I’ve hiked cliffs overlooking fjords. I’ve eaten tripe and brown cheese and squid. I’ve even gotten my nose pierced. But there’s one thing that truly and profoundly terrifies me: my children turning into teenagers.
As a former youth worker, I say this half-jokingly because I actually think teenagers are pretty awesome. My oldest child has entered adolescence, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the many new opportunities that come with this stage of the growing-up journey.
But it is also true that I am a bit afraid. Numbers like these frighten me:
- 46: The percentage of high school students today who’ve engaged in oral sex
- 47: The percentage who’ve had sexual intercourse.
- 11: The average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography
- 7.5: The number of hours an average teen spends daily on TV and other media
- 17: The percentage of teens who’ve seriously considered suicide
These numbers represent major trials and temptations. They represent pressure, painful consequences, and powerful, shaping influences on our kids’ sense of identity and their understanding of human relationships.
But scary numbers like these also motivate me to prepare and guide my children, especially when it comes to the tricky world of love, heartbreak, and dating that can dominate the teenage years. As peer pressure, media, and advertisements all try to influence my kids, my goal is to consistently speak a louder message. When it comes to dating in the teenage and young adult years, here’s what I most want to tell my children:
People are not commodities. In a culture that judges people by their body shape and that views sexuality in terms of conquest, know that you are not just a body you need to try to sell or an item for someone else to acquire.
Having romantic feelings and sexual desires is normal and good. Sure, there will be tempting thoughts you shouldn’t dwell on too much, but your feelings and thoughts are part of your God-given sexuality. You don’t need to feel ashamed of those desires or keep those feelings secret. As you strive to save sex for marriage, remember that this isn’t just about rules or shame or sin; it’s about growing to be the healthy and whole sexual being God has created you to be.
Your worth is immeasurable. Ultimately, it’s not a boyfriend or a girlfriend who will really know you and value you. It is, and will always be, God. Your identity, your worth, your calling—in every stage of your life—can only ultimately be found in him.
It’s not just teenagers who deal with dating pressures; navigating these waters often feels like treacherous territory for Christian single adults as well. In this issue’s cover story, TCW’s own Joy Beth Smith examines the repercussions that both the secular hookup culture and the church’s courtship movement are having on dating. And in “How to Date as a Single Parent,” Ron L. Deal explores the unique factors single parents need to consider in terms of dating decisions.
Whether you’re single and dating or you’re a mom preparing your kids for the inevitable dating roller coaster, we can each find great hope in God in and amongst the fears, temptations, and heartaches of the dating world. It’s not always easy and it’s sometimes downright scary, but he stands with us through it all.