Is it possible to keep your daughter from having premarital sex? Today, professional counselor Sharon Hersh talks frankly to moms about helping their daughters stay pure.
Is it possible to keep your daughter from having premarital sex? Today, professional counselor Sharon Hersh talks frankly to moms about helping their daughters stay pure.
Bob: As a parent, when it comes to setting standards for your children, do you ever feel like you're saying the same thing over and over again, and your children are tuning you out, and you think what good is it? Author Sharon Hersh says don't give up.
Sharon: Advertisers know this, MTV knows this, worship leaders know this – that there is something about repeating something over and over again that literally traces a pathway in the brain. Where we get frustrated, and we drop out of parenting is we have no control as to when it will click in, and that's where we have to trust God that if we persevere, it will click in.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 16th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to help you out today with a game plan for how to reinforce biblical standards of morality with your teenagers.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. You know, I am probably like a lot of parents. My son is a freshman in college this year, my daughter is a senior in college this year, and I find myself thinking, again, like I think a lot of parents do – can a young person in this day and age get through four years of college with their hearts and their minds and their bodies protected, because when it comes to the subject of sex, the college campus is not a place that promotes a godly view of that subject with our children. You know what I mean?
Dennis: I do, and there's a lot of parents who are raising daughters – and sons, for that matter – but I'm going to focus on daughters today, who are on the precipice of the junior high-high school years, and they're asking that same question because, well, frankly, Sharon Hersh, who joins us again on FamilyLife Today – Sharon, welcome back.
Sharon: It's good to be with you.
Dennis: You shared a statistic about the number of teenage girls who have had sex by the time they're 19?
Sharon: Seventy-six percent, and let me just throw in another statistic if we want to just create a little fear before we offer a little hope – that 88 percent of girls who make an abstinence pledge break it; 50 percent in the first year after making it. And so that said to me, as a mother, "I need to be having different kinds of conversations. That just giving a purity ring and sending a girl to a conference, which I am all for, is not enough."
So whether we're talking about middle school, which is such a dangerous time, high school or, as you said, Bob, college. I remember in the middle of Kristin's freshman year of college feeling the panic again of knowing the stats about high school are only 100 times magnified in college.
I remember Kristin calling me once saying, "Oh, there's a friend of mine, a guy hanging out in my dorm room tonight." And I said, "Why?" And she said, "Well, he came and asked if he could because his roommate was having sex. I mean, this is college, Mom." And I felt my panic rise, and knew I had to start having conversations again. It was not time to stop, it was time to continue.
And when she came home the next weekend I said, "Honey, I just have to ask you, are your values still the same? And what's happening in your world with regard to relationships and what you believe about sex?"
Bob: Let's talk about some of these conversations you've had, because, as a parent, I know there have been times when I've engaged the subject with my sons or with my daughters, and it's kind of like, "Okay, Dad, hurry up, get this over with." I'm comfortable talking about it. They seem like it's the last thing in the world they want me to engage them on at all, and I go away going, "Well, I don't want to do that again. That's just really weird."
Sharon: Well, as Dennis said earlier, they are seldom going to lay down a welcome mat or say, "Oh, thank you, Dad, for sharing that with me. I hope we can do this again soon."
And so what happens, as parents, as we're shut down once or twice, or we get the eye rolls once or twice, and we drop out.
Dennis: We do.
Sharon: And it is our job to try again, begin again, invite again, create again, be creative, be compelling, to dwell in the possibilities. That is the job of a parent, and I do think the book, "Mom, Sex is No Big Deal," gives lots of ideas – creative conversation starters, strategies, projects, ways that you can talk about this that perhaps are new or fresh or real using some of the teen culture and yet also coming from a biblical reference that says, "Sex has meaning" – that it is an outward act that signifies a far deeper reality.
Dennis: Sharon, you're a counselor. You speak on this in seminaries and teach the next generation of counselors around this subject. Let's just put the cookies on a lower shelf. If you were talking to a mom today, and she asked you, "Sharon, how can I keep my daughter pure? How can I protect her virginity?"
Bob: What are the magic words? What can I say that will guarantee virginity?
