Is Your Teen Ready to Date?
Your teenager asks if he can sit down and talk to you for a little while because he has something important to say. You’re thinking it will be one of those moments that he showers you with compliments every parent desires to hear. Then out of nowhere, your teen begins to tell you about this girl who has been noticing him lately, and now he has the courage to ask her out on a date. Never mind the fact that he is only 14 years old. You have been the one nurturing him since he was brought into this world, providing food, shelter and always being at their beck and call. Suddenly, someone else has captured his heart, has grabbed his attention, and you are doomed to be the one who is to judge whether or not this possible relationship can go forward or not.
What is a parent to do?
Some parents think they have no choice – their teen will pursue a romantic relationship anyway, so why fight it? They feel like they have to say yes, and as a result, open the door to a whole new set of arguments, frustrations, and confusions. They assume this is just a normal stage of a teenager’s life. This issue is not whether you say yes or no about your teen going on a date. The issue is bigger than that.
Society bombards our teens with what looks like the “fun” or “popular” way to pursue a dating relationship. You don’t have to look very far to see the results of those types of relationships: broken hearts, immorality, and eventually, broken marriages. It is imperative that we teach our young people about relationships in general. This includes learning how to develop friendships which can lead to happy romance.
Myth #1: If I don’t date, I won’t be popular – I won’t have any fun as a teenager and everyone will see me as totally weird.
Young people are raised with the notion that they must date. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when and who. There is no wisdom or forethought put into what kind of person they should go out with or how to properly begin a relationship.
The fact is there are thousands of young people who have fun every night of the week and don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend. They have a set of wholesome friends who know how to laugh heartily, get wild, and be crazy without their hearts being attached to another person. In the long run, they will have much more fun with a group of friends than they would by being a part of the dating scene.
Myth #2: Falling in love is just a normal part of growing up. Everyone is bound to do it and get their heart broken.
Statistics say the average person falls in and out of love ten times before marriage. Think about it. The average person falls in love, breaks up, gets their heart ripped out ten times over! Their heart is literally broken ten different times before they find who they are going to marry. Then they walk down the aisle, look at one another gleefully, in the eye and say, “Here is the one little piece of my heart I saved for you.”
I don’t believe that is God’s best or His plan for marriage! Song of Songs 2:7 says, “Do not arouse love until it so desires.” That is repeated two more times on the Songs of Songs in verses 3:5 and 8:4. What does it mean? It is making reference to physical sex and act of “making love,” but it also indicates opening the heart and allowing it to be ripped apart.
There is a part of a young person’s heart and life that is not safe to open up to anyone until they are ready to develop a relationship that will last the rest of their life. The problem is that most young people cannot distinguish which part of their heart is which. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” We need to teach each other our young people to guard their hearts.
Most parents grew up having fallen in and out of love, and we kind of like the idea that it might be happening to our young person. “It is so sweet. It is so nice. You can see the sparkle in their eye.” Then your young person loses their purity. “What did you do that for? What is wrong with you? Didn’t I teach you better than that?!”
Teach your young person to hold their heart. They can have acquaintances and they can have fun with people, but they shouldn’t let their heart go. Warn your child not to open their heart before they are mature enough to know what to do with those feelings. I f you teach them early in life, it will save them years of heartache and heartbreak.
Help your teen understand that a healthy romance must first start with a healthy friendship. A sparkle in someone’s eye sitting across the room in geometry class is not an ingredient of a healthy friendship. At the end of breakup, most young people – as well as older people – will say, “I would never have dated that person if I had really known them.” But regarding people they have known for a long time, they say, “Oh! I know them way to well. We are too good of friends to date.” They are contradicting themselves and don’t even realize it!
Teach them about courtship rather than dating. Help your teen understand they don’t need to play the American dating game in which their heart gets broken so many different times before they get married. Courtships begin with wholesome friendship when they think they are mature enough, wise enough, and strong enough to handle romance. They should be accountable to their parents, friends, and leaders so they don’t accidentally slip up and give away their purity. Have them set guidelines on the kind of person they want to date, the kind of person they want to be before they date, and how they want to carry themselves in a dating relationship – before they enter one.
You might say this is too complicated for a young person – they just want to go on a date. Not so! I have seen dozens of young people who have committed to courtship instead of dating and have been spared the brokenhearted experience of lost trust. They have aborted the legacy of relationship mishaps that scar so many of our pasts.
This is not a hoax, a dream, or a fairy tale. This is reality – living life by principles found in the Word of God. It will rescue your young person from so much of what you as a parent have already been through.
You can’t regulate your young person’s heart. You can’t tell them who they love and who they don’t. But you can help them sort out what real love is. This world demonstrates many different forms of infatuation and purports them all to be love. We must help our teens sort through the confusion.
As you teach them on an ongoing basis the principles of real friendship, of a wholesome relationship, and of godly, wholesome romance, they will begin to take their own values and develop their relationships according to wisdom. We can help keep our teens from awakening their love before it is time.
