Sowing the Seeds of Abstinence
About the Guest
Do you feel powerless to protect your teen from early sexual involvement? Drs. Freda Bush and Joe McIlhaney , both OB-Gyns, encourage parents to love their teens and remain involved in their lives, and let them know their standards regarding premarital sex. Even by doing all this, however, they realize that youth often make the wrong choices. Freda tells what her and her husband’s response was when their own daughter came home from college and announced she was pregnant.
Do you feel powerless to protect your teen from early sexual involvement?
Bob: When researchers started looking at why some teenagers stay away from sexually active behavior during their teen years, they found that moms and dads make a big difference. Here’s Dr. Freda Bush.
Dr. Bush: We found that if the young person had a connectedness to their parents, if they felt—they didn’t want to disappoint their parents, they were more likely to abstain. You need to make it clear to the young person what your expectations are. Spend time with them so you have a relationship with them, and therefore you have credibility, as far as encouraging them to follow what guidance that you would have for them.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, March 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today what moms and dads can do to influence their children in the direction of sexual purity.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You know, you have spent virtually your entire ministry helping families, married couples, understand what the Bible has to say about marriage, and then helping parents know what it looks like to raise your children to know and to follow Christ.
I’m concerned as I look at the sexual behavior of young people in our culture today about the future of marriage in our culture. Because with what is going on among teenagers and young adults in terms of sexual behavior, I’m just concerned that seeds are being sown that will cause marriages to be undermined heading into the future.
Dennis: We’re creating a culture that is telling parents they’re powerless against media and this megaphone culture that we live in that’s promoting all of this to our young people. But we have a pair of physicians with us in the studio. Dr. Freda McKissic Bush and Dr. Joe McIlhaney join us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Dr. McIlhaney: Thank you
Dr. Bush: Thank you.
Dennis: Dr. Bush is from Mississippi, she’s been an Ob-Gyn for more than 22 years. Joe was also in the same field of work and ultimately moved toward establishing and founding the Medical Institute for Sexual Health of which you, Freda serve on the board there. You both have a passion for this subject we’re talking about, and you’ve put your hearts between two covers when you’ve written a book called. Hooked: New Science on How Causal Sex Is Affecting Our Children. Joe, I wonder if you could give our listeners just an overview of what your premise of this book is, and what you’re trying to help parents understand.
Dr. McIlhaney: Sure. The book is a product of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, the organization that Freda and I are a part of that I started back in 1992. The organization talked about sexually transmitted diseases and how common they are and about non-marital pregnancy. But we’ve begun realizing that in the literature, in the scientific literature starting just a few years ago that the new neuroscience was showing us some things about sexual behavior from MRIs from PET scans, and from sophisticated essays of neurochemicals.
It showed that, for example, when people have sex, they secrete dopamine which gives them a thrill, makes them want to do it again. That is a hormone that, in a sense addicts people to a behavior because they feel so good when they do it. So, people when they have sex can get addicted to sexual behavior whether they are kids or married folks. Then, people when they are physical, skin to skin with another person bond to them emotionally. But, because of physical chemicals, oxytocin that’s secreted into the woman’s brain and vasopressin that’s secreted in the man’s brain causes him to bond to that person if they’re skin to skin with them.
As Freda said, when a woman hugs a man for 20 seconds or more she begins to bond to him and trust him. So, we see this design, if you will, the way we’re made, that allows two people, a man and a woman to become addicted to sex with each other. Then they will become pregnant, they bond to each other because they’re physical with each other, and they stay together if they’re married. The statistics clearly show that it’s marriage, it’s not cohabitation or anything else where the couple will stay together. These two hormones help make that happen. It’s almost like God designed it.
That’s really the essence of what we’re saying here. We’re saying that this relationship of marriage, because of these hormones causes these people to seal together and connect with each other. A connection with another person is vital from the time we’re born. We’re made to become involved in one relationship with another person—if it’s sexual—for life.
