Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Making the Years Count

Following two months of rain and clouds, the oppressive heat of summer arrived this week. Our languishing yellow squash--a summer staple in this house--may not make it, but the pumpkins are doing well. The tomatoes look terrific; the sweet banana peppers, not so much.

We went back to school full time following our exhausting but terrific Vacation Bible School week, during which Peter and I worked (me assigned to the church kitchen with my new homeschooling friend, and Peter with outdoor games).

On the hottest day this week we took a break in the air conditioning to enjoy a 2006 non-animated version of Charlotte's Web. Did I ever tell you that Fern from Charlotte's Web is a clone of my Mary? They share the same childhood wonder of all things nature-oriented; the same passionate, tender heart. The same love of comfortable, functional, tomb-boy clothes, followed by a transformation in the form of dresses on Sunday; the same love of the fanciful over the realistic.

Every day Mary goes outside deliberately making her rounds, turning over rocks and logs and whatever she can muscle, to uncover the hidden treasures: pill bugs, frogs, toads, and the occasional surprise creatures. She scours every bush and vine looking for tree frogs and praying mantises and cicadas. She walks carefully over the grass, eyes pining for grasshoppers.

When I see her from the window, running like mad, making a beeline for the front door, I know she's bursting to show me an amazing specimen from God. She and Peter, two peas in a pod, recently found 8 praying mantises on our church grounds, which are surrounded by fields and woods.

I told her she reminds me of Fern and my Mary smiled from ear to ear, knowing it was true.

Charlotte's Web, if you must know, is one of the greatest children's books ever written--not that I'm an authority or anything, but I do love children. Some of us love just our own children, and some of us love and see every child as supremely beautiful and amazing--the very best of God's heart outside of the Cross.

Mark 9:42 "If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.

Matthew 18:1-3 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Charlotte's Web captures all that is sacred about childhood and bottles it. At the end when Charlotte dies, Mary and I cry buckets and it's a reminder to me that childhood passes as quickly as a spider's life. After we help them into their wedding veil and cumberbund and throw the rice--which seems about a month after they're born--it's an occasion of joy mixed with the bittersweet memories of bygone years.

"This is my egg sac, my magnum opus, my great work, the finest thing I have ever made." (Charlotte quote).

If you're a Momma, let that be your mantra. God gifts us with these precious, helpless, amazing wonders called children. No, they are not ours, but they are the work of our bodies, our hearts, our very lives. Each night when we go to bed and each morning upon waking, we must realize the miracle of their presence in our lives.

We can put nothing above their needs. We can put nothing unwholesome in front of them to corrupt their tender hearts. We can pursue not our personal dreams at their expense. We cannot be tempted by the world and its finery, chasing it at the expense of our children's salvation, which requires an incredible investment of time and heart.

Don't let the upcoming September busy season woo you--the season of running here and there, having our children trained by strangers in this and that endeavor so they'll shine for whatever Jones' we're trying to keep up with. 

Let me tell you a secret: The Jones' don't love Jesus and they don't love your child, eitherOur children are to shine for Him and Him only and the soccer, piano, and football teacher can't accomplish this holy endeavor. Schedule sparingly and wisely so you can speak life into your children's hearts. 

Do we want future family gatherings to be tense and full of dysfunction, or joyful and full of life abundant, shared with children who serve Him most of all? Things can still go wrong, but the quality of our remaining years and theirs will depend greatly on the number of hours we're willing to invest in their hearts right now. 

Be wooed not by a perfect house or by Facebook and Twitter. Don't concentrate on keeping up, but on keeping company with Him--the Bread of Life. Introduce your children to Him hour by hour, day by day, each moment building a legacy that will bless generations to come.
When you live for and make decisions that count for eternity, and have in your possession a dog-eared, well-read, marked-up Bible, you're blessed with all that God intended this side of Heaven.

Don't look for blessing in your health tests, your bank account, your clothing labels, your wheels, your furnishings, or your square footage. Look for it in the relationships you've invested in--with Him, and with your loved ones and neighbors.

