Having “The Talk” With Teens
About the Guest
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Beth RobinsonBeth Robinson, Ed.D, is a licensed professional counselor and approved supervisor for licensed professional counselors. She is also a certified school counselor and has a teaching certificate; she is a frequent expert witness in legal proceedings involving sexual abuse. Dr. Robinson and her family live in Lubbock, Texas.
Latayne ScottLatayne C. Scott is an award-winning veteran of the Christian publishing industry and has written more than two dozen books. She has a PhD in biblical studies and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
How can we articulate God’s high, beautiful view of sex to teens? Drs. Beth Robinson & Latayne Scott offer ideas.
Having “The Talk” With Teens
Dave: Growing up in church—and I didn’t go every week but my mom made me go—and when I went over the years, I can never remember anything being said from the pastor at church about sex, except bad stuff.
Ann: He scared you.
Dave: I honestly do not remember hearing ever anything but: “It’s something you don’t do until you get married,”—which is a good message, obviously—but I don’t ever remember hearing a positive message about sex.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
The only thing that I heard from my mom was that: “Don’t do anything until you’re married.” I never wanted to do anything, and I didn’t even want to go on my honeymoon. I remember thinking, as a 14-/15-year-old, like, “I don’t think that’s going to be me, because I already have that desire. What’s wrong with me?”
Dave: Yes—whether it’s from your parents, or from the church, or wherever—it’s like: “What is God’s perspective on sex?” And it’s actually unbelievably good. He created it, so it’s an amazing thing.
Let’s talk about that; because as parents, we need to be able to communicate that to our kids, as well as the dangers; but we err on: “Danger,” “Danger,” “Danger.”
Ann: We’re so afraid. Yes, we’re giving our kids: “Don’t do this; because the Bible says this and this will happen.” But you’re right; we seldom talk about the goodness of God in this great gift He’s given us.
Dave: The truth is—we know this today—that God wants married Christians to have sex.
We’ve got Dr. Beth with us back again and Dr. Latayne Scott. Thank you for being back on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back!
Latayne: Thank you.
Dave: We’re glad you’re here. You’re book is called Talking with Teens about Sexuality. Obviously, you [Beth], as a college professor and a therapist; and you [Latayne], as a PhD in biblical studies—what a blend, by the way.
Ann: —both mothers.
Dave: Yes; you’ve got kids, so you’ve had to navigate walking through this, foster kids as well. As we said, you’re [Beth] teaching freshmen in college. I’m guessing there’s a lot of questions about this topic; right?
Beth: There tend to be, yes, just a few. [Laughter]
Dave: —little bit. We’ve already discussed a little bit about the dangers going on in [the] teenage brain, things to stay away from, ways to have conversations.
Let’s talk today about the good; talk about God’s perspective on sexuality. What do we say to our kids? What do you say to your college freshmen? What are the goods that we don’t hear enough of that we should be sharing with our teens?
Beth: My mother inadvertently sent a very different message. I don’t know that she really realized what a strong message she sent. My parents were under a lot of stress when I was a teenager. They were caregiving for my grandparents. We literally built a house across a street from us and moved my grandparents there. My granddad was paralyzed, and we were caregiving him during my junior high and high school years. There was a lot of stress.
But my mother—at the time, I was kind of embarrassed about the conversation—but my mother had a conversation with me when I was a teenager. The thing she communicated to me was that the sexual relationship she and my dad had held the marriage together when the times were tough. I thought, “Man, that is powerful,” because I saw the arguing. [Laughter] But I mean, it was such a strong message.
My mother didn’t communicate it in any way that would have suggested that: “This is the message I want you to have”; it was just kind of a momentary comment she made in the middle of something, but that stuck with me.
Ann: How old were you?
Beth: I think I was 16 or 17. I thought, “Man, that has got to be powerfully good; because I have seen the struggle.”
Beth: My parents really came from very different places—wonderful Christian people/great parents—I would say their marriage struggled during raising kids and teen years. I think a lot of people’s do.
Dave: Oh, yes!