Dennis: You mentioned the word design. I think of the book of beginnings—the book of Genesis—Genesis 2:25. “God said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother, and hold fast to his wife. And they shall become one flesh.’ And the man and his wife were both naked and they were not ashamed.” There’s the picture of what you’re talking about.
Dr. McIlhaney: Our science basically describes the basis for that, and the way God made our brains. It’s just phenomenal.
Dennis: Freda, your book is really chock-full of information that parents can use to better understand their teenager. But it also instructs parents as to what they can do with their teens as they find out this information about the brain. They go, “Well, let’s look here for a second. I’ve got a teenager that I’m going to have for seven years.” Maybe longer, because I think because young people are moving into this phase at 11 and 12.
Bob: And some of them are staying adolescents for longer than seven years.
Dennis: Yes, there you go. But they want to know what they can do, where they can start, and your book has got a list of ways parents can better coach their kids in terms of protecting their bodies, and their brains for the person that God intended them to leave, cleave and become one with—their spouse when they get married.
We’re going to put that list on FamilyLifeToday.com, for anybody who can’t write it down really quickly and doesn’t get a copy of your book. But, what would you coach parents to do as they look at their youngster whose emerging into adolescence to help them better protect from this culture. I mean, it’s vicious out there!
Dr. Bush: Well, I can tell you the target of the book was parents. We wanted to empower them and encourage them to be parents, because all of the studies show that the parents are the most influential in their young person’s life. And also, there was one study in particular that interviewed young people to find out those who had waited to have sex, why were they still virgins?
We found some characteristics of the family structure was that, if the young person had a connectedness to their parents that they were more likely to abstain. If they felt parental disapproval of them participating in sexual activity, and if they found parental disapproval of them participating in birth control, they didn’t want to disappoint their parents.
So parents, we’re saying to you that you need to make it clear to the young person what your expectations are, spend time with them so you have a relationship with them, and therefore you have credibility as far as encouraging them to follow what guidance and directions that you would have for them.
Bob: There are a lot of parents who have a lot of regret as they look at the choices that their kids have made. You’ve talked for years to your patients, to their parents, about sexual abstinence, about purity. You had these kinds of conversations with your kids when they were growing up.
Dr. Bush: Yes.
Bob: But, there did come a day when you got a phone call from your daughter right?
Dr. Bush: That is true. Our oldest daughter was away at college, and called to say that she wanted to come home. When she did, she informed us that she was pregnant. Now I can tell you as an OB/GYN…
Dennis: Now wait, did she tell you she was pregnant in the phone call?
Dr. Bush: No. She called and said “may I come home?” And it was not a scheduled visit. So we gave her permission. “Sure! Come home.” She took me out to shop, and in the course of the shopping, I am informed that she is pregnant.
Dennis: While you’re casually shopping for clothes?
Dr. Bush: Oh yes, she was wise.
Bob: She wanted this to happen in a public place didn’t she?
Dr. Bush: Actually we were in a restaurant, in the mall, and she informs me that she’s pregnant. And you’re correct. You have to sit there and be polite, and you can’t cry and holler. You have to listen. I really think she was a very wise woman to have me there so that I would hear the whole story. What she said was “I know what you and Dad taught me, but I got to school and it seemed everybody was doing it, and there didn’t seem to be the consequences that you all had talked about. So I thought, ‘Why not? I like him, he likes me, we will have relations.’”
Well when she became pregnant, she recognized it but she came to us and that was what I was so grateful for. Because of the relationship that we had as mother and daughter, she felt safe to come to me. Because I’m convinced, in Atlanta she could have had an abortion and I would have never known she was pregnant.
Dennis: What were you thinking in that restaurant in that public place, though because, as a parent, these moments happen and you’re flooded with all kinds of feelings. Wondering where you’ve failed, wondering what you could have done different, reaching out in compassion to your daughter, knowing some of the impact this pregnancy is going to have on her.
Bob: And you still have to go home and tell Dad about this.
