How Can Parents Help Their Kids Cope with Sexual Pressures Today

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2003
Kids must know their convictions before they set their standards and know why they must set their standards before they date. With all the pressure from TV, movies, books, and music, it’s best to start by having them think through their convictions so they can set their standards before becoming involved in a dating relationship.


Don’t accept the myth that says, “Our kids are hopeless, they will do it anyway.” Teenagers may say, “Everywhere I turn, I see sex. Sex education, Planned Parenthood, television, movies, and my friends all tell me the same message: Now is the time to be involved sexually.’ The philosophy everywhere is that since we are going to be sexually involved anyway, give us birth control.”

Parents need to help their children see the error of this approach by applying this same reasoning to drugs—another powerful experience. This nation should be grateful that Planned Parenthood is not in charge of our drug program. Just think what things would be like if our drug programs had the following philosophy: “I don’t care what you say. Most kids are going to take drugs regardless, and there’s nothing we can do about it. So we need to make it safe. We need to have drug clinics at our schools; we need to pass out clean needles, and we must give our children safe places to get high and come down.”

When educators say our kids are going to do it anyway, what they’re really implying is that our kids don’t have the character or cannot develop the character to say no. What an insult to our children! They’ll say, “Look at sexual involvement today. Look how high it is. That’s proof.” But isn’t that admitting what everyone really knows—that there was a time when kids really weren’t sexually involved? The truth is that our kids are not helpless. They can say no with a little encouragement. But if we assume they have the morals of an alley cat, should we be surprised at the outcome?

Don’t compromise by saying it’s OK to say no. It’s not just OK, it’s right to say no. Today especially, it’s the smartest and wisest thing to do.

How can parents help children verbalize the right attitudes when they are under pressure from their friends to have sex? One way is to teach your children effective responses. These can be modified for different situations. The point is to help your kids make their feelings clear up front without unnecessarily damaging a potential friendship. Of course, if Christian young people restrict their dating to those who are also committed to virginity, this approach is unnecessary.

But here is one approach. The first and second time your children are pressured to have sex, they should emphatically say no. The third time, they should share their feelings. For example, they should say to their friend, “How do you think this makes me feel? It makes me feel that all you think about is that I’m a sex object. I’m not. I’m a person. But all you seem to care about is sex. Do you care about what I think or what I feel? Or do you just care about your own desires?”

The fourth time, if they have said no and shared their feelings, and they’re still pressured to have sex, then they should walk away from that person, because he or she is not a true friend. Your child is better than that and deserves more from life than what that person has to offer.

But what do you do if, for whatever reason, your kids find it difficult to be so direct with a negative answer? Some people may find it difficult to say no. For a man it may be seen as a threat to his manliness or his self-esteem. If a girl pressures him to have sex, he feels it is his manly “duty” to do so. Or, if a girl says no to a man’s sexual pressure, the guy may think he has to push her even more to “prove” his manhood. Or, for a woman, if someone says no to her sexual pressure, she may think, “Well, what’s wrong with me. Aren’t I desirable?” To handle this situation, teach your children to try a reinforcement approach that keeps communication clear and open. Begin with a positive reinforcement, then insert the negative, and then close with another positive reinforcement.

For example, say a guy pressures a girl to come over to study with him. He calls and says, “I’d really like for you to come on over. My parents are gone, and we can study together.” But she knows he has other things on his mind than history books. What can she say? She should start with the positive. “Jim, I’d love to study with you. You’re a lot of fun to study with.” That’s a positive statement. Then put in the negative: “But I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to come and study with you when your parents are away.” Now the positive: “But I think the library is open. Why don’t we go there to study?”

If your children learn to develop an overall positive approach that still permits them to avoid compromising situations, it can help them to say no.

Other Ways to Help Your Children

Have them write out their convictions about sex. What do they believe? What standard will they live their lives according to? Have your children do this with Christ, God, the Bible, sin, sex, family, drugs, marriage, personal dating standards, and so on. This will help them formulate their convictions. Parents should help their kids along the way. It is a great time for family sharing of the important issues in life—issues that can dramatically affect the quality of their future.

Encourage your children to set their standards before they date. Kids must know their convictions before they set their standards and know why they must set their standards before they date. With all the pressure from TV, movies, books, and music, it’s best to start by having them think through their convictions so they can set their standards before becoming involved in a dating relationship.