Matthew 22:36-40 (source here)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

What are you going to do today to speak life into your children?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Christian Children's Literature

Finding good books to give our children can be so hard. Increasingly, I'm thinking more about Christian character development than I am about whether a book is on the recommended college-prep list. As a mom and a teacher, I'm still growing.

Today, I share character-building devotionals with you, as well as a list of Christian literature books for grades 1 - 8.

Over the past year I've read aloud consistently from character development devotional books. I see clearly now that my children were missing these in the prior years; I just didn't know all that was available. My children love our daily devotional time as we learn more about following God, together. They feel encouraged, uplifted, strong in the Lord, and full of love for their neighbor as we finish yet another wholesome story.

I've learned that the best use of these books is to read one story in the morning, and another in the evening, because we always need more Christian teaching and encouragement by the end of the day. I often print out related verses to supplement the verse from the story, making our lessons even meatier. And we always close in round-robin prayer, asking God, among other prayer items, to help us live the verse.

Here are some character-building devotionals:

The Miller Family Series

A Hive of Busy Bees

Another Hive of Bees

Vivian Gunderson Books

Grace and Truth Character Classics

A Child's Book of Character Building

Loving One Another: Beginner's Stories on Being a Good Friend

Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories Vol. 1 (some of these can be scary so preread each little story)

Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories Vol. 2

Reading Scripture is very important ( both to our children, and having them read it themselves), but so is reading stories that illustrate scriptural passages in ways children can understand. It's one thing to read "a harsh answer turns away wrath", but quite another to read a beautiful story illustrating this principle. As children recall the lessons from the stories, they remember the verses more readily, too. Having verses come alive is very effective character training.

In addition to devotional materials, there are many Christian books written for children to read themselves, that also illustrate specific Scriptural passages and overarching ideas from the Bible. These treasures really are honey for your child's heart. 

I've listed some Christian titles and book series to get you started, some of which were written long ago and are excellent history lessons as well (such as Elsie Dinsmore, written in the 1800's). Some are definitely for children to read alone, while others will work either way. I inserted links so you can check prices, find different editions, and read reviews. If you have a Kindle, you can definitely save money on some of these. We recently downloaded the Sugar Creek Gang series (several books to start) for less than $10 on our Kindle.

Some digital editions lack quality (especially some free ones), so check around and read reviews.

Happy Reading!

Grades 1 - 3

Cul-De-Sac Kids (a series) (First one deals with adoption of Korean boys into a Christian family--the boys having been sent by "mistake" (two Korean girls were expected). The family keeps the boys and they play a minor part later in this book series too. Some adoptive parents may take issue with the storyline of this first book. No child is a mistake, our course, so that word is an unfortunate choice. It could be edited out if a parent reads the first one aloud. This is a well-loved series and even older children enjoy them.)

Darcy J Doyle, Daring Detective (This link is the author page on Amazon. You will have to buy used it looks like, or find in Christian library.)

The Prodigal Cat (a series)

The 3 Cousins Detective Club

Mandie Mysteries (a series - a couple reviews out of many warn the message is a works-based one. I haven't started this series so I can't comment on that, but many Christian families love it--I know that.)

The Christian Heritage Series

Grades 4 - 6

The Mars Diaries (a series)

Mice of the Herring Bone (a series)

The Elsie Dinsmore Series - 28 books (Kindle Edition free)

The Complete Mildred Keith Series (Mildred is a relative of Elsie Dinsmore's, same author)

The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew

Horsefeathers (a series)

The Drummer Boy's Battle (part of Trailblazer series)

The Sugar Creek Gang (a series)

Viking Quest Series

The Fate of the Yellow Woodbee: Nate Saint (part of Trailblazer series)

Grades 7 - 8

The Cooper Family Adventure Series

The Warrior's Challenge: David Zeisberger (part of Trailblazer series)

Bonnets and Bugles (Civil War series with Christian content)

The Daystar Voyages (science fiction series)

Sierra Jensen Series (Christy Miller's friend)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Being Your Child's Biggest Fan

Look in those eyes and see the wonder of Him.

Homeschooling is definitely on the rise, but still a minority choice. That means people are sometimes curious, sometimes nosy about how smart or not-so-smart my kids are. And always, the things they look for are: how about those math facts; can they read chapter books yet; have they written their first novel; do they know their state capitals and who their local Representative is?

