A Parenting Question: Teens, Relationships & Being Pro Life

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Usually, I use this column space to reflect on scripture or other spiritual reading. Other times, I share some hard earned wisdom culled from this school of life. Today, I am using it to ask for help from those of you farther on the parenting journey than I. How do you raise your children with a firm understanding that premarital sex is seriously wrong while remaining staunchly pro-life?

The national percentage of out-of-wedlock births is currently about 40%. In the city where I live, that rate is much higher. My children are growing up in a world where having children outside of marriage is considered normal. I try to impress upon them that this is not the way it should be.

At the same time, I am staunchly pro-life. I am thankful that these mothers choose to have these babies. I know that they could have made a different decision. Each child is a gift from God. A child born as a result of premarital sex is an instance of God bringing something good out of something wrong. Recently, we have faced this situation in my own family. My grandniece was recently born to my nephew and his girlfriend. The baby is beautiful and we love her. I still want my children to wait until they are married to have sex.

I grew up in a very authoritarian household. I knew that if I was ever unmarried and pregnant, I shouldn’t bother coming home. While fear of my parents wasn’t the only reason I waited to have sex, it was certainly part of the equation. Yet, I know the strength of emotions and hormones and that things very easily could have been different. I’d like to think that if I ever did find myself pregnant, I would have had the strength to carry the baby and not resort to abortion, but, honestly, I don’t know what I would have done. I know that I would have been very scared.

I don’t want my children to feel that way. I don’t want them to feel that if they have committed a sexual sin and are facing the consequences of that, that they are unwelcome or that I won’t love them anymore. I don’t want them ever to feel that abortion is the appropriate answer to that situation.

What is the answer to this? I can preach about self-respect and respect for members of the opposite sex. I can stress that premarital sex is a mortal sin and a one-way ticket to hell if they don’t have the opportunity to go to confession before they die (this was a fairly strong motivator for me). I can emphasize that having a child out of wedlock will dramatically alter the course of their lives – that they will be facing a responsibility that they are not ready for. And, they may still find themselves in a situation where they give in to their desires and face an unplanned pregnancy.

I’ve often heard the argument that you shouldn’t tell your children, “If you are going to have sex, I want you to protect yourself by using a condom,” because you are giving them permission to have sex. You are supposed to hold up the high standard and trust that your children can live up to that. Is saying, “If you ever find yourself in the situation where you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, you can come to us without fear,” the same thing?  Do I simply tell them, “No matter what you do in life or what circumstances you find yourself, we will always love you?”

So, I turn to you, and ask you to share your wisdom. How have you walked this line of taking a strong stance against having sex before marriage while being pro-life and supporting those who have children out-of-wedlock?

Copyright 2011 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

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6 Comments

  1. Patrice, as a mom of teens, this post truly resonates with me. I don’t have answers for your very important questions — I’m still in the midst of the challenges with my own sons and their friends. But I thank you for opening an important conversation for all of us. I hope others will chime in. We truly need to be “pro life” in actions and well as in words, and this means loving and supporting all children, regardless of the circumstances. I believe that the family member you mention is blessed to have you — a prayerful and loving force — in their lives. Again, I don’t have answers but agree with you that this is a critical conversation.

  2. Hi Patrice,
    I grew up in a similar background,with equal fears and have the same parenting views as you. My goal is to raise my sons to respect women and themselves;not to put themselves in a situation they are not ready for, but as you concluded I will still love and support them should they make the choice to have sex knowing the risks&consequences involved. They must live with those choices&will have to take responsibility to raise/support the girl/woman&child they created.

    God forbid they end up in this situation but if it ever were to happen I would want them to know we would not disown them or stop loving them, but that we want what is best for them and what is best is to wait until married,have a stable job&income with the ability to raise a child.

    I would not give them a condom and say be careful as I do feel that is condoning the behavior,but I would educate them about the risks involved including failure rates of birth control&contraceptives. I would also make sure they know what abortion is and how destructive it is to a human life and how it harms men and women who later regret their choice to abort. I would also rather support a life&welcome a grandchild into our family over dealing with the pain of an abortion and loss of a grandchild.

    I hope that helps…it is a very tough subject but one we must stick to our principles on and since love is unconditional we can’t throw our kids out,but we must educate and support them even if/when they make the wrong choices.

  3. Patrice, my youngest (26) is getting married in October. Honestly, it has always been in our minds about how to handle this issue and what my wife and I came up with are what I guess I would call my serious rules for life. We were consistent from fairly early on that sex outside of marriage was simply unacceptable. We didn’t gossip about the friends or relatives who became pregnant or moved in with another but we didn’t fail to comment how this was not acceptable and morally, objectively wrong. Period. We also were always very clear that there are some “annoyances” like forgetting homework, music selection, smart-mouth; but sex outside of marriage was treated on a much deeper, “no, I am from the city and know that you can get mugged if…” way of talking. Really adult stuff. Being drafted into the army and sent to fight a war stuff. Basically, it was serious because it WAS life serious. Not just a parent-kid thing. That’s what we did. I think it worked but do not know the secrets of the confessional. Please take it as one family’s experience. A close family who all love each other even after the kids have left the nest.

  4. I’m so glad you posted this. My son is just shy of 2 and I already think about how I should handle this topic! Yes I have some issues with worry, ha! My mother talked to me (and my brother separately) about not having premarital sex constantly growing up, and I think that’s all you really can do. Educate your children as to the right choice and pray for them. I also am not a fan of promoting condoms,etc because I think that sends a mixed message to kids; like a way to bypass the rules.

  5. Hi Patrice, thank you for posting this! We have adopted children who have had questions about the circumstances of their births. We also have a niece who gave birth to a son out of wedlock, which took some explaining to our sons at the time. We have often said how blessed we are to have them in our family and we pray for their birth parents well being, but have also used this as an opening to talk about how having a child out of wedlock can create a lot of dilemmas not only for the birthparents but for the other people affected. The child, the grandparents, the relatives. We have been richly blessed with the gifts of our children and thank God their birthmothers made the decision to be unselfish and bring them into the world. Though our great-nephew is a favorite cousin and a delight, it has been a rough road for all involved. We do not believe in giving the green light and handing out condoms. We have just always told them to look at the realities of the consequences of premarital sex and wait until they are married and ready to support a family to become intimate with anyone, to be unselfish for the sake of what might happen, and selfish in that they are keeping themselves for the one that they commit themselves to in the sacrament of marriage. It hasn’t hurt to point out also that as men, they would have no say in an abortion of their child if their partner decided to end the pregnancy. Hope this is helpful to you and God bless you and yours!

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