Parents always model standards for their children. Don’t expect your young people to have standards stricter than your own. How do you live? How do you talk? What do you watch? What do you read? How do you treat your wife/husband? Your children are picking up on all of it. If you want your kids to respond in the right direction, they have to see these standards in your own life. If children don’t see them in parents’ lives, then parents shouldn’t expect to see them in their children’s lives. Parenting isn’t just rearing children and enjoying them; it’s a responsibility to mold their character and provide them with the gift of a positive start in life.

Have young people plan their dates. Many young people say, “It was on those dates when we had nothing to do that we got sexually involved.” So parents should ask certain questions: “Where are you going on your date? What are you going to do? When will you be back? Who will you be with?”

Parents might think, “Kids won’t go for that.” But you’re wrong. They will go for it. It’s very interesting to see how many teenagers will use their parents as the excuse they need to respond to sexual peer pressure: “I can’t do that because I have to be in by 10:00,” or, “I can’t go to that kind of party because my parents wouldn’t approve.” Kids know what is right and wrong more, perhaps, than we give them credit for, and often they are looking for ways to avoid situations they know they can’t handle. When parents have communicated their standards to the kids and have stood firm, such parental concern gives the kids a legitimate chance to make wise decisions under peer pressure.

It’s good for teens to briefly pray together on a date. But encourage them not to hold hands or pray about their negative feelings. (For example, “Oh, Lord, I feel so lonely tonight. I wish that somebody would really love me.”) Be cautious about having kids pray together or read the Bible together for a long time, because it may lead to physical intimacy. But a brief prayer, committing their goals and time together, helps. They can express their love to the Lord and their desire to please and obey Him on their date.

Teach your children to communicate their standards up front to those they date. This is crucial. At the start, kids need to communicate clearly things such as: “I don’t want to kiss. I want to get to know you as a person. I want to find out if we can be good friends.”

How Can Parents Help Young People Handle the “Pressure Lines”?

There are many ways to provide your children with proper responses to sexual pressure. Here are some responses you could rehearse with them.

Line:“I love you so much.”

Response:“Is sex love?”

Line:“Well, if you love me, you’ll let me.”

Response:“If you did love me, you wouldn’t persist in pressuring me to do something I don’t want to do and that isn’t good for either of us.”

Line:“Everyone else is doing it.”

Response: “That’s OK. I don’t want to be like everyone else, and I certainly don’t want what everybody else has –STDs, guilt, divorce, or AIDS. I don’t want that.”

Line:“Well, all the other girls are doing it.”

Response:“So, date them. I’m not like them.”

Line:“You’re not a man if you don’t!”

Response: “What would you know about being a man?”

Line: “I would never get married unless I know we are sexually compatible.”

Response: “Then I guess we aren’t.”

Line:“Come on, it feels so good.”

Response:“So does doing drugs; that’s not the issue.”

Remember, the research shows that for all teenagers, the number one resource they would like to have for information about sex is mom and dad.

The time a child doesn’t want to get information about sex from mom and dad may be when he’s just engaged in sex. Parental contact usually adds to the guilt, so this is the one time the child doesn’t want mom and dad involved. But this is exactly when parents need to extend the grace of God to their kids. If through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross God cannot deal with sexual sin, then He can’t deal with any sin. After the fact, we need to be ready to extend forgiveness, to help our children get up and get back on the right road.

Admit your sin. Somebody may say, “Can I become a virgin again if I admitted sin?” No. You can only give up your virginity once, but spiritually you can become a virgin again in your mind. You can have your mind cleansed. So number one, admit that it’s sin.

Confess it. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Acknowledge God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself. Anytime you don’t forgive yourself you’re saying two things: first, you have a higher standard than God, and, second, Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was not sufficient for your sin.

Show fruits of repentance. This may include breaking off with the person that you committed that sin with or saying, “I won’t go to that kind of party again. I won’t see that kind of a movie or listen to that kind of a record again.”

Don’t feel condemned, just convicted. The Holy Spirit points out when something is wrong and convicts us not to do it again. But when He does this, He points us to Christ for forgiveness. When God says, “Don’t commit sexual immorality,” He says it because He loves us and wants to protect us. It is Satan who condemns and attempts to foster the guilt and self-hatred that can be so destructive, especially to sensitive teenagers.

Children are a precious gift from the Lord and a terrible thing to waste. “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3). Although formative years can be wasted, it is never too late to begin to educate your children in godliness.

Parents are privileged to have one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences in all of life: to raise their children so that they become wise and godly young men and women—people whose principal goal in life is to serve and honor Jesus Christ, no matter what vocation they choose. “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

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