Few things have gripped my heart and mind with more anxiety than being the mother of dating teenagers. To this day I praise God that my three children made it through these perilous years with only a few bumps and bruises. Their successful maneuvering through these years had to be because of God, because their mom was hapless at best.
What do you say to your son when “the love of his life” dumps him and you witness his devastated teenage tears? How do you teach your teenage daughter that a boyfriend who says, “If you love me you will,” doesn’t love her at all? How do you get past your own hurt when your teenager says, “You have no idea what I’m going through,” while your own heart is breaking for them?
I have come to believe that teaching children a Godly understanding of dating relationships is best begun at an early age. When a child is around three years old, parents can begin teaching him or her that the best relationship they will ever have is the relationship their heavenly Father has already started forming with them. Around this age, parents can begin teaching their children that God not only loves them and claims them, but that He created them to fill a special role and has designed a grand plan for their lives.
This is not a simplistic approach to the dating dilemma. It is a proactive approach. A child who learns from an early age that he is priceless to God, that Jesus is his best friend, and that he is empowered by the Holy Spirit to be all that God would have him to be is better equipped to handle the uncertainties, disappointments, and even the joys of dating. Understanding their intrinsic value to God eases youths’ self-doubt and helps them imagine a glorious future in Him. There can be no better foundation for dating relationships than a firm relationship with God that includes prayer and the guidance gained from His Word.
It is a parent’s job to nurture his or her children’s relationships with God and to provide guidance. The most powerful resource to help parents do this is the Bible. It is the definitive resource for God’s plan for our lives. God’s Word is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. Consider the relevance of God’s Word when confronting these issues of raising a teenager:
Self doubt, body image, and the sanctity of our bodies
1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
Teenagers often suffer from “mirror blues.” They look at themselves in full-length mirrors and hate what they see. As a teenager, I often wondered, “What was God thinking?” I wish someone would have read me this verse and pointed out that God created me to house His Holy Spirit and that my body was sacred to Him. Early application of this verse can help children see themselves through “God’s mirror” which reveals to them that their bodies are beautiful to God who created them for a holy purpose. Many bad dating decisions are made because young people are looking for approval from someone when all the while God has stamped them with His seal of approval.
The “But Everyone’s Doing It” Syndrome
Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Most children have uttered, “but everyone’s doing it,” to their parents at one time or another. My children did. I did. I was confident that these words would release me from the clearly “unfair” boundaries my parents had instituted. My parents were usually on to me, however, and would respond to me with the time-honored phrase, “If so and so jumps off a bridge, would you?” By that time I had usually convinced myself that my parents were the meanest parents in the world. I was at the very least resentful and sometimes rebellious.
Colossians 3:17 takes a very proactive approach to this syndrome. Teaching children at age three to ask themselves if what they are saying or doing can be done in the name of the Lord Jesus helps children learn Christian discernment at an early age. Parents can further teach their children by working to measure their own words and actions by Jesus’ standards. If this discipline is continually emphasized, I believe it will impact dating decisions as well.
Ephesians 4:27: “Do not give the devil a foothold.”
Long before a child reaches dating age, it is critical that parents help their children dream about their futures. Setting and recording life goals is very helpful. Any time is a wonderful time for parents and children to talk about their family’s ultimate goal, a reunion in Heaven. Any time is also the time to warn children that there is an enemy that will do everything possible to divert them from their dreams. The enemy is the devil, and the enemy is their own sin.
Ephesians 4:27 warns, “Do not give the devil a foothold.” We can teach our children to think about how their sinful actions serve as tools that the devil uses to rob them of their heart’s desires. In addition, parents can use 1 Corinthians 10:12, which says, “So, if you think you are standing firm be careful that you don’t fall,” to help children realize they must be in constant conversation with their heavenly Father in order to successfully combat the devil and their own sinful flesh. If we teach our children to pause and pray about an action before they do it, God will provide the guidance.
The “Real Thing”
1 Corinthians 13:6: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”
How many young people engage in premarital sex because they are sure that what they are feeling is the “real thing”. 1 Corinthians 13:6 reflects the true nature of love. Love does not delight in evil. Christians know full well that God considers sex before marriage to be evil. Therefore, love or the “real thing” does not demand premarital sex. We must make it clear to our young people that real love does not pressure us to do evil. Real love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. Real love seeks first the Father’s will instead of the selfish desire, and real love is controlled, patient, slow to anger, and kind.
Finally, the best advice I can give parents regarding the question of how to teach a Godly perspective for dating is to pray. Pray with your children that they will go the way the Lord would have them go. Make praying together a practice that continues throughout the teen years. Parents can sit down with teenagers to plan and pray for a successful date. Planning and praying before each date is an extremely effective tool that can make dating more fun and safe.
And parents can pray from the start for the people their children will chose to date and for the people their children will one day marry. One wise mom I know began praying for her children’s future spouses the moment she became pregnant.
May God bless our young people with joy and growth during the critical dating years and may God grant parents wisdom, stamina, and courage to parent their children through the difficult dating years.