Beth: I came with that background. Then I come in—and I read in Genesis, where it says we are created in the image of God [Genesis 1:27]—I keep re-reading that; and I’m going, “Okay—all this sexuality stuff—I guess He kind of knew about it.” [Laughter] Don’t you think He kind of knew about it?
Ann: You think?
Beth: Yes, so lots of times, when I’m doing seminars and talking to parents and teens, I’ll divide the parents and the teens up. I’ll put the teens together and the parents together, so they answer different questions. But one of the things I like to say is: “You know, I read this in Genesis; let’s all read this.” I say, “Could we all agree we’re sexual beings?” They all raise their hand and say, “Yes.”
That opens up the conversation to where it’s okay to mention sexuality when we’re in a church; because God created us to be sexual, and sex is a way of connecting that is stronger than anything else. The biological research about sex is how strong a bond it creates—that is literally, almost unbreakable, biologically—that will hold a relationship together. And all we focus on is all the “don’ts,” not the “dos.”
Dave: So often, our perspective on sexuality has been the negative. Like I said, I grew up in church and never heard a positive; it was always “Be careful.” It felt dirty, you know? I know that probably wasn’t what he wanted it to come out like, but that’s what you felt.
So when you say that, my first response is, “Ooh.” I wonder how many people think, “Ooh”; and it should be “Ahh.” That’s a beautiful perspective to say: “Sexuality is a beautiful thing. God created one of the most intimate, beautiful experiences a person can ever have on the planet.” That’s a beautiful perspective rather than the opposite.
Ann: But Dave, this shows you that there’s an incredible battle going on for this area—in my opinion, a true battle—because you see the beauty of that, and then you see how it’s been twisted and warped; and there’s—
Ann: —there’s trafficking, and there’s abuse.
Latayne, you’ve talked about this a little bit. Talk about that battle that’s waging.
Latayne: Yes; we think that the resources we have are only those things on hand, or the things the world can provide, or that our logic or our experience can provide; but in
2 Corinthians 10:3-5, it says that we don’t wage battle the way the world does; because we have different kind of weapons, and these are weapons that have divine power to demolish strongholds.
Strongholds are those things that exist in our minds that have to be battled against. He also mentions “arguments” and “pretensions.” An argument is where you have two strong points of view. We have tools from God/divine tools that have power beyond our own selves to be able to go in and to demolish these arguments and to discern which is right and which is wrong.
It’s always a mistake, I think, to think that we’re on our own in this. You mentioned prayer—that and another thing that Beth and I both emphasize—is memorizing Scripture. There is something about the Word of God/its inherent power that, when you memorize it, and it becomes part of your mind and your soul, it really does change you, and it does change circumstances. All of those things are part of those weapons that God has given us, that are not our own weapons; and they’re not logic; and they are not any other resources that we have otherwise.
Dave: I think it’s really easy—and I know that we’ve all experienced this—to think that the war we’re battling or the battle is against a person.
Dave: In marriage, we often think it’s our spouse. We/at FamilyLife, we have a marriage getaway we call the Weekend to Remember®. One of the points that we make—we actually often will say to the couples sitting there—“Turn to your spouse right now and say, ‘You are not my enemy.’” But you know, you remind them of Ephesians 6: “No, there is an enemy; and he’s trying to destroy your marriage. You’re in a foxhole, and he’s shooting at you. You’re turning towards your partner in the foxhole when he’s there.”
As we’re talking here, that enemy, Satan, will use this area—sexual understanding/confusion, temptation, porn—you name it. I’m not blaming everything on the devil, but is he involved in this?—oh, yes.
Because when we talk about sexuality at our conferences, or at the Weekend to Remember, I’m always somewhat shocked at the number of people that come up and want to talk about their sex life or their marriage; and it’s usually pain.
Dave: They don’t usually come up and say, “Man, it’s one of the best things in our marriage; it’s brought us closer.” Like you were saying earlier, it’s pain.