Not really, but you get the picture.

So there we were at a dinner party with people we seldom see. After dinner I get handed a mid-first-grade Dick and Jane reader. My hostess wants my daughter Beth to read it--Beth being one week older than my hostess' granddaughter.

I knew six years ago when my hostess' daughter-in-law had her baby a week after I gave birth, that the girls would be compared to each other through the years. Beth walked at nine months, while the other girl walked at fourteen months. The other girl could read very early, and Beth, not much more than three-letter words at the same time.

I'm not worried about Beth's reading. She read the Dick and Jane with some help on the sight words, but it wasn't fluent and at first I struggled to feel comfortable, with my hostess listening intently.

But you know? Beth giggled through that book and really enjoyed the experience. The awkward language seemed to intrigue her, although if I gave her Dick and Jane regularly, she'd hate it I am sure. Good primers, which we use in All About Reading, are far more engaging and the language is natural, helping new readers make inferences. I don't hate the Dick and Jane books (I own five of them), but their usefulness is narrow and I haven't taken them off my shelf in the past 12 months. The sight words are too advanced for a beginning first grader, and yet the repetitiveness makes the book too boring.

Nevertheless, I settled into our little impromptu reading session and decided to enjoy my creative, engaging, beautiful daughter, who does like to cuddle with Momma and read. She likes to draw and create and make her own books rather than read others', but that's okay with me.

To love our children well, we have to drown out a lot of noise and focus on the precious gift that is each child. Yes, it's easier when kids learn everything fast and work ahead. It's a safe place to be, parenting wise. No matter how nosy they are, people would be hard pressed to come up with anything to hold against you, the homeschooling parent.

In case you're ever in the hot seat, so to speak, about how smart your kids are, take heart and remember these important truths:

~  Believe me, you'd rather have a godly child than a smart one. If your family devotional times are longer than your reading segments with your first grader, you're on track.

~ Believe me, you'd rather have a nice child than a smart one. If your character training sessions are longer than your daily math lessons, you're on track. Do you really want a kid who graduates Harvard, yet neglects his or her family?  A whole lot of training and prayer precedes an enduring marriage, and such a marriage pleases God exceedingly.

~ Intelligence is about more than math-fact retrieval or how soon you memorize the state capitals, and in the earliest years there's a lot of variation. Children who read earlier don't necessarily become better, or even avid, readers. The other kids catch up soon enough. And not everybody needs immediate fact retrieval.

In my daily life I've used only a small fraction of all the math I've ever been taught--all the way up to a year of calculus in college, passing with C's and a B minus. In fact, I don't even use the math my 7th grader is currently learning (and that I'm relearning).

~ Your goal should be a child who can solve problems confidently--whether they be interpersonal, academic, or spiritual. Flexible thinking is ideal and it isn't taught in books.

~ Every child is uniquely gifted and if you only see her through a report card, you're missing out. Go on a discovery mission about who your child is at her core. Be amazed and be flexible.

~ Is your child a reflection of you? Yes and no. Her ability to love and express compassion in most cases probably is. Her rate of learning new information? No.

Parents can get stuck on a lot of different things on this parenting journey. There's the youth sports cartel: "You mean, your child doesn't play organized sports? Really?" There's the dancing and piano-playing cartel. Of course it goes on and on and you get reeled in.

Don't give your child empty compliments, but do be his biggest fan. Watch your children unfold like the beautiful blossoms they are, perfectly formed by a loving Heavenly Father.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Your Teen and Pornography

Even in the church, it's hard to raise a teen unstained from the world. Our desire is to present our children to the Lord holy and righteous--not lovers of the world--ready and approved for a lifetime of service. When 80% of teens in youth group have an iPhone in his or her pocket, as well as teens at school and in the after-school sports world, it's excruciatingly hard to keep a child unstained. The "world" is all around them.

Today I present some sobering porn statistics, along with a long list of verses to present to tweens and teens before sending them off with their peers.