What to do if Your Teen is Sexually Active
If you are reading this, your heart is probably sick and broken to know your little girl or young man is no longer sexually pure. The thing you dreaded happening has happened, or you have good reason to believe it may have happened. Before you get overwhelmed with, “If I had only…” let me say that there are a lot of things we can do to be better parents even now.
Remorse about your own performance as a parent will not help your young person at this point. What is important now is how you respond to the situation, that you rescue and salvage the relationship between you and your teenager.
Listen to what some teens have said:
“I am sexually active and I feel like it is unstoppable.”
“My mom knows that I am sexually active, but she doesn’t do anything about it.”
“All my mom did was take me to the doctor and have them talk to me about sex.”
According to George Barna Research Group, only 23% of the post baby-boomer generation claim to be virgins. Sexual activities among this generation are likewise disturbing. By age eighteen, 27% have experienced sexual intercourse, and 55% have engaged in fondling breasts.
Why do teens have sex? Girls and guys responded differently:
- 61% of girls and 23% of boys cite peer pressure from the dating partner as a reason teens have sex.
- 59%of girls and 51% of boys say it happens because they think they are ready.
- 45% of girls have sex because they want to be loved, while 28% of boys give that same reason.
- 38% of girls are afraid of being teased about their virginity, compared to 43%of boys.
In Josh McDowell’s Handbook on Counseling Youth, McDowell gives several reasons for premarital sex:
- Educational and Societal Messages. The message thrown at young people by society in general and by educational programs in particular are reasons for sexual activity.
- Low Level of Religious Commitment. More frequent attendance at religious services leads to more restrictive attitudes concerning sex and less premarital sexual experience.
- Family Structure. The effects of divorce and other family disruption and separation have been documented in numerous studies. One of those effects is sexual activity.
- Poor Sex Education at Home. Kids who don’t find the answers at home often learn the answers by painful experience. In the words of one teen, “Teenagers are ignorant about what they’re doing. All they know is that they were made with certain body parts, so they might as well find out what they’re used for. Sort of like test-driving a car just to see how well it performs.”
- Relational Needs. Many young people are uncertain of their parents’ love. One girl wrote, “When I was eight years old, I first had sex with a boy of 15. I did it because I lacked love and attention from my parents. I need love and my parents never show me any. Nothing changed at home, and at 15 I became pregnant…[and] had an abortion. Now I’m afraid to date anyone, and I cry myself to sleep every night.”
- Early Dating. The younger a girl begins to date, the more likely she is to have sex before graduating high school. It is also true of boys and girls who go steady in the ninth grade. Of girls who began to date at age 12, 91% of them had sex before graduation – compared to 56% who dated at age 14, 40% who dated at age 15, and 20% who dated at age 16.
- Peer Pressure. A study of a thousand teens showed that 76% would go far enough sexually to feel experienced and not feel left out.
- Alcohol and Drugs. The use of alcohol and other drugs hastens many kids to sexual involvement.
- Desire for a Child. Although most youth want desperately to avoid becoming pregnant, some teenage girls are motivated to become sexually active by a desire to have a child. She may feel so bad about herself and so unloved that she tries intentionally to have a child, someone she can love and will love her back.
The top reason teenagers have sex, according to the girls is, “a boy pressuring them.”
When a young person reaches puberty, it’s safe to assume the struggle with sexual desires has begun. You can make a number of observations to determine the intensity of your child’s struggle. How does your son look at girls? Have you found pornographic magazines in your teen’s possession? How does your daughter talk about boys? Does she emphasize only their looks and not their personality? When with a member of the opposite sex, does your teen constantly need to be touching?
How should you respond to your teen? First, be sure you show them you still love them. Sometimes the reaction can be so intense from a parent’s hurt, anger, and frustration that it pushes the young person further away until there is little hope of helping them regain their moral strength. Do not be so struck with shock that you fail to remember inside that they are still the same person. Most times the body has grown up a lot faster than the mind, will, and emotions. Right now your teen needs direction, someone who believes in them, and someone who is willing to help them gain wisdom in this situation.
The second thing you need to do is take a deep breath. Now that you have taken a deep breath and calmed down, let us backtrack a bit and ask a few different questions. How much have you talked to your child about sex? While 75% of parents have talked to their teen about sex, less than half discussed birth control, and only 55% discussed sexually transmitted diseases.
How much have you really explained to them? How many moral issues have you discussed with them? If you made it very clear to them that sex before marriage and any kind of petting before marriage is wrong, have you told them why? The world has inundated this generation with so much sexual indiscretion that it seems normal to a young person to have sex on the first date. The world promotes that it is morally okay to sleep around as long as you are not sleeping around with more than one person at a time.
With all that bombardment of the world’s values, what have we done to bombard our children with the right message? Fifty-eight percent of teens say they don’t have enough information on using different kinds of birth control. Seventy-five percent say they know how girls get pregnant, but lack of practical information about using contraception.
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3