I’ll never forget when Ann and I first went to the Weekend to Remember—we’ve been speakers for it now over 30 years—but this was our first going to the conference, engaged; two weeks from this weekend, we’re getting married. That’s the first time I ever heard that truth: “Your spouse is not your enemy,”—Ephesians 6—“You are waging war against spiritual forces in heavenly realms [Ephesians 6:12 paraphrased].”
What was it?—we got married two weeks later—six months later, we are in Wyoming at her uncle’s—right?—your uncle’s place, just for a little vacation. He uncle and aunt were gone; we were in the house, and we get in a fight in the bedroom. I remember I got up and was so mad I walked out of the bedroom, and start stomping down the hall. She yells at me. What did you yell?
Ann: “I’m not the enemy here! I’m not the enemy!” [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, and I remember I was so mad—because I was walking down the hall—because she had just reminded me of a truth that we had heard six months ago; and I’m mad that, “She’s right.”
But here’s what nobody knew—and she didn’t even know at that moment—two hours before that fight, I remember I got out of bed. They were all gone; I’m in a house I don’t know, and I went downstairs. I’m walking around, and I go over to the bookcase; and there’s pornography—back then print—Playboy/Penthouse—whatever it was, and I pulled it out. I stumbled, and I looked.
Two hours later, I’m in a fight with my wife. You don’t think there was an enemy? Again, I’m not blaming Satan; that was a bad choice that I made. But to step back, and look, and go, “There was a war going on behind the curtain; I didn’t even realize I was in the middle of.” Ann reminded me: “No, we’re together; we’re a team here. Let’s turn and fight him.” But the sexuality part was a part of that little battle.
Beth: You gave him a foothold.
Beth: That’s what it says in Scripture; you gave him a foothold.
Dave: Exactly what Scripture says.
How do we keep ourselves, even as adults and as parents in our homes, keep coming back with our kids, keep teaching the good/the beautiful? How do we stay there?—because it’s so easy to end up in the sewer/in the darkness rather than the positive.
I don’t know why you are smiling, but that caused you to smile.
Latayne: Read the Song of Solomon aloud. [Laughter]
Beth: I just think about/I’m not sure that Satan doesn’t have a huge foothold with our culture.
Beth: Our kids are just so inundated with sexuality; how can you not come back to it all the time?—I mean, if you’re just living in the world they are living in.
There are ways we can restrict it. We do have more parents, who are homeschooling and doing things like that to protect their children and to have more influence on their children too. But we have got to be so intentional about it and so willing to talk about it. I do think parents have work to do. Sexuality is so holy.
Ann: Exactly; but when you have sexual abuse/when things have been done to you that have harmed you, that doesn’t seem like a holy thing.
Beth: No, it doesn’t. You know, when you look at—we’ve got generations of people who have been hurt that can’t talk about sexuality without it bringing hurt—that’s where we have lost our way in the church. The church is global, denominational Christian; we don’t speak to this; we remain way too silent.
I do think that we have to be able to talk about it and say, “It is holy”; and we should look at it that way. There shouldn’t be girls, who are coming to see me in my office at LCU, who have gotten married, who have been told: “No; you are supposed to say, ‘No to sex,’ ‘No to sex.’” Then they get married, and their husband wants to have sex all the time, and all they hear is: “No,” “No,” “No.” They come in feeling shameful/degraded, because they don’t have a good biblical view of sexuality.
I’ll be honest; a lot of times, I have them bring in their marriage license. I change it; and I make it a license to have sex, and they walk out the door. [Laughter]
Ann: But I—
Dave: “Look at what my counsellor gave me, honey!” [Laughter]
Dave: But I do want to make sure our listeners understand: we do want to tell them to wait. “No,” is still the right answer to “Should I have sex before marriage?” “No, God’s saying, ‘I want something better for you, and it’s going be in a covenant called marriage.’”
What should our message be besides just: “Wait,” or “No”?
Beth: I think our problem has been our only message has been “Wait,” or “No.” We haven’t gone ahead and said, “This is a beautiful connection that you will share with your spouse; there is nothing else like it. It is soul.” I love that you [Dave] mentioned the soul; it connects your souls. There’s nothing else like that. It is holy, and God does know about it; okay?