It seems every week now my son shares something about the youth group environment I don't like. All the comments and observations are excellent material for our devotional sessions, but it makes me sad nonetheless. Just yesterday he saw a group of guys in the youth room all looking at an iPhone screen, making fun of a girl's face. It didn't appear to be an inappropriate picture, but the boys were disrespecting the girl. 

The problem with youth group isn't the Bible lessons the leaders present, which are good. It's the influence of the kids already affected by iPhone and video game distractions, some to the point of addiction. 

And then there's the staggering pornography problem, which in part can be traced to kids having unsupervised access to the Internet (not in the family room with an adult present). Filters are not fool-proof.

I want my children to benefit from the youth group Bible teaching and be a light for Christ to the other teens, rather than emulate them--all in a non-judgmental manner. It's a delicate balance that can only be achieved through a whole lot of parent-lead Bible lessons. 

We need to be proactive, early, without also burdening our children with the weight of the world. It starts with Scripture and a non-worldly home. It starts with a positive relationship with parents wherein teens trust their parents' judgement, and accept their leadership. 

Below are the porn statistics followed by relevant verses about not being stained by the world.

Here are general pornography statistics from a 2015 Covenant Eyes report:

In 2012, Tru Research conducted 2,017 online interviews with teens, ages 13-17, and parents of teens:

71% of teens have done something to hide what they do online from their parents (this includes clearing browser history, minimizing a browser when in view, deleting inappropriate videos, lying about behavior, using a phone instead of a computer, blocking parents with social media privacy settings, using private browsing, disabling parental controls, or having e-mail or social media accounts unknown to parents). 

32% of teens admit to intentionally accessing nude or pornographic content online. Of these, 43% do so on a weekly basis.

Only 12% of parents knew their teens were accessing pornography. 

In 2001, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation discovered among all online youth ages 15-17: 

70% say they have accidentally stumbled across pornography online. 9% say this happens very often. 14% somewhat often. 47% not too often. 

According to a report commissioned by Congress, in 2004 some 70 million individuals visit pornographic Web sites each week; about 11 million of them are younger than 18. 

Data from a 2004 study of nearly 1000 adolescents in Israel showed: 15% of Internet users said they frequently or very frequently used the Internet to search for pornography. The strongest predictor of using pornography was being male. 

Adolescents who reported using porn were more likely to; (1) attend a secular school vs. a religious school; (2) have a lower commitment to family; (3) have a lower support of pro-social attitudes; and (4) be a heavy Internet user. 

In a 2007 University of Alberta study, 429 students ages 13 and 14 from 17 schools across Alberta, Canada, were surveyed about how often they accessed sexually explicit media content: 

90% of boys and 70% of girls reported accessing sexually explicit media on at least one occasion. 

35% of boys said they had viewed pornographic videos “too many times to count.” 

In 2008, YouGov conducted a survey of 1,424 British youth (14-17 years old): 

58% said they have seen pornography. 

71% of sexually active teenagers have viewed pornography. 

42% of sexually active teenagers view pornography regularly. 

More than a quarter of boys use porn at least once a week (5% of them every day). 

In 2008, more than 560 college student responded to an online survey: 

93% of boys and 62% of girls were exposed to pornography before 18. 

14% of boys and 9% of girls were exposed to pornography before 13. 

69% of boys and 23% of girls have spent at least 30 consecutive minutes viewing Internet pornography on at least one occasion. 

63% of boys have done so more than once, and 35% of boys have done so on more than 10 occasions. 

83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online. 

69% of boys and 55% of girls have seen same-sex intercourse online. 

39% of boys and 23% of girls have seen sexual bondage online. 

32% of boys and 18% of girls have seen bestiality online. 

18% of boys and 10% of girls have seen rape or sexual violence online. 

15% of boys and 9% of girls have seen child pornography. 

According to an anonymous survey published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in August 2009: 

96% of teens interviewed had Internet access, and 55.4% reported that they had visited a sexually explicit website. 

Adolescents exposed to these sites are more likely to have multiple lifetime sexual partners, more likely to have had more than one sexual partner in the last 3 months, and more likely to have used alcohol or other substances at their last sexual encounter. 

According to a Symantec study, after analyzing 3.5 million online searches done between February 2008 and July 2009, “sex” was the 4th most used term; “porn” was the 6th. 