Dr. Bush: Oh! I told her, I would not tell him. She would have to tell him, and I would be with her. I would walk alongside her, but that was her responsibility. But you are correct. My first thought was, “What did I do wrong or what did I not do?” And her response to me was, “You told us, you demonstrated. It is not your fault. I made a stupid choice.”
Dennis: I want to say something to parents who’ve either heard those words or will hear those words you can do everything that you know how to do as a parent. You can follow the book—the Bible, and you can have lived an exemplary life. Young people do have their own choices. They can make a mistake. You know what, they will make mistakes.
Our assignment is—and I love the way you stated this Freda when you said, you were so proud of her for coming to you, and I felt grace and compassion in your voice for her. That’s what a parent has to realize they have to rise above their own hurts, disappointment and maybe themselves, and for their child, and reach out with compassion to those kids who come home with news like this.
Bob: Did you start thinking “I can’t ever speak on this subject again. My husband and I can never hold any workshops and talk about abstinence, and write a book like…” you’ve written here. Did you think that it was all over for you in terms of speaking out on this?
Dr. Bush: I have to admit that thought did come. But, in our prayer time my husband and I felt a definite guidance from the Holy Spirit. “What is it that you want for your children?” And when you start listening, you still want them to wait to get married before having sex. You still want them to have their children in marriage. That had not changed.
The Holy Spirit said, “Do not change your message, but change your method.” I can tell you it encouraged me to find out more of the ammunition that I could use to help them have the weapons that they needed against the “warfare,” if you would.
Dr. Bush: So that I could not only get this information that we have here in the book, the science to support what the Bible said, but I could also be encouraged that even if they fall down, there was grace, and there was mercy, and there was hope that we could encourage and help young people and other parents to succeed.
I have a dream by the way. My dream is that my seven grandchildren will be virgins, and that they will marry virgins.
Dennis: Joe, I know you have a comment here. But I want to ask her one last question on this before we move off of it. Take us to the moment when your daughter and you sat in a room with your husband and told him.
Dr. Bush: My husband is a very quiet man. He’s a man of few words. His first response was, he dropped his head and grunted. Then he raised his head, walked to my daughter and embraced her, and we cried.
Dennis: The same act of grace that she had received from you, your daughter also received from her daddy.
Dr. Bush: Yes.
Dennis: That’s the picture of what a parent needs to be.
Dr. Bush: I can tell you we did keep that child. She had a baby. We helped her raise it. We kept it to allow her to finish college, which she subsequently did, and married, they now have four children.
Bob: That grandchild is one of the seven…
Dr. Bush: She is one of the seven.
Bob: …that you’re praying for to get to the altar as a virgin.
Dennis: You know what I like about that Bob? It’s taking bad news and it’s asking God to work it together for good. Romans 8:28 “And we know this, that all things do work together for good to those who love God, and to those who are called according to his purpose.”
Bob: The issue of beauty from ashes, that’s what we’re talking about. You take the ashes and God brings beauty out of them.
Dr. McIlhaney: I just think that’s such a beautiful illustration of the fact that when a kid, or when we make a mistake, life isn’t over. Change can still happen for good. I’d just like to encourage parents to realize that even kids themselves are saying that they’ve made mistakes and want to do better.
For example, about 90% of kids in high school say they think they should all receive a very strong message about abstinence. Obviously some of those kids had sex. Because, we know about 75% of high school kids have had sex by the time they graduate. About two-thirds of kids that have had sex wish they had waited. They say that year after year on a major national survey.
So, the kids themselves are saying, “Look, this is the message we want.” Even if they’ve had sex, some of them have been pregnant, gotten diseases. That’s not the life they want. They need the encouragement from all of us. Not just from parents, but from society itself. It’s not really fair to put parents and kids out there on point without society supporting them and making these decisions. You know the term: “Secondary virginity” is used. It’s a powerful term that kids can, if they’ve had sex they can still become secondary virgins. They can stop and not keep on doing that.
Bob: And if a mom and a dad want to help coach a teenager, again we can’t guarantee the outcome, but we can do some things to help our teens to increase the odds of them getting to where the teens are saying they want to be, in terms of sexual purity. What are some things that those teens can do and how can a mom and dad help make that happen.
