The first love, the first relationship and the first poems written for them - all parents need to discuss these things with their children. Archpriest Vladimir Tukalo, a father of five children, discusses exactly how to speak about these things with your child.
Do I need to talk to my grown-up children about intimate relationships?
It is necessary to do so. How a child’s parents treat each other will impact how the child will treat his spouse in the future.
When the Lord created the institution of marriage, he said that "a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife; and they will be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
Young people are very understanding, and if we do not talk to them about relationships with the opposite sex, there will be someone else who will tell them about these things, and what they will tell your children will not benefit them in any way. Having positive familial relationships is important. The father and the son or the mother and the daughter should have close confidential relationships in order to discuss some difficult topics.
How do you suggest we approach our children? Sit across from them and start with the words: "Son (daughter), let's talk?” Or from time to time answer some questions as they arise?
There is a formula for priests listening to confessions: "When asking questions, the confessor will not want to confess their sins with a stranger." It often happens that a priest, impressed by the intensity with which people confess to him in confession, can ask a person their sins. The priest in confession should be reserved and attentive. I think parents should do the same: in their discussions with children, they must express themselves with restraint.
And then, it says in the Scripture: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to an abomination" (Eph 6: 4). Quite often, parents irritate children - constantly letting them know that they are wiser, smarter, lived their lives, and so on. This attitude is not a basis for sincerity.
Many people ask themselves when to start having these conversations with children: at 12, at 13, at 14? In my opinion, it is important to initially maintain a sincere relationship with children so that people are not afraid to talk about their mistakes, fears, and feelings. It's not easy, but it’s possible.
And even if sincerity is lost, it can be restored. In this case, the question "when" will not help; at some point, the child will ask or show interest, and then you can talk about what is bothering them.
But it will not work if you never say anything, and then one day you suddenly decide to conduct the "sex talk.” Believe me, the child will only be bewildered.
Chastity is not only abstinence
You speak a lot with the youth. How do you explain chastity to the boys? Many perceive abstinence as some sort of guarantee: behave this way, and everything will be fine with you. But there are examples when people were chaste, but the family did not work out. So chastity is not at all a guarantee that one will be successful? Then what is it?
Our mistake is that we understand by the word “chastity” abstinence from sexual relations in marriage. Actually, this is not true.
Man, as we know, is a three-part being: the spirit, soul, and body interact in man. When the relationship is beginning, it is first about the external, but then gradually shifts to the internal. It is proved very clearly by doctors and psychologists, and priests can confirm this, that the contact of one person with another leaves a deep impression.
The Lord wants us to live in purity and purify our children. After all, the inner rhythms of a person, his spiritual state, and sensual experiences are like musical instruments that produce their own sound. When many instruments without a conductor begin to randomly play, there is confusion and nonsense. Such sounds can scare away, annoy, even disgust, the desire to close and not hear all this. So man is a very multi-faceted and harmonious creature.
As for chastity, here everything is much more serious. If the integrity of the relationship with God is violated in the soul, then through this slit of sin more and more vices are rushing into us.
What does it say in the Holy Scripture? “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation” (see: Matthew 12, 43-45).
In this vein, we can say that chastity is a much deeper concept than the absence of bodily relationships. But the loss of purity is one of the reasons why evil can enter us.
The feelings of the child need to be deeply respected.
If there is love between young people, how can parents not spoil everything in an attempt to control their relationship?
"Love is a gift." And when a young man says "I am in love,” it does not mean that he loves. Because the Apostle Paul said: "If you do the works of love by faith, you must prove that you do these things with love, and not with greed."
Let's say a young man likes a girl, and he does some good things to attract her attention. But he can do this and out of greed - to please.
God gives people the gift of love when they are doing the works of love just for the sake of each other. True love is present where there is a sacrifice. Therefore, if a young man believes that he is in love, then he must be ready to make some sacrifices. And this sacrifice lies in the fact that he must give up his desires, his likes, and his wants, and accept the opinion and outlook of the girl. He must respect her and not perceive her beliefs as some kind of opposing value system. And if both sides see that they are sacrificing themselves for each other - a guy for the sake of a girl, and a girl for the sake of a guy - then I think they are in love.
If parents, even if they only want what’s best, try to control the relationship, what can they do to not cross the line, so they don’t lose contact with their child?
Parents, of course, want to do the right thing. If parents surround their children’s relationship with prayer, I'm sure the Lord will keep them from doing wrong. And children, receiving such support, will always be grateful to their parents.
Conversely, there are many cases where people tried to control their children, forgetting that each person is their own individual and not their parents’ shadow. The intervention of the father and mother sometimes took on such an ugly face that it ended with the son or daughter leaving the house and making poor decisions.
While the child is near you, while he is with you - it does not matter if he is 14, 15, or 22 years old - you must respect his feelings, respect him, and express your love in deep prayer and support. It is important a young man or woman to know: no matter what happens, they can always come home.
The best thing is for parents to be careful. If you do not know how to talk to your child, find someone who does.
Is it possible to teach a young person chastity, or should one allow them to make mistakes?
A true athlete is created only during a duel, that's why they are brought to competitions from childhood.
Everyone can learn from their mistakes.
There is an app for smartphones where one can read the Bible. Taking time out of your day to read passages from the Bible will be a guide for you, and will give joy, comfort, and peace to your heart.
If chastity is violated and integrity is lost - can it be corrected? Return as it was before?
I think it can be corrected, first of all through repentance. Integrity can only be recreated through the restoration of relationships with God. And for this, it is necessary to repent. Repentance involves changing oneself.
If we sincerely desire to change ourselves, God, even in spite of our weakness, will really change us. We will become transformed, think differently, and perceive the world differently. And as for those things that used to anger us, we will begin to react to them peacefully and calmly. After receiving grace from God, people feel like they are literally bursting from the inside - a sense of joy, comfort, and peace.