This reflects searches done by children in households that use Norton Family. 

In 2010, 14-16-year-olds from a north London secondary school were surveyed. They found: 

Nearly a third looked at sexual images online when they were 10 years old or younger. 

81% look at porn online at home. 

75% said their parents had never discussed Internet pornography with them. 

Other sobering stats from here, excerpted below:

Teenagers with frequent exposure to sexual content on TV have a substantially greater likelihood of teenage pregnancy; and the likelihood of teen pregnancy was twice as high when the quantity of sexual content exposure within the viewing episodes was high.

Pornography viewing by teens disorients them during the developmental phase when they have to learn how to handle their sexuality and when they are most vulnerable to uncertainty about their sexual beliefs and moral values.

A significant relationship also exists among teens between frequent pornography use and feelings of loneliness, including major depression.

Adolescents exposed to high levels of pornography have lower levels of sexual self-esteem.

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Romans 12:2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Colossians 2:8  See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

Romans 14:1-23  As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. ...

1 John 2:16  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Ephesians 5:11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

John 15:18-21  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

John 12:46  I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from every form of evil.

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

1 John 2:17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Parenting Your Christian Teen Part 4: The Science of S E X

If you're reading these teen parenting posts and wondering if this is all about helicopter parenting, consider what that term really means. Helicopter parenting is more about pushing your children into life goals or pursuits you deem worthy and acceptable--such as pressuring them into Yale when they really want to go to art school; or pressuring them into a four-year university when they'd rather start with junior college or vocational training. It's about living through your kids in an unconscious effort to boost your own ego and self-worth.

It's also about fighting their battles for them at school and work and not allowing them to fail, and thus instilling a crippling fear of failure. The hovering also denies a child the thrill of discovering their God-given strengths and gifts, and what unique direction God has for them.

For example, when your child turns 16 it's great to encourage them into the teen workforce. Nothing teaches responsibility and work ethic like a job--whether paid or volunteer. But, do you also fill out the application for them for fear they won't write neatly enough? Do you act as their personal alarm clock so they won't ever be late? When they are late, do you call the school or employer and offer excuses--even blaming yourself rather than your child? When your child is in trouble at school, do you call and blame the teacher or another student? Do you do whatever it takes to get them a stellar grade, because a failing or mediocre student doesn't make you look good? Do you discourage their artistic abilities for fear they'll be poor all their lives?

Providing moral training and scaffolding is far different than being your child's personal alarm clock. How many adults look back at their own youth and wish their parents had provided more training, more boundaries, more scaffolding? We can never get those years back, and some people suffer the consequences for decades.

We can be a good moral role model; we can pray; we can love them and provide affection so they're not desperate for it; we can train; we can provide boundaries with consequences, but they still have free will. They have to take the consequences for their poor life decisions, but that doesn't negate our responsibility to be like a Holy Spirit to them in these transitional years. The Holy Spirit is always present, and so should parents be as brain maturity catches up with the passions of youth.

God loves us, he forgives us, he upholds us with his strength, he fills our deep emotional needs, he provides mercy and grace, and he provides a way out of temptation. We are called to gift our children with the same, as their earthly parents. And because we can't fill them as deeply as God can, we direct them to the foot of the Cross, so they'll be filled forevermore.

Don't be apologetic about being an involved, present Christian parent. Let other parents around you do what they will, but stand up for God and what he asks of the Christian parent whenever you have opportunity.

And as much as you're deeply disappointed when your child messes up, let him or her know that you have a capacity for love, mercy, and grace that is beyond whatever mistake they can make. But love, mercy, and grace don't mean permissiveness; make no mistake about that.

God designed the teen so that their bodies give them one signal, but their brains and emotional maturity are not up to par yet. In fact, even up to the mid-twenties their brains are still developing discernment and emotional maturity. While passion comes before the ability to control that passion, God didn't curse us with this design. He meant for parents to be involved. He meant for us to have their moral backs. 

