Over the years, I’ve talked with plenty of kids who have managed to sneak around a bit with their boyfriend or girlfriend.  Some—by God’s grace—don’t end up getting too carried away, but, unfortunately, many do.  Chances are, if your kids aren’t walking closely with the Lord, things are going to go pretty far pretty fast for them in the dating scene, and even if your kids are Christians, they’re not immune; they will likely struggle with purity as they date and navigate the online world.

In light of how sexualized our culture is, and in light of how teenage hormones rage, it’s critical that, as parents, we set solid ground rules and regularly engage about sex and purity with our kids as they grow and mature.  “The Talk” can’t be a one-time affair; our kids are growing up in a world that paints a picture that sexual experimentation and sex with no strings attached is part of growing up.  It’s up to you to help them to separate fact from reality regarding their bodies, relationships, sex and pornography.  Have ongoing conversations with your kids about sex, and help them to make wise decisions.

All of that being said, when and if you catch your son or daughter having sex, don’t overreact (obviously, you will want to flip out, but try your best not to).  Calmly shut the door or step back from the situation—let your son or daughter know that you are outside and that you need to talk to them.  Ask them to get dressed and please come out.

Next, take a moment to reflect on whether you have set a good example and how much guidance you’ve provided to your teen over the years regarding what is and what isn’t appropriate behavior.  The way you react to your teen will help set the tone for furture conversations, because there will need to be many more conversations.  If you were a parent with enough foresight to set clear rules and repercussions for your kids if they break those rules, then it’s appropriate to let your son or daughter know you love them and care for them, but that they now have to deal with the repercussions that you clearly set out for them.  If you have not established clear rules and punishments for breaking the rules, then talk to your son or daughter about what they think would be appropriate, but decide with your spouse what sort of punishment to carry out.  

Also, talk to the parent(s) of the other kid involved.  Let them know what happened and what steps you and your spouse are taking to deal with your kid.  If you allow your son or daughter to continue to date their boyfriend or girlfriend, then set clear rules and help them to make good decisions.  For instance, my high school boyfriend’s parents would always make sure the door was open to the basement when we were watching movies and they would always come downstairs randomly to check on us.  We were never allowed to be at one of our homes alone, and both sets of parents did as much as they could to help us understand that our purity was important, which certainly helped.

Ultimately, your kids will make their own decisions, and if they aren’t Christians, there won’t be much to stop them from having sexual relations with their boyfriend or girlfriend.  Although some Christian leaders may disagree with me, I think it’s important to emphasize to your kids that, if they are having sex, they need to be on birth control and use condoms, but help them to understand that even these steps don’t mean that sex is always “safe”.  It is important that kids understand that, if they are going to have sexual interactions (even oral sex, mutual masturbation, etc.), they are opening themselves up to contracting STDs.  In addition, remind your kids what and where sex was made for: marriage.  Help them to understand that the most beautiful and best context for sexual relations is within marriage (for help, click here)