Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Talking to Your Teen about Premarital Sex, Abortion, and Birth Control

I'd like to thank everyone who made it to the seminar this Sunday! I look forward to seeing even more of you at the next seminar in November (dates to follow soon). For those who weren't able to make it, I don't want you to have to miss out on the topic, so today's post will be on the information and discussion shared in the presentations. I presented on the secular perspectives of these issues, as well as how to guide a conversation with your adolescent, and Pastor Lundquist presented on the biblical perspective on them. For Pastor Lundquist's information, I will simply direct you to the sources he shared with the attendees, so you can look further into it yourself.

Premarital Sex

Being Christians, we are called not to "be conformed to this world," but in order to not conform, we must first understand what this world teaches. A quick Google search will tell you about the prevalence of opinions on why premarital sex is (or should be) morally acceptable. Articles such as "My Virginity Mistake", "I Waited Until My Wedding Night to Lose My Virginity and I Wish I Hadn't", and "I Regret Saving Sex for Marriage" are gaining traction and attention all through society. We can quibble about why this is, but the real reason is that it sounds good. To our sinful natures, that want nothing more than justification for sating our desires.

Articles such as these appeal to logic. They share reasons to have premarital sex such as
  • You need to check your sexual compatibility with someone before you tie yourself down to a lifetime of sex with them.
  • If you don't have sex before marriage, you'll rush into a marriage so you can have sex--and you'll end up married too young.
  • After all those years of sexual repression, you'll have to retrain your brain to think about sex positively.
  • Both personally and with a potential partner, you need to work out sexual issues before you're married.
  • You need practice before marriage to be good at sex.
  • If you think married sex is a magical bonding of two souls, you'll be disappointed by it.

Pastor Lundquist shared information on premarital sex from two different sources. The first was former LCMS President A. L. Barry's "What About" publication on "Living Together Without Marriage". To read this publication, follow this link, scroll to the heading "What About? Series", and download the file titled "Living Together Without Marriage". The second source was the Commission on Theology and Church Relations publication on Cohabitation.

Abortion and Birth Control

Abortion is defined as a "deliberate termination of a pregnancy," and in most US states it is legal up to viability (when the fetus could survive outside of the mother's womb; anywhere from week 24-26). In Wisconsin, abortion is legal up to week 24 gestation. Abortifacients, a term which will be discussed in relation to birth control, are drugs that cause abortions (by preventing implantation or by causing termination of implanted embryo). The prime example of an abortifacient drug is the Plan B/Morning After pill.

From my research, I have found that most forms of birth control can be separated into two categories: potentially abortifacient and non-abortifacient. Under the category of "potentially abortifacient", two sub-categories exist. The first sub-category includes those forms of birth control that prevent pregnancy by first suppressing ovulation and then, if ovulation still occurs, preventing fertilization (the union of sperm and egg). Examples of this first category include implants, the pill, the patch, and the Depo-Provera shot. The second sub-category of birth control works by simply preventing fertilization (prime example being the IUD).

In the case of their intended uses, neither of these sub-categories would be abortifacient. However, some scientists have found that these medications can cause a change in the uterine lining which may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. The medical community is split on whether these findings are true, as the rate of fertilization without implantation has not found to be any higher on these forms of birth control than that which would occur naturally in a woman's body--that is, no statistical evidence has led most doctors to believe that use of the pill, patch, IUD, etc. would cause a woman's body to terminate a fertilized egg that would have implanted were these birth controls not used.

There are, of course, some forms of birth control that are guaranteed not to be abortifacient. These forms include the condom, diaphragm, spermicide, tubal ligation, and vasectomy. When the time comes to talk to your adolescent about birth control, encourage him or her to pray and talk to a doctor before making a decision. 

