This is the fifth article in a five-article series
Read the introductory 
Read articles for other age groups: 
Ages 0-4 (Unit 1)Ages 5-8 (Unit 2)Ages 9-12 (Unit 3); Ages 13-18 (Unit 4)

Understanding sexual development and integrity for children ages 13-18


If our children cherish their spiritual engagement with Christ, they can learn that even now they are complete in Christ. Having a boyfriend or girlfriend won’t be necessary for the deeper fulfillment that only God can satisfy. In this age span, we want to encourage them to embrace their life in Christ in such a way that whether single or married in the future, they have learned how to sustain their total fidelity of body, mind, and spirit to Christ. And should they marry in the future, their greater fidelity to Christ thus far will be the best wedding gift they can give to their bride or groom.


  1. Continue to maintain the goals from prior units.
  2. To equip your child to know and delight in the fact that in Christ he is complete now, and that virginity is something to cherish.

Iceberg zones:

  1. The body discussed in Unit 1 and the mind discussed in Units 2 and 3.
  2. The human spirit with an emphasis on sexual health and integrity as they relate to loving God.


What's normal

  • Questions about morality and relationships
  • Increasing body consciousness
  • Obvious physical changes as their bodies mature (secondary sexual characteristics will emerge)
  • Preoccupation with appearance
  • Preoccupation with opposite gender
  • Masturbation at home or in other private places
  • Desire to experiment sexually with opposite gender peers
  • Increasing desire to differentiate themselves from their parents

Developmental tasks for your child

  • Maintenance of the development tasks in Units 1-3.
  • Learning and living fidelity to Christ
  • Willing accountability with parents and friends
  • Group dating
  • Expressing non-sexual touch and emotional intimacy with parents and peers
  • Transition to greater personal responsibility in all facets of life

How to foster sexual health and integrity in this stage

  • Maintain the action points from prior units.
  • Offer loving accountability within the context of your family's sense of loyalty and community.
  • Provide for wholesome activities which foster your child’s and his peers’ development as young men and women.
  • Express any concerns in a relational, respectful way.
  • Teach your children to ask not only, "Is it right or wrong?" but "Is it wise?"
  • Encourage your children to make loving God the end goal of every behaviour.

What to avoid

  • Don’t project yourself mentally or emotionally into your child’s relationships. Your role is simply to help develop your child’s discernment and guide his relationships in appropriate directions. All too often, parents become "friends" with their child’s peers and this loss of perspective or objectivity can be detrimental to all concerned.
  • Don’t triangulate (keep secrets) with your child’s friends about your child or his peers. As adults, parents will want to show support for their children’s peers, and will want to be relational. The keeping of secrets about your child with another, however, could be considered a type of betrayal.
  • Don’t minimize his feelings – especially about romantic relationships.
  • Don’t drive him into an inappropriate relationship by being controlling or inconsiderate.


What to do if you're concerned for your child’s development

During this stage of development it’s not uncommon for adolescents to challenge their parents. Peers will become more important to them than ever before. Their individual identities will continue to emerge, and this can be a time of personal insecurity and significant anxiety.

If your efforts to reach out to your child are failing, consider family therapy sooner than later.

Rob Jackson is a licensed counsellor with Focus on the Family in the U.S. where he specializes in calls related to sexuality, marriage and parenting. Jackson has provided counselling services through his private practice since 1991 with an emphasis on helping individuals recover from sex addiction through integrated care that helps people mature and heal spiritually, psychologically and behaviourally.

Yolanda Brown is a licensed counsellor with Focus on the Family in the U.S., specializing in calls related to sexuality, marriage and parenting.

From © 2004 Rob Jackson. All rights reserved. International copyrights secured. Used by permission.

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