Sharon: We do want those magic words, don't we? And yet that probably – that certainly is not the bottom line of this book. This book is about having a relationship through the ups and downs, the failures and the successes of our children even in this area, which, I agree, is a significant area. The Apostle Paul said there is a difference to sexual sins because it violates our bodies, our God-created bodies, for God-modeled love.
And so we have a reason for our hearts to pound and our stomachs to feel a little more queasy when it comes to this subject. But if the goal is just to control, to keep our children from something, they'll get, pretty quickly, that we have an agenda.
I tell parent often that what we really believe about sex comes across far more loudly or clearly than anything we say. So if our agenda is just to keep our daughters from getting pregnant or from getting a sexually transmitted disease or from embarrassing us, those scare tactics last about 10 minutes with teenagers.
So we, as parents, need to come to terms with what the meaning of sex really is. Is it a big deal? So that freshman year of college when I finally worked up the courage to ask Kristin, "What's going on with you?" She said, "Mom" – kind of like your children did – "Mom, I still believe the same things." But then she stopped, and she said, "But sometimes I wonder what I'm waiting for. I mean, after all, look at your life, Mom," and I was, like, yikes, I didn't mean this to be about me. I said, "What do you mean?" And she said, "Well, you love God, and yet your marriage is falling apart, you're sad and worried about the future, what are you waiting for?"
And, all of a sudden, I realized that when we talk to teenagers about waiting, sometimes we do it in very hypocritical and ineffective means. I think of the couple that I have counseled who are struggling in their sex life and encourage that perhaps they cuddle a little bit. And the husband will say to me, "Well, I can't do that because I just have to have sex." And yet he's teaching his teenage boys that they need to discipline themselves to wait.
I think about the single woman who has waiting into her 40s to be married and met someone on the Internet, and she's a Christian woman, and yet he's expressing interest in sex, and she said "You know what? I'm tired of doing things God's way. I'm tired of waiting."
Before we become disgusted and appalled by a generation of teenagers who seem unwilling to wait, we need to look at our own hearts and what we're willing to wait on God for. And Kristin's question really compelled me to think about not just the protection of waiting. We can talk to teenagers about that – about sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, about losing your self-esteem, your self-confidence, getting sucked into a relationship where you don't develop the rest of your life. The discipline of waiting, because it is hard.
But also that there is a gift in waiting, and what I would say to moms, and I believe this passionately with all my heart, far more than longing for my daughter to remain sexually pure – and I do long for that, and my son as well – I long for them to have an intimate relationship with Jesus, and that is most likely in having real conversations about our lives – our lives of waiting on God.
Bob: You know, I was having a conversation with one of my children about life and sexuality, and this child said to me, "I'm not stupid. I don't want to get an STD." And I remember thinking two things – first of all, I thought, "Well, I'm glad that there is still something in the back of your mind saying, if for no other reason, there is this barrier here. But then I thought, "I don't want that to be the reason that you don't want to be sexually active as a teenager, because of an STD. I would love to think you'd say, 'I want to honor God with my body. I want my marriage to be all that God wants it' – you know, I'd love that this child was thinking beyond the STD level.
As a parent, what do I do with a comment like, "I'm not stupid. I'm not going to get an STD," because somebody is going to tell your child, you know, if you wear protection you won't get one, or something like that, right?
Sharon: Certainly, and even as the new vaccine comes out, it will inoculate a whole new generation of teenagers that sexually transmitted diseases are not really a threat, or a preventative thought when it comes to sex.
I think a story could best illustrate how you continue a dialog that is meaningful and not just have a monolog, which is what we feel like we're having a lot of times is a monolog.
I love the story in the book about a girl whose name is Emily, and her mother, when she was an adolescent, created a scrapbook, and in this scrapbook she had a page for every subject you could think about with regard to this matter of sex.
There was a page about kissing, there was a page about sexual protection, there was a page about abstinence, there was a page about marriage, there was a page about different forms of sex that are certainly prevalent and talked about in the adolescent culture.
Dennis: And what was this mom trying to do? Was she trying to educate her daughter about the subject?
Sharon: She was trying to have dialog, and this is how she did it, and she was so creative. In the middle of the page, she had cut out quotations or pictures from magazines, and then she had a column that she would write in, and a column for her daughter to write on.
