hrkach_ellen_gable"Chastity is the sure way to happiness."

This quote by John Paul II brings to light the importance of chastity in our sex-saturated culture. A friend of ours once stated, "It doesn't matter how well you raise your children.   There are no guarantees they will wait until marriage to have sex." While this is true, I believe that, as parents, we can stack the odds in our favor and help our college-aged children remain chaste.

Be a good example of chastity Chastity doesn’t end when a person gets married.   Marital chastity is defined as being faithful to one’s spouse and obedient to God's laws regarding sex in marriage. Our older children have known that we use and teach NFP from the time they were teenagers. Using NFP and abstaining for part of the cycle illustrates to our kids that even in marriage, it doesn't mean unlimited sex all the time.

Expect much A relative of mine once said, "You can't expect your boys to wait until marriage to have sex." Not only do we expect it, we encourage it and we hope for it.  If we assumed that they are going to be sexually active, we would be doing our children a great disservice to say nothing or to encourage them to use contraception.  Continued conversation about the importance of chastity may be awkward, but it is necessary.

Wait to date We have discouraged our sons from dating/courting before college and even within college.  It is important that they develop good, solid friendships with members of the opposite sex and we often remind them that they are not attending a university in order to socialize.

Ongoing communication It is essential to keep the lines of communication open, especially when our children are living away at college.  Before one of our sons went away to college, we purchased an additional cell phone with free calls to our phone and vice versa.  We text and email often, and usually speak at least once a day.

Catholic organizations Neither of our older sons attended Catholic colleges because their chosen majors were not offered at any Catholic schools.  We strongly recommended that they join a faithful Catholic organization on campus.

Catholic media Exposing our young adult children to good Catholic media is essential. We have read Theology of the Body for Beginners (West) and If You Really Loved Me (Evert) with our teenagers.  Our sons enjoy the Everts’ Romance Without Regret DVD as well as The Pure Life and Theology of the Body for Teens on EWTN.  If we're going to be in the car with our young adult children for more then ten minutes of travel time, we often play a Christopher West CD.

Guardians of the eyes/ears When one of our sons went to college, he followed Jason Evert's excellent advice to keep a crucifix near his monitor/television to remind him to be chaste on the internet and to resist the temptation to visit immoral websites or watch explicit television shows.

At college, young adults may be exposed to varying kinds of immoral behavior and immodest dressing, especially if they’re living in dorms.  It’s important for our children to realize that many young people have bought into the "sex is for fun" mentality and we need to remind our kids to always show others charity.  At the same time, they ought to understand the importance of standing up for their beliefs and to not give in and follow the immoral behavior.

God's grace Chastity is not possible without the assistance of God's grace.  Remaining chaste before marriage is difficult and requires sacrifice.  As our children grow up, family prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist will help build the foundation of a strong spiritual life.  This, in turn, will strengthen souls to be chaste and help them to resist the many temptations of our culture when they eventually go off to college or move away from home.

Never lose hope What if, despite all this, your child makes the choice to become sexually active?  Our job as parents is to show our children unconditional love, regardless of the choices they make.  Remind them that their behavior affects not only them, but all those around them, especially younger siblings. We pray for our children's chastity/vocation every day.  Continued communication with young adults is important, no matter how old they are.

Most people know the story of St. Monica and her son, Augustine, who lived with a woman and fathered a child out of wedlock. St. Monica prayed for many years for his conversion, never giving up hope.  Not only did he change, he became a priest and bishop, a great doctor of the church and was eventually declared a saint.

There are no guarantees. However, we can significantly increase the odds that our children will remain chaste throughout college and until marriage by being a good example, expecting much, keeping communication open, exposing them to good Catholic media, reminding them of God’s grace and, as parents, never losing hope.

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach