Speaker offers parents 10 guides to raising chaste teens

Photo Caption: After a talk at The High School of Saint Thomas More on Oct. 21, Jason Evert (center) poses with Father Robert Lampitt and students Terence Schmutz, Alex Sabol, Claire Taylor, and Sarah Johnson.

By: By Tom Dermody

Don’t give teenagers “the talk” regarding sexuality, Jason Evert advised about 100 parents Thursday night.

“Give them thousands,” he urged. “One talk won’t suffice when it comes to chastity.”

And one piece of parental advice wouldn’t suffice for Evert — a Catholic author and leading speaker on chastity issues — in a fast-paced, 90-minute presentation titled “Raising Chaste Teens” at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria. Evert offered 10 suggestions for parents as they take on the challenge of being the primary sex educators for their children in a culture that often portrays the virtue of chastity as “bizarre.”

Topping the list was prayer.

“The best thing I do for my child is what I do on my knees,” said Evert, who lives in Denver with his wife, Crystalina, and their four children but is often on the road speaking to more than 100,000 teenagers annually on the topic of chastity. This week, he spoke to all-school assemblies at four Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Peoria.

At Thursday evening’s meeting, sponsored by the diocesan Office of Evangelization, Evert urged the parents to not only pray for but pray with their children.

“Teach them how to pray from example,” said Evert. In addition to attending Mass as a family, parents should model prayer at mealtime and with regular devotions such as the rosary. Evert encouraged parents to augment their prayer with fasting.

“God does answer prayers,” said Evert, though acknowledging it might take years. “The source of conversion is grace that comes from prayer.”

Catholic parents also must “set the standard high and make the standard clear” — abstinence until marriage — when it comes to chastity, said Evert in his second suggestion. To advise against sex before marriage but then add a caveat such as “but if you are active, use protection” is a dangerous double standard that is not a mixed message, but a clear green light.

Evert said he would never tell his young son, for example: “Don’t play in traffic, but if you’re going to, at least put on a helmet for Dad.”

In his talks with teens around the country, Evert sees a “hunger” to be challenged to chastity. After his talk Friday to the entire student body of Bloomington Central Catholic, teens stood in line for more than hour to ask him questions and share stories. Evert also spoke this week at St. Bede Academy in Peru, Peoria Notre Dame, and The High School of Saint Thomas More in Champaign.

“There is change happening,” he told the parents. “Modesty is making a comeback.”

And it can’t come quickly enough, as teen sexual activity leads to unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases “spreading like wildfire,” and depression.

Parents have more power than they might think to influence their children, said Evert. But when he asked for a show of hands on how many in attendance were given a talk on sexuality that covered church teaching by their own parents, none raised their hands.

“Yet here you are being expected to give your kids what was never given to you,” said Evert, author of several books including his latest, “How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul.” He shared several print and online resources, including chastity.com.

Other practical suggestions Evert offered the parents in the raising of chaste teens included:

–“Be a parent first and not a buddy.” Guidelines and expectations, though maybe unpopular, can “take the pressure off the kids” in harmful social situations, he said.

— Allow dating only after age 16, if not older. “The purpose of dating is to find a spouse, not for recreation,” Evert maintained.

— Form a “web of parenthood” with other parents who share your values.

— Make the use of the Internet in your home as safe as possible. Find and use the latest filters. “You have to become computer literate,” he said, warning of the scope and reach of the pornography industry.

— Keep communication open. Work on listening to your teen, and asking good questions.

— Get over your insecurities regarding talking about chastity, especially if they stem from your own failures. “Your authority doesn’t come from your perfection,” said Evert. “It comes from God as a parent.”

Finally, said Evert, chastity is a virtue “more easily caught than taught.” A parent should not expect children to obey church teaching outside of marriage if the parents are not obeying it within their marriage.

“It’s beautiful the way God made our fertility,” said Evert, advocating natural family planning. “God knows what he’s doing.”

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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