Teaching About Abstinence

Define and Discuss What Abstinence Means

Begin by telling your children what abstinence means to you. In your discussion, help them understand that abstinence or chastity is both an attitude and a set of actions. It is reverence for life, respect for self, and consideration for others. Explain also that abstinence is self-restraint and that it dictates that some sexual actions are not expressed until after marriage—and not even then if honest love does not exist.

Discuss the Meaning of Responsibility for Self

It usually takes many years for us to acquire a strong sense of responsibility for ourselves. We start out in life thinking others cause what we feel, are responsible for what we do, and are to blame if we make mistakes. As we mature, however, we come to understand that how we think, feel, and act are results of our own choices. 

Link Chastity to a Belief in God

Sexually mature individuals wait to have sex in part because they have faith that waiting will produce positive results. Some parents mistakenly tie chastity to the concepts of sin, faithlessness, moral punishment, guilt, and shame. Some even emphasize God’s displeasure toward people who are not chaste. Inappropriate sexual behavior sometimes represents faithlessness and produces guilt. If, however, we love our children and believe God loves them, we must tie chastity to a loving God, not a punishing, condemning God.

Discuss Sexual Situations

  • When your child is sexually motivated toward someone:
    • Signals: You are thinking about this person in sexual terms and want to be with him or her only for that reason.

    • What to do: Talk to your parent or another adult. Be with this person only when around other friends.

  • When affection like kissing and hugging starts to escalate:
    • Signals: More kissing, more touching, more time alone.

    • What to do: Set limits and talk about them. Ask the other person to set limits. Talk to a parent.

  • Someone wishes to show explicit sexual pictures or media:
    • Signals: Open sexual conversation during previous discussions. Questions about what may have been seen.

    • What to do: State, “I do not want to look at that stuff. You can if you want to, but I don’t think you should either.”

Scoresby, A. L., Ph.D. Teaching Children about Sex, Reproduction, and Chastity