Tiffany Jones, Connexions Manager
Parenting Through the Culture Chaos
How do we guide our youth well through the sex-saturated culture we find ourselves in today? It's not as if either of us (them or ourselves) feel the deep need to open uncomfortable or awkward doors. If anything, most of us shrink back from uncomfortable situations. So why is this so important to do right now? Our kids are being educated 24/7 by their culture and the world around them. It is influencing how they view themselves, the world, and others. Combine that with the society of today which focuses on openness and expression about sexuality and it becomes a lose-lose situation.
One of the most binged watched shows amongst youth 2018-2020 is Sex Education on Netflix. This show follows a group of high school friends as they explore their sexual journeys, identity, and love lives. Teens have gravitated to this show as they can find answers about sex and identity without having to feel uncomfortable or awkward by having a conversation with someone they know. This show has become a premier education tool for many youths, who are learning how to view themselves and the world around them.
As parents and mentors, it is our job to provide truth and honesty to combat the messages our youth take in regularly when engaging with culture, society, and media. Our world today is more than happy to educate our kids, we need to take back this responsibility and be intentional to combat those messages with biblical discipleship and mentorship. We need to be brave and vulnerable, understanding that innocence is an attitude, not a lack of information. Proverbs even speaks to this, when it says that the thing youth need above all else is wisdom. It's our jobs as parents, leaders, and mentors to teach them and guide them through age appropriate conversations about sex. Encouraging them to approach the subject thinking with their mind, body, and spirit on what is right and true.
So how do we effectively have these conversations? We start by acknowledging our own stories and teach them from a place of healing, regardless of what our past is. We need to have honest, authentic, and real conversations about this with our youth. Now reading this, you may say “You don’t understand how embarrassed, ashamed, or uncomfortable this will be for me." I want to say you are 100% right. Every person has had stories in their path and journey that elicit feelings of shame, guilt, or embarrassment.
I say this as a wife to a man who struggled and won the war with a long-standing porn addiction. While my husband and I do not yet have children, we have been involved in youth ministry for years and both have agreed we will be open, authentic, and honest when our children ask questions. Has this always been easy for us? No. There have been many conversations with youth where in my head I've thought, “Great! We are now known as the sex and porn couple. How will they look at us? What will others say? Will they still respect us as mentors and spiritual authorities over them?” This I will admit came from a place of shame, as I feel the Christian community has never dealt with the conversations surrounding sex (sex itself, homosexuality, porn, and masturbation) well. Being known as the couple youth can talk to when they have questions has not always been fun, but it's been rewarding. From those authentic, sometimes uncomfortable or even painful conversations came real and raw understanding, connection, and wisdom. In the long run, I've seen youth value our input which ultimately impacted their own choices.
What then, do these conversations look like? These conversations should not come in the form of punishment. We need to be honest so that when they come to us with concerns or are afraid they’ve made a mistake, we can respond with empathy and our understanding of heartache vs. anger. We need to show our kids our heartache around poor sexual choices, not anger or fear. We need to instill in them that while we may not agree, like, or approve of their choices at that moment we still love them and will be there for them. When we respond in fear or anger at choices they’ve made, we attack our connection with them. This is just as harmful as their poor choices for our relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, we can set limits and enforce natural consequences, but we also need to take off our armor and show our kids that what they do impacts us just as much as it does them. We feel hurt, sad, and scared for them in those moments. This opens the opportunity for them to experience the ramifications of their decisions while protecting the connection that matters (ours and theirs).
Finally, these types of conversations demonstrate to our kids that like Jesus, we care more about the condition of their hearts than managing their behaviors. God’s grace, understanding, and forgiveness towards sin sounds very “churchy” to youth until they encounter it. It’s the heart connection with them that will have influence. Here you can share and pour your love, values, wisdom, and guidance into their lives and demonstrate the gospel for them in real time. This is where your child will see that nothing matters more to you than them. They will begin to care about your heart just as much as you do theirs.