According to contemporary wisdom, it would be unnecessary to even talk to a doctor about which form of birth control to use. Society--at least the half of it which is pro-choice--does not seem to value life in the womb. The pro-choice movement teaches that people should have access to abortions and all forms of birth control, at least until viability. They give reasons such as:

  • You shouldn't have kids until you're ready.
  • It's not a baby until it can survive outside of the mother.
  • If there's a disorder involved, aborting the fetus saves a child from suffering. Better to kill it now before it becomes a person than to let it become a person, suffer, and die on its own.
  • No one should have to be pregnant from rape or incest.
  • It's a woman's body, and she shouldn't have to do something she doesn't want to with it.
Christians since the 1st century AD have been vehemently pro-life. In the Didache, an early Christian writing rediscovered in the late 19th century, it is stated that the early Church held that Christians "must not...[be] a terminator of unborn children." The LCMS still holds to this position today, as President Barry shared in his "What About...Abortion" publication. To download this, follow this link, scroll to the "What About? Series" heading, and click on "Abortion".

Guidelines for Talking to Adolescents

If you're reading this post, odds are, you already know how important it is to talk to your adolescent about these issues. This shouldn't be a one-time conversation, though. Teens, especially, need to know that conversation on sensitive issues is always open. The more often you talk about these issues, the more "normal" they become, and the more likely your adolescent is to have a healthy perspective on them.

One of the key points in making conversations about sexual issues successful is to make the setting safe and neutral (for you and your adolescent both). If your teen walks in after school with a bunch of his friends, sits down in the living room, and starts playing video games, that is not the ideal time to bring up premarital sex. Another bad time would be when you spent the past half hour yelling at your daughter for her bad grades--she's not likely to want to talk openly about birth control at that point. However, if you're on your way to a Packers game and have a little time in the car (just you and your teen), that would be an ideal time to have this sort of conversation. Having family dinner (which I recommend for a number of reasons) is also an excellent time to have conversations like this.

Along those lines, it is important to have a set time each day that you deliberately connect with and talk to your adolescent. It is vital to set this time, because it shows your teen that you make him or her a priority in your schedule. Of course, just because you have a scheduled time to talk each day doesn't mean you only use that time to talk. When I was growing up, the best conversations I had with my mom were right after school or right before bed--our "scheduled" time to talk. My dad wasn't home as often, however--perils of being a soldier--so we didn't have that time every day. The best conversations I had with him were when he was driving me places, taking me to school or extracurricular activities. Make sure you schedule time, but take advantage of the spontaneous opportunities that arise for conversation, also.

A big no-no when talking to teenagers is condescension. Nothing says "I don't trust you" like treating them like a child, and not being trusted is a guaranteed turn-off for teens. True, at sixteen your daughter isn't a woman and your son isn't a man, but they're not a little kid anymore, either. Acknowledge that they have unique experiences and insights. You don't have to agree with everything they say, but affirm their right to have thoughts and opinions that differ from yours, and listen to those thoughts and opinions. When you listen to them, they are much more likely to listen to you.

Be encouraging of your teen, but be firm with them. They need to know they can talk without being judged. As far as it is possible, try to restrain your emotions while listening to them. Think and pray before every response you make. This may be difficult (especially if your seventeen-year-old daughter admits she's been sexually active for three years--or even three weeks), but it is absolutely vital to maintaining conversation.

You can love your child without condoning his or her actions. When they were three and screamed at you "I hate you" before running into their room and slamming the door, you still loved them. The same principles apply now, even though their actions have more severe consequences.

Be honest with your teen. You don't have to tell them everything, but they need to know you're human. If you don't know the answer to their question, tell them. Then research it together, or look it up on your own and tell them what you found. If you made a mistake you are willing to share, tell them. And if you aren't willing to talk about something, that's okay. Tell them you don't want to discuss it, and if possible, tell them why.

Finally, the single most important key to talking to adolescents about sexual issues is to use the Gospel, not just the Law. No matter what your teen has done, make it clear to them that there is freedom and life in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And don't just talk about the Gospel; live it. When your child confesses to you that they did something wrong, forgive them. Forgiving them doesn't mean you prevent all the consequences, but it does mean that you don't continue to be angry with them.

Sorry for the longer post today! A two-hour seminar is bound to have a lot of information, and I didn't want anyone to feel left out or miss anything.

Thank you for reading! Despite my experience as an adolescent and all my research, I understand that I am far from being an expert in this topic. Parents of adolescents would be the real experts; so those of you with adolescents, please share what your tips are! What works best for you talking to your teens? Am I entirely off the walls? Am I right on the money? Did I miss something big?

Let me know!
God's blessings,

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