Ann: It may not be great at first, and it could take time to get to know each other, and it will continue to get better. I think so often, in the past—and we are at fault at this, too—of saying, “If you obey and say, ‘No,’ then when you get married, it’s going to be amazing.”
Dave: —“and easy.” [Laughter]
Ann: So all these people are coming back, saying, “No, it has not been easy; because I still hear that ‘No’ in my head.”
Dave: We got a direct message on Instagram® this week—somebody reached out, and we love that—that people can reach out and we can help in any way that we can. They said, “I feel like I wasted my virginity; because I waited, and now I’m married; and it’s not anything like we were promised.” They were talking about the bedroom as much as anything else. That was her comment.
Of course, our response is: “Guess what? This is one of the hardest areas of a marriage to really cultivate, but you want to cultivate it with your spouse.”
Ann: —especially [when] so many of us come in with wounds today.
Beth: Yes, and I think that we should be providing resources so when our teens get to the point—or young adults, where they’re getting married—we should be providing them resources that prepare them for that, not [just saying]: “It’s going to be great.”
Ann: Yes, yes.
Beth: There are lots of resources that are available. I think all of that is realistic.
Ann: I have so many women coming to me now, who are married, who are saying, “My husband isn’t interested in the physical intimacy, and I thought he would be. I feel like I’m the one that’s pursuing him. Is there something wrong with me? There’s been porn involved in the past, and I think he’s still struggling.” Are you seeing that that is something that people are struggling with today?
Beth: I would say huge numbers—more than we’ve ever seen—men and women. We write in the book about how men tend to be more visual; women tend to read the sex stories and stuff or romance novels. I think that makes it so idealized that people aren’t willing to commit in a relationship to really develop a healthy sexual relationship with a partner.
Ann: If we’re talking—we’re talking to positives today—how are we talking to our kids: our sons and daughters—about the effects of porn?
Beth: I talk real openly. I’ve had more boys than girls live in my home. I’ll say to the boys: “That’s not how it is. That builds up an ideal of something that it’s really not. It’s not about all that physical. It’s really much more emotional and spiritual than we give it credit for, so that’s not how it’s going to be at all.” I think we have to be that honest about it and talk about how that’s not what it’s like.
Dave: Talk about—and I know we just have a few minutes left—but what would you say to the shame that men and women carry, because they’ve made mistakes in this area—whether it be porn; or maybe something that has been done to them, abuse-wise, that they carry and feel like they can’t get free of. There’s sexual shame and guilt that’s heavy that couples come up to us—man, you can feel it—they’re living in it, even though it’s maybe years or decades since they’ve made these decisions or things happened to them; but they are still living it. Because it’s so sacred and soulish in nature, it’s something that’s hard to shake, even if you understand the forgiveness of God.
Latayne: I was just thinking about what Paul said—and it’s a hard teaching—but he said that every sin that a man commits is a type of sin, but sexual sin is particularly destructive [1 Corinthians 6:18]. It is true that it’s destructive. The people that feel that pain—it’s not imaginary; it’s not they’re cooking it up in their brains; they’re not hyper guilty individuals—but sexual sin has a way of damaging in ways that other sin doesn’t, according to Paul, so we need to take him at his word.
But also, we serve a God who is a God of second chances and resurrections. When He says He takes our sins and throws them into the depths of the ocean, that means there’s no diver that can get out that. When He says He puts things out of His mind and He remembers them no more, that means that we can take His representation of our sins over our own, and in those darkest hours of our night, when we are counting up our own sins, we serve a God, who says, “I don’t even remember those,” and that’s a great comfort to me.
Beth: I think there’s something also very powerful about having a trustworthy partner that you can share openly that vulnerability/that sense of shame, having them be able to look in your eyes/hold your hands. Some of the things that you can’t even say, they’re there; and they’re able to know, and love you, and see you as whole. I think there’s a lot of healing to that.
