At the conclusion of every workshop. we invite questions. These questions are of high value to us as they help us and help others to think through the very practical ways that THE conversation Workshop can be implemented in our REAL life family discussions. So this month and next, we will be sharing the questions posed in our journey together as parents and mentors!
You’ll notice that there are links embedded in the answers to these questions. These links will lead you to a more in depth explanation of the concepts referred to in our answers. We’d invite you to really dive in to the resources on our website as this is a very BIG picture vision for our kids’ lives rather than a prescriptive set of rules and directions.
1. How do I address sex with my kids from a covenant point of view if they have already had sex?
I think as our kids get into the later teen years, and demonstrate resistance to any directions from us regarding life choices, we definitely need to share insights learned as they have impacted our own lives. This might sound something like,
"I went to a workshop and learned something surprising, not at all what I expected. The speakers talked about sex as a sign of a covenant. God used covenants to establish relationships between Himself and His people. For example, the rainbow was a sign of the covenant between God and the people of the earth when God made a solemn vow that He would never again flood the earth. God describes marriage all throughout the Bible as a covenant relationship. The sign of a marital covenant is sexual union. I found it so interesting that the implication of this was that every time a married couple has sex, they are renewing their covenantal marriage vows." I would leave it at that and let God speak as to the implications of this for their own lives.”
In addition, I would wait for opportunities to be as curious as I'm allowed to be about how my child is faring with an experience of sex outside of marriage. Because we know that living according to God's design for marriage brings us a life of flourishing, we approach this topic with our kids from this perspective. If a child begins to express that his or her life is suffering the effects of relationships conducted outside of God's design, we might gently suggest that perhaps God knows what He is talking about and longs to direct us into a life that flourishes.
2. How do I handle opposing viewpoints? (peers, adult role models w/o faith who are in the kids' lives and also talking to them)
(This answer is from our Q&A post on our website where you can actually post your questions and see answers to the questions that have come up for other people.)
We always begin with the truth that God wants us to flourish! This is the way that our workshop begins and the foundation we lay for our children before we begin to address topics regarding sexuality. In our workshop we provide talking points and family discussions that can help you to establish confidence in God's goodness and His good direction for our lives in the minds and hearts of young people. Learn more about our workshops here.
To respond to other viewpoints, you might start with saying something like this, “We all want the best and happiest kind of life. A lot of people don’t know who they can trust to help them figure out how to be happy. They make choices that might be different than ours because they are just doing the best they can to be happy.
God loves us so much and really wants us to have the happiest and best kind of life.
God is also the smartest person in the universe. We know from the Bible that God created us and because He is so smart, He knows the best way for us to experience this happiest and best kind of life. He gives us directions for our choices in the Bible. That is why we can be sure that we can trust Him to help us make our choices.
(Here you might want to insert your own personal example of how following God’s directions led you to make a happy choice.)
We can ask God to help us show our friends what a smart and loving God He is. We hope that they will learn that they can trust Him to help them have the best and happiest kind of life too.”
3. How do we combat peer pressure and guide my daughters to dress in a way that is less revealing?
(If you are curious about the problem of lust and how it relates to this question, keep reading, but I’m not going to start there.)
The view of the body needs to be elevated before we can adequately respond to peer pressure to dress a certain way. THE conversation Workshop devotes an entire session to God’s design for the body. For now, consider reviewing our earlier blog and podcastentries about the body. Our focus is to elevate the body with a vision that is derived from Genesis 1 and 2 rather than a rules-based approach that never answers the question, “Why?”
First, it would be helpful to go back and review the answer to question #2 above. We always want to bring any topic, including questions regarding dress, back to our desire to live a life that flourishes: our own and others. Next, we want to instill and remind kids that:
“God created us all as body-selves that reveal irreplaceable and unrepeatable glimpses of Jesus to others. He designed us so that, as body-selves, we can give and receive love from others as a way of pointing others to Jesus. This includes choosing to never use my body or another’s as a means to an end. God’s desire (and mine) for you as a whole body-self is that you live the best kind of life with Him. ”
Once we have introduced these ideas, we can begin to have conversations about how my body-self engages the world around me, including through my choices with clothing. These may seem like rather philosophical ideas, but they are essential to informing our practical conversations with kids.
In the midst of having this conversation with our kids over and over again, we can consistently pose questions about clothing choices. As we ask questions at every opportunity, we set into motion our children’s future ability to ask themselves the same questions even when we aren’t around.
Some questions you might ask:
1. “What is it that you really like about this outfit?” (I like this question because sometimes we misjudge motives.)
2. “What is it that you hope others will know about your whole person based on what you’re wearing today?”
3. “Does what your wearing leave you free to love other people well?” (ie. If it is uncomfortable or distracting then what a person is wearing can become an obstacle to feeling free and comfortable to love well in any variety of situations.)
4. “Is it possible that you are dressing your body-self with the intention of using yourself or others as a means to get attention or some other end?”
If you would like to respond to this question out of concern for the problem of lust, it would be really helpful to first listen to our recent podcast about lust. I would encourage us as parents and mentors to be aware of the messages we unintentionally send when using lust as a cautionary tale to inform how girls dress. We have unintentionally communicated that, 1. boys are like animals that can’t control their lusts, 2. that only boys struggle with lust, and 3. that it is a girl’s body (contradicting our message about the body) that is at the center of the problem of lust. “Love is the great conqueror of lust,” (C.S. Lewis) and lust is not an irreversible problem. If we as adults begin the journey to redeem our view of God’s design of the embodied human person, sex, and relationships then lust becomes less of a problem as our kids move towards flourishing. I am certainly not trying to minimize lust, but instead expand our view of what lust really is (again, listen to the podcast) so that we are able to see and address the problem more clearly.
4.What if my teenager is struggling with God?
Ask your teenager lots of questions about the struggle. How does God feel about you? How do you feel about God? What do you believe about God that causes you to feel this way? Many times the source of this struggle is a faulty view of who God is, who we are and how God relates to us. Try to identify and question erroneous perspectives on each of these things. You can access our podcasts and blogs to help cast a new vision for God and the relationship He desires with us.
This is where THE conversation must start. Before we can trust God’s direction for our lives, we have to come to believe that His desire is for us to live a life that flourishes. Once we resolve that issue, we are free to move forward into a discovery of His direction for our lives.