Dr. Bush: Well, in the book we have some practical suggestions of how parents can help guide their young people. Among them, as we say, find a good friend with the same commitment about sex. So, in other words, “birds of a feather flock together.”
If your friends are draining on you and not going in that right direction, you lose them. You find some who are committed to you. I would not date anybody who would not have the same commitment to abstain that I would have.
Dennis: And if you’re watching your kids flock together with the wrong birds, you help them find a different flock.
Bob: You get in and mess up the flock.
Dennis: You stir around and find a way to create some space. You know? Scare the flock away.
Dr. Bush: Another one is to write down your commitment. Write it down, make it plain. I add to that, “An aim to abstain.”
Dennis: I like that.
Dr. Bush: And practice assertiveness. Make it clear what it is you expect on a date, and what it is that you expect, even if you’re not on a date. Now days, people say, “Well he was just my friend,” or “She was just my friend,” they don’t have a relationship. But you make it clear that you’re waiting for your mate. There are other things you can do to have fun and enjoy each other without participating.
Bob: You can role play that ahead of time…
Dr. Bush: Absolutely!
Bob: I’m thinking parents and the teenager—this sounds a bit hokey—but at the dinner table you can say, “Let’s do a little role-play. Let’s pretend that I’m your date and I’m starting to pressure you. Let’s see what you would say.” And you do that. There’s some power that comes just in role-playing that before you wind up in the situation for real. Right?
Dr. Bush: Absolutely!
Dennis: There’s also dad stepping in or mom, and interviewing the young man. Having a little talk with the boy…
Bob: Getting a copy of your book, asking the questions.
Dennis: Asking the questions.
Dr. McIlhaney: We did that with our daughters because of you. We did.
Dennis: Well, Dr. E.V. Hill, I’m thinking of what he did with his daughter. He interviewed the young man that came knocking at the door, and he didn’t like what he saw. His daughter came down for the date a few minutes later and she said, “Where’s my date Daddy?” Dr. Hill said…
Bob: “Ain’t no daughter of mine…”
Dennis: “…going out with a thing like that!” And they confirmed that he was the daddy, went to Mrs. Hill and confirmed without a doubt that Dr. Hill was the daddy of the daughter, and said, “There is no daughter of mine going out with a thing like that!”
I just appreciate both of you and your work in this book, and what you’ve done. This list that I didn’t let Freda finish because we’re out of time, there is so much in this that is really good ammo. I like that term, Freda, I really think we’re in a war for the souls of our young people. If I could encourage parents, I would encourage them to be too involved rather than too passive. Because, if you’re too involved, it’s probably just about right.
Dr. McIlhaney: Yes
Dennis: I want to thank both of you Joe and Freda, for your historic work over the past two or three decades but also for your current work, and your work on this book. Thanks for being on FamilyLife Today.
Dr. Bush: Thank you.
Dr. McIlhaney: Thank you Dennis, thank you Bob.
Bob: You need to know we’ve already been hearing from a lot of listeners who are going online at FamilyLifeToday.com or who are calling us at 1-800-FL-TODAY to get more information about your book, to get a copy of it. I just want to let listeners know you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com, there’s information not only about Dr. McIlhaney and Dr. Bush’s book, but there’s also information about other resources we have at here at FamilyLife designed to help you as a mom and a dad be engaged in this battle that we’ve talked about today.
Again the website FamilyLifeToday.com or you can call toll free at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” then the word TODAY. 1-800-FL-TODAY, call and if you have questions about these resources or if you’d like to place an order and have them sent to you, we have someone on our team who can take care of you and get whatever you need sent out to you.
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We hope you have a great weekend, hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to meet a woman whose world started to crumble a few years ago when her husband came to her and confessed to years of sexual addiction, involvement in pornography. We’ll hear her story on Monday and I hope you can be here as she tells it.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend, and we will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of Familylife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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