A doctor had this experience: a mother brings in her 14-year-old daughter for an exam after finding out that she's sexually active. The mother assigned the doctor with this task: teach her how to do what she's doing safely. The doctor found out that the girl became sexually active at 12 years old, and had had 14 partners in two years. She felt that as long as the partner was her boyfriend at the time, than it was okay.

She writes about the science of sex and the importance of explaining all of it to teens, excerpted below:

The doctor's words (full article here): For example, when we do anything exciting, a hormone called dopamine is released in our brain that makes us feel like the world is good, that we have been a success. This hormone makes us want to repeat that activity.

Dopamine is necessary for us because it is what gives kids this excitement about leaving home and taking the huge risk of going out and being independent adults, which is a necessary part of growing up. But that hormone also can be negative because if a kid, for example, enjoys speeding at 100 miles an hour down a twisted road, he gets a dopamine kick for that, too. And the dopamine makes him want to repeat it.

When any of us have sexual intercourse, we have a huge outpouring of dopamine into our brains. It is released when a married couple has sex, which makes them want to repeat the sexual act which then allows them to get pregnant and have babies. But for the unmarried kid it makes him want to repeat that sexual act again and again. It is the same hormone that is secreted with addiction to drugs and nicotine.

Emotionally attached

Another thing teens may not understand is that even with one act of intercourse they will be emotionally attached to the person they are having intercourse with, and that these attachments can last a lifetime. During sexual intercourse, in the female brain there are more receptors for oxytocin, and in the male brain there are more receptors for vasopressin. Both hormones cause the person to feel emotionally attached to the other, even with just one act of intercourse.

So those in a relationship not only have the dopamine that rewards them for the repeating of the act, but also the oxytocin and the vasopressin that makes them feel attached. Thus, we have the name of our book Hooked. You become attached, addicted, bonded to each other.

In marriage, that is a good thing because you will stay attached to each other. Children are reproduced and you bond to those children, care for them, and help them grow up and our human race survives. But if you are 14 years old and have had 14 partners, and are still attached in some way to all 14 of them, you create problems.

All of this results in actual physical changes in the brain. When these hormones flow and send their impulses, they dramatically affect connections or synapses between the neurons in the brain. Those synapses actually are strengthened when we repeat a behavior or they are weakened when we stop. So, when you repeatedly attach and unattach with multiple sexual partners you actually weaken the ability to stay connected. Studies have shown that when people have had multiple sexual partners before marriage they are more likely to divorce because they actually weaken the pathways that are necessary to attach at the deep and necessary emotional level important for marriage.

The immature brain

One of the reasons parents are so important during their children’s adolescent years is because the Prefrontal Cortex – the part of the brain where we make rational decisions and where dopamine has its greatest influence – is not fully mature until the mid-twenties. Teenagers are not brain damaged. It’s just that they are not mature, and any parent of a teenager knows exactly what we are talking about. The growth of these synapses is increased before birth and again when they are in pre-puberty. Then, between puberty and the mid-twenties, the hardwiring is molded and “set” in its mature condition.

So, these adolescents need the judgment of parents to help them through those years with decisions about the future and to consider the consequences that they cannot fully see for themselves. Otherwise these mechanisms we have described as so important for marriage become a trap—an ambush of brain molding and a habit of behavior that can hurt them in ways they cannot imagine, not just for a few months but often for a lifetime.

We find that in every bit of this science we have looked at—the neuroscience, diseases, and so forth—that human beings are designed to be with one other person sexually and monogamously for life. The use of the term “design” calls to mind the intelligent design of God, but it is so amazing that even the secular reproductive anthropologists who would disagree with much of what we’ve said here use the word.

Based on the most modern neuroscience, sex is a whole body experience. The brain is the biggest and most important sex organ of the body. All these hormones in the brain and all these synapses that influence our habits and our patterns of living were designed by God so that we can be connected to one person for a lifetime in marriage.

As parents, that is our assignment: to guide our children so they can experience the very best thing that God has for them.

See Part 1 of my teen series here,
Part 2 here
Part 3 here

Further reading:
How do I teach my children about sex so that they will stay pure until they are married?
Passport to Purity Weekend Away Kit Introduction
Kids of Helicopter Parents Are Sputtering Out.

Have you felt pressured by other parents to give your kids more space?