Dave: I agree 1,000 percent. I’ve always said, “If you really want to see God change your life,”—and I know I’m being very simplistic here; there’s many more things—but I always say, “You need two things: the power of God/the people of God.” You’ve got to have the power of God—and we sort of think, “That’s all I need”; and in a sense, it is—but He builds us in such a way we need other humans that we can trust/that we can be safe with.
Even if you’re listening now, and you’ve got something in the dark you’ve never said to a friend/a trusted friend, this could be the day to take a step toward freedom. You’ve already told God, I’m guessing, and you’ve asked for His forgiveness—and He’s given it, by the way—but to tell a friend: maybe your spouse; or if you’re a man, tell another buddy; or if you’re a woman, tell a woman—that is the beginning of healing.
Ann: I can remember sharing with our high schoolers about my sexual abuse—they were old enough to handle it at that point—just sharing with them, because I think they thought I was a little hyper-vigilant about abuse or any circumstances that they might—
Dave: —protecting them, yes.
Ann: —be in that could cause them any kind of harm.
I remember sharing with them, feeling that: “Jesus has set me free from that shame”; but there is also something really powerful and intimate about: “This is why I’m so vigilant of you guys knowing God’s beautiful plan for sexuality, because He loves us so much; He longs for us to experience all the best that He has.”
By sharing my story, I felt this freedom, like, “I don’t want there to be separation between us.” I said it in appropriate ways. But I think there is something about freedom that comes from being able to tell another person: “This is what I’ve been through,” and then there’s this incredible miraculous resurrection of: “But Jesus has set me free,”—and maybe He’s not completely done with the healing—but He continues to heal.
Bob: God’s good gift of sexuality is something that can be a source of profound blessing in our lives when we use it according to God’s design. It can also be a source of profound pain and scarring in our lives when we don’t follow God’s pattern. This is why this is such an important subject for us to be talking openly and honestly with our teenagers to help them avoid the pitfalls and avoid the scars; and at the same time, to help prepare them for the great blessing that sexuality can be in a marriage relationship.
Latayne Scott and Beth Robinson’s book, Talking with Teens about Sexuality, is a guidebook. It’s a roadmap for us, as parents, to know how to talk about things like gender identity, pornography, purity, dating, same-sex attraction, social media/all of the subjects that are confronting our teens related to the issue of sexuality. This is a book we’ve got available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy of the book, Talking with Teens about Sexuality. Again, our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329.
By the way, if you’re not familiar with the resource FamilyLife has developed as a getaway weekend for parents and teens to talk about these issues of gender and sexuality, check out Passport2Purity®. There’s information about it on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com as well. You may want to make plans now for you and your son or daughter to get away for a couple of days and have these important conversations. If that’s the case, this resource would be a great tool to help you in that process.
Now, I know a lot of us are looking at this new year with expectancy and with hope—2022—we pray it’s going to be a great year for you and your family. We’re praying it will be a great year, here at FamilyLife. We’re very encouraged as we head into this new year because, over the last couple of weeks, we’ve heard from many of you who knew that we had a matching-gift offer that had been extended, and that motivated many of you to give sacrificially in December. We are grateful for that. We want to acknowledge that and say, “Thank you for your ongoing support of this ministry.”
We still don’t have the final numbers tallied yet from yearend giving. In fact, we’re still getting mail that was mailed to us in the last week of December; so we’ve still got some work in front of us, and I can’t report to you on the final results of the matching gift. But I can tell you just how grateful we are for your participation in that. So many of you reached out and said, “Thank you,” and cheered us on for 2022. We are looking forward to a great year, and many of you are helping to make that happen. So thank you for your support at yearend, and thank you for your ongoing support throughout 2022. We are grateful for, not only our listeners, but especially for those of you who are partners with us, here in the ministry at FamilyLife.
We hope you can join us, again, tomorrow when we’re going to talk about the challenges that can come with blending a family when you have older adult children. I mean, you would think, with adult kids, it’s going to be okay; and you’d be surprised. Well, you will be surprised as we hear from Terry and Carol Moss and their two adult children tomorrow. Ron Deal will be here with us, as well; I hope you can tune in for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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