So let's say we'll take the subject of STD, and the mom might write, "I want you to protect yourself from this, and these are some statistics I know, and this is how this could affect you with regard to fertility I the future when you want to have children." And the daughter would write back, "Yeah, but I hear that you can take a pill and you can be cured quickly, and it's not that big of a deal, and a lot of my friends already have sexually transmitted diseases. They were having dialog, but it's what I call shoulder-to-shoulder dialog which, sometimes with teenagers, is not as threatening. It's not in-your-face, that intense conversation that we parents want to have.
Well, eventually, at the bottom of this page, this girl wrote, "I value my body and my future enough that I want to protect myself from any sexual transmitted disease." Well, this girl is now 24. She's married, and her husband has said that this scrapbook is the greatest gift that his mother-in-law has given to their marriage, because it was a sex education that allowed this daughter to develop her own sexual ethic in the safe context of a relationship with her mother that was non-threatening, non-judgmental, open to dialog.
Bob: Let me tell you about something I just started doing recently, and I don't think my kids have caught on to it yet, so it's still working. Does your daughter or you son, do they have a blog online? Do they have …
Sharon: Oh, all kids do these days, don't they?
Bob: They do. I mean, all five of our kids have these blog sites where they're keeping a diary. And a couple of years ago my kids thought it would be funny, they made one for me, and they were posting my stuff. I mean, they were basically – and everybody knew they were kind of making it out – "Here is what our dad would be posting today if he posted, but he doesn't."
Well, a while back, I thought, you know, "I go to their blogs and read what they are writing, because it's keeping me in touch with their world in a way that I wouldn't get in touch otherwise." And then I thought, "I bet they'd come to my blog and read what I’m writing if I was writing something there that they wouldn't listen to me say across the dinner table, right?"
Bob: So I just started posting, not to them, but just like you'd keep a diary. I did a post the other day where I had come across an article that I'd read on pornography and the impact of pornography on the culture, and how prevalent it is among young men 18 to 24. Two out of three young men are visiting pornographic sites once a month or more.
And I thought, "Okay, I've got three boys. Which one is going to be the one who doesn't visit the pornographic site?" So I just went on and just blogged openly about that.
Well, I know my kids have been by and read that. They haven't said anything to me about it but, actually, I can trace on here who is going by and looking at my blog site. So I know they've read it. They didn't leave any comments. They just read it, got the message. It's one of the subtle ways that I can keep the communication going.
Sharon: It's a wise and winsome way to use the culture, and that is what we parents really need to get savvy to.
Dennis: I want you to comment on something that is so prevalent among teenagers today, though, Sharon, because you're a counselor. You've also raised a couple of children through adolescence. That's a subject that came up in the late '90s, and it was all about sexuality, and it was on the evening news, and this generation of teenagers is participating in this kind of sexual activity, which will remain unnamed here on the broadcast.
But a lot of young people today consider themselves technical virgins when, in reality, they're participating in a form of sexual activity that really robs them of their virginity.
Sharon: It does, and far more than their virginity, of their self-esteem, especially when it comes to girls. You know, teenagers have euphemisms for these things as well, and I have heard girls talk about this type of sexual behavior as "the ticket." This is the ticket to a relationship. In other words, what she's saying is if I do something that I know is demeaning to me, then I'll have a boyfriend, and, sadly, what most girls find out is it's not a ticket to a relationship, but it is a ticket to a demeaning and debasing experience where the girl almost always pays.
And I will go back to something I said earlier – when teenagers begin to understand that their private parts are connected to their hearts. So even if a girl's private parts are not exposed, she is connecting to a boy in a way that connects her heart to his heart. And the damage that is done is catastrophic, especially in this type of sexual behavior where girls are often discarded, are laughed about, are talked about behind closed doors, are certainly not regarded with esteem and honor. I will often ask a girl, when she discloses to me that she is engaged in this sexual activity, kindly – "So was it everything you dreamed it would be?"
And I have never had a girl respond with anything but tears. And then I will say to her, "Do you know that you never have to do that in this type of a relationship again?" And this may surprise you guys, but girls often look at me like, "Really, I don't?" It's not what is necessary to have a relationship today, and so I teach girls in my counseling office, from their very first date with a boy, whether it's even a date or not – their very first time with a boy, it is not presumptuous, it is wise to say "I need to let you know that this is what I do not do."
