In the quest to solve the mystery of relationships, children and teenagers turn to many sources. But the modeled behavior they see from their parents is the most impactful source.
Regrettably, my parents gave me little to no positive relational advice. “Keep your hands to yourself.” “If we ever catch or hear of you touching a girl, you’ll be severely punished and grounded for life.” “Behave like a Christian.”
Sadly, my pastor or youth pastor offered little more. “Girls, don’t let guys touch you because all they have on their minds is one thing.” Needless to say, relationships became the fearful unknown. Sex became something nasty and sinful, yet shrouded in curiosity.
What I learned about relationships and “the birds and the bees” I heard from my older brothers or the school locker rooms. I sought out whatever worldly sources I could find—and trial and error.
The World’s Impact
Sadly, we live in a very sex-crazed world. Sex sells everything from carpets to hamburgers. And lost in all this counterfeit “noise” is the secret to a healthy, wholesome, fulfilling, and God-honoring relationship.
Web sites, books, and magazines offer relationship advice, testimonials, and surveys on how to find “Mr. or Mrs. Right.” They describe what questions to ask, what signs to look for, and how to treat him or her. Some even offer advice on tantalizing sexual techniques. Oh, the things you can read while standing in line at the grocery store!
Fashion designers promote midriffs, short shorts, and yoga pants for young ladies. And they leave little to the imagination. Lord, have mercy. I about locked my son in his bedroom after taking him to high school freshman orientation! Of course, I expect some moms’ scolding. “Aww, my little girl looks cute wearing those things.” No, ma’am. From a healthy and wholesome man’s point of view, she looks like a prostitute.
Teen magazines offer advice and rating systems on styles, types, and preferences of kissing. They even encourage trying the latest “seduction moves” to speed up the trip to the bedroom.
The pressure to flaunt and give in to short-term pleasure at the expense of long-term satisfaction surrounds us. Magazines, movies, television programs, fashion designers, commercials, and computer games. Even “family friendly” television programs encourage lives without moral restraint. Invitations to instant gratification and pleasure tempt the young and innocent in almost every area of life.
The Absence of Sound Relational Guidance
Think back to your teenage years. Remember that unexplained loneliness? That deep desire to be loved, accepted by, and connected with someone special? Young people are not just acting out or being rebellious. They honestly want and need input in this critical area of life – and they need it from their parents.
Teenagers absorb worldly advice in the attempt to avoid relational heartache. The world whispers its immoral agenda in their ears. In the absence of your sound relationship guidance, they are left to figure it out on their own.
Unfortunately, many young people make avoidable mistakes. Loneliness and peer pressure take their toll. Curiosity leads to sexting which then leads to experimenting physically. This leads to feeling strong, uncontrolled sexual desires. Generally, this leads to their first intimate experience. Then comes an unexpected pregnancy. Or the sexually transmitted disease. Which leads to regret, shame, depression, and an altered life…
Do you see why parental guidance and modeled behavior are so important?
Very few children and teenagers seek their parents’ advice on relationships. Often, they perceive parents as unapproachable on this subject. Parents are “so not cool” or “with it.” Besides, what do parents know about true love?
Sometimes parents are uncomfortable talking about this subject with their kids. Maybe because their parents did not discuss it with them. Parents may be struggling with their own relationship “mystery” and have no substantial advice to give. Some teenagers, seeing their parents’ unemotional, detached, obligatory, or confrontational relationships, do not want to follow their example. Sadly, the relationship behavior children see modeled by their parents is often repeated in their own lives.
So how can parents equip children for the most intimate, sacred relationship of all? Thank you for asking.
Basic Relationship Tips
Here are some basic tips for equipping children and teenagers to better position them for relational success:
- Teach them their value in all four aspects of life from God’s perspective. The world wants them to focus on the physical appeal, charm, and feelings. However, in Mark 12:30, Jesus told us to love God with our heart (spiritual), mind (Intellectual), soul (emotional), and strength (physical). There is much more to your child than just his or her body.
- Help them discover and develop who they are in all four aspects. Until they know who they are, how can they know what they need? By understanding who they are spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically, they can start developing each specific aspect. Once they begin seeing who God created them to be, they can approach relationships from a position of strength instead of uncertainty and vulnerability.
- Consistently exhibit a god-honoring, loving, respectful, and interdependent relationship within your marriage. Your children are watching. What they see modeled will set their expectations for their own relationships.
Excerpted from Nate’s book, Matched 4 Life.