives right up into their marriages.
Teaching Children the Principle of Chastity
Without deliberate counter measures, children will tend to soak up the messages they’re getting from all quarters that sex before marriage is normal and acceptable. Thus, parents must make a concerted effort to teach their children there is a better way. Here are some practical ideas to help you in this effort:
- Be open, honest, and unembarrassed about sex. Respond to questions about sex–no matter how blunt–rationally, calmly, and accurately. Know well the physical elements of human sexuality and teach children the correct names for body parts. If your children feel confident you will talk to them openly about the physical aspects of sex, they will be more likely to talk about the emotional dimensions.
- Communicate that sex is a sacred act between husband and wife. Parents’ sexual values are likely to be held by their children, especially if parents talk about their values. What you have to say on this subject will be much more meaningful to your children than anything they hear from others.
- Be aware of myths and teach them to your children. Teens need to know that sex is not the same thing as intimacy. True intimacy occurs only in an enduring, committed relationship and involves relating with another person emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Teens need to know that sex will never hold a troubled relationship together. It cannot cure loneliness, doesn’t make anyone popular, and won’t make anyone feel better about himself or herself.
- Teach children about chastity when they are young. Teach children early about human sexuality and intimacy. Exactly what age is appropriate depends on an individual child’s maturity and what questions they ask. But don’t wait until the media, schoolmates, and others start leaving their imprint. Teach your children before they become too acquainted with the world’s views. Values instilled at an early age are likely to have protective power later, especially as hormones begin to kick in.
- Be warm and loving. Children need loving, warm acceptance from their parents. Some youth seek sexual intimacy as a way to feel loved if they’re not getting those feelings at home. The need for love and touch varies at different ages and stages. For example, infants need continual affectionate contact. Older children appreciate hugs, kisses, gentle touch, warm conversation, and being told “I love you.” When children feel the love of their parents, they are less likely to seek its counterfeits elsewhere.
- Set clear rules. As a family discuss your values about chastity, set dating standards, and come up with strategies for maintaining chastity. Many families find that two rules are particularly effective in helping their children remain chaste: (1) no dating until age 16, and (2) only double dates or group dates until age 18.
- In two-parent families, be loving to your spouse. If your children see you behaving courteously and warmly with your spouse, they will learn the value of affection that is expressed within the boundaries of lifelong commitment.
- Make your home teen-friendly. Teenagers often complain of boredom, and this is an area where you can fill the vacuum. Make your home a welcoming place for other teenagers so your children feel comfortable hanging out with friends within the safety and comfort of your watchful eye. This simple act of opening your home can make a profound difference in your child’s life as you help them escape the unchaste behavior many teenagers indulge in because there’s “nothing better to do.”
- Know your teenagers’ friends, their friends’ parents, and who your teens are dating. To effectively monitor your teen’s activities, you need to fearlessly ask the four W’s: Who is your teen with? Where are they going? What will they be doing? When will they be home? Know what’s going on.
- Encourage independence and self-reliance. Teenagers need to practice independence and decision-making so they will be prepared to make good judgments on their own. If your teenager makes a mistake, forgive him and help him strategize to do better in the future.
- Spend time with your kids. Teenagers (when they’re not bored) tend to be constantly on the go. Finding time to keep up your relationship with them can be daunting. One mother having this difficulty with her 17-year-old decided that when her daughter was on a date, she would go to sleep on her daughter’s bed. When the daughter got home, mother and daughter would talk about the date. Usually it was late and their conversations were short, but sometimes they ended up talking and laughing for hours. Not only was their relationship strengthened, but also the mother was able to make sure her daughter was home safe and on time.
Practical Ideas for Teens and Young Adults
Teenagers and young adults should carefully think through how they intend to behave with members of the opposite sex. They should anticipate what situations might becoming challenging and practice strategies for resisting temptation. Here are some practical ideas:
- Determine your standards for behavior with the opposite sex and write them down.
- Share your standards with your family and friends. Ask them for support.
- Choose friends who share your beliefs about chastity. Break off ties with friends who have a more permissive attitude.
- Date only people who share your views about chastity.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. Indulging in either one makes it much more difficult to maintain your standards.
- Avoid music, TV shows, movies, videos, and magazines that include sexual content or promote premarital sex.
- Don’t allow yourself to be alone in an empty house or room with a member of the opposite sex.
- Make friendship, not physical affection, the foundation of all your relationships.
- When dating, choose activities that are public and productive, like walking together, biking, bowling, socializing with other friends, etc. As you spend time together in these ways, you will get to know each other better and you will avoid tempting situations.
- Do not participate in any activity you find sexually arousing, such as backrubs, cuddling, and kissing.
Written by Christine Bakker and Jill Cox, Research Assistants, and edited by Stephen F. Duncan, Professor, School of Family Life, Brigham Young University.
This article is adapted and extracted from The Benefits of Chastity Before Marriage, which came from the website Forever Families.