Dennis: Do they name …
Sharon: Yes, I tell them be specific. This is what I do not do, this is what I will not do, from the very first. And girls' eyes get big, and they say to me, "You mean I can ask for what I want?"
Bob: So the girl who would say to you, "I hear what you're saying, but that's not going to work at my school because if I said that to a guy not only will I not go out with him again, but the word's going to get around, and I'm not going out with anybody again." You'd say that's not true.
Sharon: I'll say two things to that girl, because I will hear that, and I'll say two things – I want you to be more curious, not about the ticket or the night in the basement at the makeout party. I want you to be more curious about how you're going to feel the next morning. And when you ask teenagers to check themselves before they wreck themselves, they get that.
Dennis: Or a picture, the gift they'll give their spouse on their wedding night.
Sharon: To think about the future, and teenagers can think long term.
Dennis: They can.
Sharon: If we, as parents, really put that before them. And then, to this whole question of "I'll never have a boyfriend if I don't just do what everyone else seems to be doing," my answer to that is "Oh, yes, yes, yes you will. You may have to wait, and in the waiting there are many gifts that come. You develop hobbies, passions, interests, self-confidence, a sense of your own faith, and you begin to become someone that will attract the type of boy that you really want, because if you will settle for anything, you will attract a boy who will settle for anything, and that is disaster."
Dennis: Here is what I want the moms and dads to hear – this subject about "the ticket" – we must talk to our teenagers about today. They're talking about it at school, starting in junior high, moving into high school, even in Christian schools. Now, you need to do it with diplomacy, and you need to do it being tactful and being careful not to stir up something within them that doesn't need to be stirred up.
But, on the other hand, as a parent, if you don't have the conversations, if you don't empower them to take a stand and build some boundaries in their lives, Sharon, as you're talking about a teenage girl doing, where is she going to get the courage to do that? Hopefully, it's from her mom and dad who say to her, "You know what? You need to have boundaries in your life with the opposite sex and say 'Here is what I stand for, here is what I won't do.'"
And then I just want to add this – Dads, dads need to be in their daughter's lives, and they need to be talking to these young men who take their daughters out, and it's not to intimidate – although a little bit – it is primarily to help these young people build a fence and protect them. They don't have adults doing this and, more than ever, this generation needs parents. It needs parents to love their kids, to cross that threshold of uncomfortable feelings and feelings of being a coward and not wanting to engage in the conversation and have those tough discussions with your daughter and your son.
Bob: And if they're going to have the courage to do it, they're going to need help, they're going to need resources like Sharon's book, which we have in our FamilyLife Resource Center.
Dennis: Yeah, and, Sharon, I want to thank you for just your courage. You've faced some pretty tough things in your life, as a woman, and both Bob and I are proud of you.
Sharon: Well, thank you.
Dennis: And you're doing a good job, and we just appreciate your work in this book and pray that God will use it in a lot of families' lives.
Sharon: I pray that, too. Thanks, Dennis and Bob.
Bob: We hope there will be a lot of parents who will go to our website, FamilyLife.com. Click the red button that says "Go," that they see in the middle of the page. That's where they'll find more information about your book, "Mom, Sex is No Big Deal," and about other resources that we have available in our FamilyLife Resource Center on this subject. In fact, there's a full color magazine, it's actually kind of a big book-like magazine, that Rebecca St. James has put together called "SHE Teen." It's designed so that teenagers have something that they can read on this same kind of subject. So a mom can read your book, and a teenager can be reading the "SHE Teen" magazine-like book, and it may open the door for some conversations on this subject.
Again, we have a lot of resources that are available. You'll find information about them on our website at FamilyLife.com. Click the red button that says "Go" in the middle of the page, and you'll find resources listed there, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY for more information about resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife – 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Someone on our team will let you know how you can get any of these resources sent out to you.
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And, with that, we're going to have wrap things up for this week. I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can be back with us on Monday, when we're going to be joined by Pat Gelsinger. Pat works for Intel. He's a vice president there. Intel is the dot-dot-dot-dah, people, you know? We're going to about how you balance a high-demand job with faith and family – how he's learned to do that during his time at Intel. I hope you can be with us for that conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Kenny Farris, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend, and we'll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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