I admit I am wary of actions that put me in physical danger. I am sitting in the urgent care lobby, waiting and writing while my husband is getting stitches on a couple of good-sized gashes. He’s a handy guy with a can-do attitude. He’ll try just about anything before he calls a contractor. He can absolutely handle everything from plumbing and painting to replacing fixtures and faucets. I draw the line at work on natural gas lines and anything that requires climbing on the roof when no one else is home. I keep telling him, “When you are careful to take care of yourself, you are also taking care of me.” He’s respectful of both my cautions as well as TV demos preceded with the warning, “Don’t try this at home.” Nevertheless, sometimes things just go awry. In this case I am the one that asked him to cut down a small tree and also the one that gets to care for him after a little slip with the tools.
I admit I am also wary of conversations, like talking to my kids about sexuality, that have the potential to put my relationships at risk. We know what to do to prepare for physically dangerous situations. We willingly put on the safety harness, the helmet, or the life jacket before we take on the climb, pedal off-road, or challenge the rapids. We’re a lot more reluctant to climb into a tenuous conversation or dive into treacherous territory when there is real risk to relationship. The protective gear just isn’t as tangible. However, despite the awkwardness, I am convinced it is safer to tackle the tough topic of sexuality head on than it is to hold off and hope for the best.
When I was a principal for grades 6-12 in a Christian school, our admission process included an interview with each family so I could get to know their needs and expectations. There was a relatively pervasive notion amongst parents that a Christian school would be the safest place for their child to weather the teen years. It could be--if their goal was to surround their student with staff and faculty who genuinely cared for them and navigated from a biblical worldview despite tough life circumstances. If, however, parents were looking to escape their child’s struggles with isolation, depression, or bullying by surrounding them with Christian kids who would always make the right choices and be good examples, then we needed to have a talk about reality. The truth was, they would still encounter kids--like their own--who were experiencing a rush of hormones and struggling with social anxiety and the lure of the secular world. Even in the best environment, kids still have the tough job of figuring out who they are and where they fit, and sometimes they still make poor choices.
A Christian university is just one step away from that scenario. We still have students facing real life and real temptation. Sexuality is one piece of that struggle. Christian college students are humans after all, and they have maturing to do. True, some of them will inevitably learn hard lessons the hard way. However, I believe that parents can still help their college students prepare for making wise choices in the face of those challenges, both now and in the future. Your influence is critically important.
- If a HELMET is designed to physically protect your head, the practice of capturing thoughts for Christ, or reframing risky situations from a biblical perspective, is like suiting up in emotionally protective gear.
- If a SAFETY HARNESS is designed to keep you from falling, choosing safeguards in advance of encountering temptation is like putting up a physical barrier against poor choices.
- If a LIFE JACKET is designed to provide an escape from danger, having an escape route is akin to planning a way out when circumstances become threatening.
I recognize that approaching a conversation about sexual temptation or sexual assault is not your usual catch-up chat with your student. I’m probably making some of you uncomfortable just bringing it up. But I want to encourage you to use a question to initiate this important conversation. Be deliberate in asking questions that test their thinking and encourage a plan for safeguards. Helping them suit up in emotionally protective gear starts with being brave enough to talk through some of the situations they will face, regardless of the environment they are in. So instead of a “don’t try this at home” warning, I’d like to challenge you to intentionally “try this at home.”
- Ask a HELMET question: I recognize that being a college student offers greater independence and potentially temptations. What is your specific plan to avoid sexual risks?
- Ask a SAFETY HARNESS question: How can you protect yourself against situations where someone else would have the opportunity to take advantage of you against your will? What are some possible safeguards?
- Ask a LIFE JACKET question: If you found yourself in a situation that was emotionally or physically threatening, what is your plan of escape?
We came home with 10 stitches. It was only a small tree that landed us in urgent care but a good pair of leather gloves would have gone a long way toward preventing the trauma. While our students are gaining maturity, a brave parent in courageous conversation can help equip them to avoid questionable situations. As for us, we will definitely be wearing gloves and goggles the next time we pull out the power tools. So put on your gloves and have your conversation!
PARENTS, WE ARE HERE TO HELP. Safety is a high priority at UNW!
Title IX Training: Colleges and universities across the country are federally mandated to provide training for their students on sexual harassment and misconduct. All students in their first year at Northwestern who are attending classes on the physical grounds of the campus are required to watch the Title IX training video. Returning students and those who attend online classes only are strongly encouraged to participate.
Run Hide Fight Training: Our Public Safety Office provides online training for students on best safety practices in the unlikely event of a campus threat. Students are introduced to safety training during their orientation and have ready access to the training materials via theROCK.