With five kids of my own and countless conversations with parents everywhere, two things have become clear to me as a dad seeking to raise kids in a digitally-connected, porn-saturated culture:
First, no one has a perfect road map or a 3-step method, for parenting in our day. Not even the Bible—as absolutely central and essential as it is—offers a one-size fit all list of instructions for how to do this.
Second, if moms and dads are serious about shepherding their kids well in the areas of sexuality and relationships, then the most important thing they’ll need is their own hearts—engaged, healthy, free, and unafraid.
And if parents need their hearts, they’re going to have to face their pasts.
Rather than a 3-step method, if you’re a mom or dad, here are three areas of your past I encourage you to face in order to best be able to walk with your kids—from the heart—come what may:
1. Examine past sexual messages
Begin with a simple question: Where did you learn about sex? Most adults never heard about sex from their parents. If this was true for you, it means your primary sex-educators came from elsewhere: things said by peers or older kids, shows you watched, and experiences you had served as the sexual templates which shaped your sense of sex.
Similar factors are influencing your kids’ sexual templates today, only now the widespread availability of Internet pornography has become the go-to sex educator (or mis-educator) for kids. If you don’t talk with your kids, they know someone who will not only talk to them but will show them.
Action step: If you didn’t receive godly teaching in the area of sex, seek it out now. If not for yourself, than for your kids! It’s never too late to be a learner.
2. Be honest about past sexual choices
Sexual experiences shape us in powerful ways. This is a good part of God’s design when sex is enjoyed within His plan for marriage. But when it’s not, past sexual choices can leave impressions that do not simply go away as time passes.
Scripture reveals that sexual activity creates a permanent union between people. In 1 Corinthians 6:15-17, Paul urges us to flee ungodly sexual situations not because they are wrong on some ambiguous moral level, but because they forge a bond to another person that is real and lasting. This is wonderful in marriage, but also one reason why so many people struggle with comparison, mistrust, distraction, judgment, unrealistic expectations, anxiety, and even a sense of distance in the marriage bed.
Action step: John writes in 1 John 1:9 about the power of confession. James, also, indicates how powerfully healing confession is in James 5:16. Even if your ungodly sexual choice happened decades ago, I urge you to find a godly friend or pastor who can hear your confession and pray for you. Do so, and see if you don’t experience more freedom.
3. Acknowledge past sexual abuse
The most widely cited statistics say that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually assaulted before the age of 18, most often by a family member or close friend. If you were sexually victimized in any way as a child or teen, know that you are not alone. Know also, that you do not have to carry this alone.
Action step: For your own sake, I encourage you to seek the support and healing you need. In addition, the more healing you receive, the clearer your own heart and mind will be to respond helpfully to the challenges your son or daughter will face. Begin with simply finding someone safe you can tell about what happened. From there, find an experienced and prayerful helper or therapist who can help you process what happened, deal with the shame, re-establish healthy boundaries, break any uninvited one-flesh unions, and over time, forgive.
Like I said at the outset, there’s no easy 3-step process. But each of these, as difficult as they may be, will set your heart free to experience more abundance today, both for your sake and your kids.
You and they are worth it. If we can help, please let us know.