I’m the third of nine children, and my entire life I dreamed of being a mother. My mom kept bringing babies home for me to play with, dress, feed, and love…. living, breathing baby dolls. Mothering is in my blood.

When I finally received the news that I was pregnant it was via a phone call. This was before home pregnancy tests, so a couple of days after my doctor visit a stranger delivered the words I’d waited my whole life to hear: “You’re pregnant.” My reaction? I didn’t scream, dance, or start planning the Reveal Party; I cried. My eyes filled with tears, happy, but mostly scared tears. I managed to get out what I thought was a legitimate question, but I think it took the poor girl by surprise: “What do I do now?”

That’s the question many parents ask as their safe, secure, manageable world becomes scary, uncertain, and unmanageable when they bring that precious one home. There’s no instruction manual. Sometimes you get it right; sometimes you fail miserably. But you keep on doing the next thing until the day you’re standing outside an apartment or dorm as your world is about to fall apart again, and you turn away because you don’t want to add more drama to the already tender moment with those tears. The years fly by.

In between the little lines on the pregnancy test and the last line you’ll deliver to your barely adult child about to take on the world, a lot happens. It happens slowly, bit by bit, one decision, one hug, one act of discipline, one word of encouragement, one conversation, one prayer at a time. And if we’re not careful, we’ll miss the most important things as they get crowded out by the urgent, the trendy, the self-centered, or the unnecessary things.

God typically gives children to very young, inexperienced, untrained people. That’s His way of saying, “Of course you’re not equipped, ready, or perfect. You will have to give them back to Me, trust Me completely to guide you, and keep Me first. Know that I’ll be there for them when their own challenges come.”

All children will be exposed to some very undesirable things in life. How can you prepare your kids for the challenges and walk alongside them? Filters are not foolproof. Accountability only works if both parties are fully committed. Keeping your child locked in a media free room until she is eighteen is not good.

When the world crashes in on their innocence, and it will, you can play a huge role in what happens next. How do you build for success? This week I share a few offensive tactics and next week I’ll share some good lines of defense. (I’ll use he and she interchangeably.)

1. Keep God and your marriage first

My husband and I heard a quote that both challenged and comforted us as new parents. It was basically, “You can’t do enough dumb things to mess up your kids as long as they know that mom and dad love each other and are going to stay together.”[1] Building a solid marriage, based on God’s truths, will create a solid foundation for all that you hope to impart to your kids. There’s grace for single parents; God provides all that is needed. But for those who are married, ask Him to help you keep your priorities in order.

2. Tell your kids you’d pick them again

My Dad wanted twelve kids! He only got nine. Bummer! But what did his desire convey to me as a child? I was wanted. We all want to be wanted. Tell your five-year-old daughter that if they lined up all the little five-year-olds in the whole world, you’d still pick her.[2] Every. Single. Time. After she’s misbehaved? Yep. When you’re exhausted and bedtime can’t come soon enough? Yep. Of course, there are consequences in life, but your love comes with no strings attached. She’s God’s good gift to you. Tell your smarty-pants fifteen-year-old this too.

3. Be secure in Christ and model Christ-likeness

When your identity is secure in Christ and not in your child’s performance, there’s freedom for both of you. It allows him to fail and learn to trust Christ with his struggles. It allows you to humbly admit that you’re not perfect, that you mess up too. Model confession, ask for forgiveness, and work to restore relationships, daily. Lay the groundwork for him to own his mistakes and learn the importance of restoration. Create a shame-free home. Learn to listen well and not rush to fix the problem. Feelings are real and learning how to express and process them in healthy ways is important. Empathize. Ask good questions. Become a safe place for him to reveal heart hurts as he learns how to process pain, shame, discouragement, etc. in relationship, rather than in isolation. Teach him to feel and talk about his emotions rather than to numb them with food, video games, or porn. Ask “How’s your heart?” and listen. It’s an exercise for him, not you.

4. They will see porn, so talk about it

Teaching God’s good design for sexuality and sex is foundational. Below I list some good tools for that. But preparing her for the counterfeit is important too. Seeing porn for the first time can be incredibly shocking and also interesting! God made our brains to respond to sexual encounters. We have all seen things that caused an arousal feeling, and it can be confusing to a child, especially if it catches her completely off-guard. Talk about all of this, the good design and what she’ll see one day. When you are the one who will tell her the truth, always, there’s no need to consult Google Images or her friends. Become her trusted ally.

Begin affirming God’s good design of her by naming body parts early. As she grows, you can say that some people don’t know how precious their bodies are and might show them in pictures or videos. This is a compassionate approach to explaining porn. If she’s older you can call it “porn” because she will hear the word eventually. These talks will progress over time. Tell her that she will probably see it one day and together devise a plan for coming to you when she does. Share about when you saw it (no need for details). Ask her if she’s seen anything like porn, then be unshockable. Listen well. You’re working to become a safe place to process sensitive topics, so be safe. Short, consistent conversations are best.

Girls can be just as susceptible to porn as boys are. Dopamine is released in the brain in response to sexual things like porn, and it’s quite intoxicating.

Fight the New Drug asked teens who’d seen porn how their parents could have prepared them better.

“I wish my parents understood that shaming me only led me to hide it.”

“I wish they had told me that it exists. That would have been helpful. My parents never even informed me of it.”

“I wish they knew that it’s not always controllable and that we want to change but that sometimes we’re just stuck and we don’t know who to turn to, or how to reach out.”

If you’ve never talked about porn with your older kids, start now. Read some of our previous blog posts to learn how and to find the courage and motivation to begin. God is with you!

 5. Close the screens and engage emotionally

Be present emotionally, not just physically. Connect with your child and listen as he shares about his world, which is vastly different from yours. Intentionally make space for this by keeping other influences out. Have screen-free times. Consider no screens in bedrooms or private places. Think about ditching the cable television and watch movies together. Read books aloud, even as your children get older. Kids spell love T-I-M-E, so capitalize on this. Time is required for organic, natural conversation, and they need this.

6. Battle in prayer for your loved ones

As followers of Christ, we are a city on a hill and a light for a dark world. The forces of darkness are after the hearts and minds of young and older believers today. Engage in battle! Take back territory in your own heart lost to the enemy’s schemes and join with other believers to pray. There are spoils of war as you battle in prayer and engage more authentically with your loved ones. Trust God to bring those spoils in His time. Ask Him to show you the next step and be quick to do it! He is faithful to finish what He starts.

 

You may be asking, “What do I do now??” Start here! 

Luke Gilkerson’s books on Biblical Sexuality

God Made All of Me by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb

Covenant Eyes for device monitoring, weekly reports, and filters:

TrueNorth: Tools and Stories (blog posts)

 

Next week I’ll share some practical, defensive approaches to protecting your family online. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! You are my heroes!

Anne

Anne Kerr, Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project in Atlanta, Georgia

TrueNorth is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to sharing tools for navigating a sexualized culture. Your financial partnership will mean true freedom for many. To give a tax-deductible donation, click here. Thank you.

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[1] From a talk by Jay Kessler around 1990, then president of Taylor University.

[2] From a talk by Jay Kessler around 1990, then president of Taylor University.