So, I’m sure the title caught your attention. I’m also fairly confident this post may ruffle some feathers but this topic has become something I am VERY passionate about… With teenagers this is a regular topic of conversation in our home. (Yes I am THAT Mom-I’ve made my kids blush too many times to count with the candid questions and conversations) Part of my passion has stemmed from frustration recently, with how little this gets discussed at church and in their small groups. This is a real thing and when we create an environment that makes it shameful for our teenagers to open up about their struggles, temptations and the topic in general, we are just asking for Satan to get a foot in the door. He will do everything he can to convince them they are the only ones feeling these things, struggling with these things, tempted by these things, and that they should NEVER tell anyone. Well, once he has convinced them of that, he has won the battle. Satan feeds off secrecy and lies. I understand that some people fear creating an environment in which our kids get TOO comfortable talking about these struggles, therefor losing the conviction that is appropriate and necessary to keep them on a track. However, I will argue that line does NOT exist as long as all of the conversations are had with the proper framework and the proper biblical context.
Now for those of you who are reading this thinking it is not the churches sole responsibility to have these conversations, I agree! As parents, it is our job FIRST to have open conversations and a constant dialogue with our children about sex, pornography, relationship boundaries and any questions that stem from these conversations. I do believe though, that we cannot do it alone and there is nothing wrong with expecting MORE from our church in regards to this topic. Traditionally the church has viewed sex and all associated topics as something you don’t really discuss. You may hit on it for second in a list of “struggles” in a sermon or two- but we don’t typically open the discussion for TRUE transparency and accountability among our teenagers and leaders. There is a problem with that. We have GOOD kids who are afraid to be open about what is considered a BAD topic.
Let me share my personal journey with this to maybe help others see that this is a reality for ALL of our teenagers in the world we live in. I have always had a VERY open relationship with my kids. It’s always been age appropriate as far as the information I give them, but it has also always been honest. So, when my older kids have asked me about my indiscretions in the past I have shared honestly with them the things that I chose and the regrets that I have now as a married woman and a mother. As a result of that, my kids have (for the most part) felt comfortable sharing with me their struggles in these areas. Obviously for boys, in the handheld internet world we live in, pornography can be an issue. I talked to my boys before I posted this and had their permission to share about some of our conversations, because they TOO feel the urgency of making these topics more prevalent in the church today. My oldest son is incredible-let me start with that. He has ALWAYS been honest, however a little while ago this struggle became something that was overwhelming for him. We had some difficult conversations in which we discussed the danger of these images, the lasting effects this can have and HE CHOSE to switch phones and have a very strict accountability software installed on his phone. He picked 5 accountability partners, ALL adults and those people now get texts if he ever struggles. This has helped immensely. I believe his words were “life changing” ❤ (I will have a coupon code for ALL of you to check out this incredible software at the end of this post. I CANNOT recommend it enough for ALL parents and teenagers)
Anyhow, the point of sharing this is to highlight that as much as you DO talk to your kids, and as incredible as those kids may be- THEY ARE NOT IMMUNE TO THESE TEMPTATIONS. When Jacob came to me, the first thing I did was apologize to him as his Mom, for thinking that he could fight these temptations all on his own. THAT WAS UNFAIR. Think about it from an honest realistic perspective- stepping out of your “not my kid” mindset for a moment. Even as a MOTHER, I see an attractive woman walking down the street in very short shorts and a revealing top (just for illustrations sake) MY eyes are drawn and I often times end up staring. What in the world would make me think my teenage boys, with raging hormones, would somehow be able to resist the temptation of letting their eyes linger too long? At this point it’s become a little bit of a joke in our house as we try to teach our boys to divert their eyes in situations like that. I will often times say
“Hey guys! Look at those birds over there! Look at the sky, it’s so pretty” to which they chuckle and quickly look up or away. (Little mom brag moment, I have noticed they will now do it on their own which makes my heart happy.) On a deeper level though, our children ALL have devices with internet access and images that are available at the click of a button, behind closed doors. Therefor this WILL be a struggle for them. We have to, as parents and as a body of believers, HELP our teenagers. One thing we have chosen to do is implement a “phone basket.” Our kids are not allowed to have their devices in any room where the doors are closed- instead they put their phone in the basket which is always located in a central area of our home. This has been a helpful tool for our family. You may be thinking to yourself “Oh I have safari disabled. Oh my kids wouldn’t, oh they can’t on their phone/tablet” All I will say to these is you are wrong. That is a false sense of security you have lulled yourself into. There is a way around ALL of those safety settings and I promise your children, or their friends, have found them. Without our kids desiring the accountability and without the open dialogue necessary to combat this, Satan is winning.
Here are a couple statistics that may open your eyes-
Statistically speaking, 93.2% of boys and 62.1% of girls have seen online pornography before age 18. (http://www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html – accessed June 6, 2014).
Only 12% of parents know their teens are accessing pornography. TruResearch (2012) Covenent Eyes 2015 Pornography Statistics.
I know a lot of you who will read this, as Christian parents, want to believe that these statistics do not apply to your children. I want to challenge you to ask yourself why? Why would you think that? Is it because you have chosen to home school them? Because that has not shielded them from Satan and the world they still live in. Do you believe that this could not be YOUR child because you have already had these discussions and you just KNOW your child would not be struggling with these things? Well, this one was me at one point and I later found out I was wrong. NONE of our children are immune to hormones and temptations no matter how great of a job you have done as a parent. Or no matter how much you believe you have protected them from it. I recently went to dinner with a dear friend of mine and opened up about some of the recent discussions I had with my boys. She was very much on the side of the fence “not my kids.” Lovingly, I told her she MAY be right, she may have the kids in the very small percentage who have not seen/ struggled with this, but that I just wanted to share with her this software and what we were doing to help our boys. This friend also has VERY open and real conversations with her kids, however sure enough, she went home that night doing some investigating and found one of her kids was already sucked into the world of the internet images- and later found out one of her other children was struggling as well on INSTAGRAM. The fact that this teen was struggling on Instagram, I believe, illustrates that most often this habit starts out of pure curiosity, or even completely by accident as they scroll through images in their feeds. However, since this type of imagery is so readily available online, it quickly snowballs out of control and for many of our teens is becoming a habit, arguably an addiction at very young age.
As a church, shouldn’t we be trying to love and engage our children and teenagers through these struggles instead of making them feel isolated and alone and left to deal with it on their own? Again, I do not put the sole responsibility on the church. That falls on us as parents- but the church needs to be a bigger part of the solution in my opinion. What does that look like? I’m not entirely sure. Possibly small groups where teens can discuss openly their struggles, lead by adults who have overcome these same struggles and can guide them? Maybe it looks like a quarterly retreat that is set to build deeper relationships between teens and mentors in which again, they can be open and honest without feeling isolated and alone. I’m not sure these are just a couple of ideas but lets at the very least start the conversation.
Finally I think a part of this equation as parents has to be letting go of OUR expectations. We think that because we have raised our children in the church and in a community of believers that they will somehow be immune to ever “messing up” We have to get that out of our heads. I will argue it’s MORE important that our children know when they do mess up (which they will) that they can be HONEST with us and that while we may be disappointed in a particular choice, we will love and come along side them and walk them through the aftermath of those choices. I believe that is more important than expecting our children to NEVER mess up. They are human they WILL mess up. So do we want them turning to their friends and to the advice of the world when that happens? Or do we want them coming to us as their parents, allowing us to love them and help guide them to the biblical solution? I choose to parent in a way that would hopefully set my kids up to come to me with these things. I know that still may not happen every time. So, I ask a LOT of questions, sometimes lightheartedly, sometimes serious, hoping to keep the conversation always on the table. I hope this post, while it probably made some people uncomfortable for different reasons, has helped in some way to start the discussions. At home, at church, with mentors and sparked a mutual deisre to HELP our teens. Check out the Accountable2You Software HERE and use the coupon code TEENTALK to get your first month totally FREE. SERIOUSLY this is one of the best things we ever did for our boys.
Comment below with any thoughts, feelings, questions, anything! Would love to connect!