Author Dannah Gresh laments how the word "sexy" is attached to everything these days: shampoo, pasta, engines, vacations and hairstyling gel for dogs. "Its prevalence has watered down people’s sensitivity to true sexuality," says Dannah, who co-founded Pure Freedom to encourage teens to embrace purity and holiness.

By the teen years, many children have internalized the world’s distorted definition of sexuality. When girls don’t resemble the models on magazine covers, the word "beautiful" is often confused with the word "sexy." The result? Girls may pursue a sexier style of clothing and way of acting around guys; they fail to understand the beauty of marital intimacy and don’t realize that sex is a God-given gift designed exclusively for husband and wife.

Girls are not the only ones at risk. The oversexualization of boys, which can happen through exposure to pornography, often results in a struggle that could someday hinder true intimacy in marriage relationships. Dannah agrees, "Oversexualization takes away their ability to be sexually intimate."

Keep communication lines open

Parent-teen connectedness reduces the impact of sexualization on children, according to Dannah. She encourages parents to stay involved and do whatever it takes to keep the doors of communication open.

In addition, parents can demonstrate their values to their children by setting boundaries. One example is establishing an acceptable range when it comes to wardrobe selections. ("Buy what you want, but no plunging necklines or tight-fitting jeans.") Teens tend to respond appropriately when they’re given the freedom to make their own decisions within the confines of parental limits.

Tips for parents and single parents

Parents can also fight the sexualization of their children by demonstrating the beauty of marriage. Dannah says, "Teens learn how to have a relationship based on their parents’ relationship. If my relationship with my husband is healthy [in front of my kids], if it is tactile, and we disagree but talk civilly and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ we demonstrate intimacy."

Single parents do not have to be left out of this equation. They can find a godly couple at church to help model a healthy relationship. After the teen spends time with the couple, the parent and teen can discuss the relationship. And even if a conversation doesn’t take place, that teen will learn something about intimacy through having been around a good relationship. After all, a lot of what teens internalize is not what they’re told but what they see.

From Focus on Your Child’s Teen Phases, February 2009. Published by Focus on the Family. © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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