We live in a world that sends out double messages to our children. They are fed a daily barrage of confusion and chaos about their bodies and their sexuality. Sometimes we, as parents, are guilty of the same sort of messages.

"Don't have sexual intercourse, but when you do, make sure to use protection."

In that sort of statement, we are telling them not to do something and then providing them our full doubt that they will listen and obey.

They are taught a whole lot of the negative consequences of unprotected sex, but rarely learn of the positives of simply abstaining. This is one of the most difficult topics to discuss with children and comes with a lot of baggage from your own upbringing.

The path leading up to sexual relations is actually quite long and there are lots of opportunities for discussion along the way.

To begin with, we need to understand chastity and what it involves. Many think it means abstaining from sex, but there is much more to it. It stems from the Latin word castus, which means pure.

We can begin helping our children to stay pure when they are very young by teaching about the purity of their bodies and the blessings that come from maintaining that purity. If we start teaching purity from the beginning, it is easier. But anywhere along the way, we can still introduce these concepts to our children.

Here are some concepts to teach your children about purity.

What goes into their bodies

Teaching children that their body is a sacred gift from God, we can then build upon that idea with the admonitions to make sure we don't pollute it in any way. We need to teach them about harmful substances, such as alcohol, street drugs and cigarettes, but also about things like artificial colorings and additives, excessive calories and fats, too much soda and other things which can toxify their bodies.

What goes into their minds

Children need to keep their minds pure and chaste as well. This is a huge feat in today's world, with all the rapid-fire media messages they are subjected to. Avoiding gratuitous sex, violence and bad language in movies, on television, on the radio and in print media will help your children to preserve the purity of the sweet innocent mind they were born with. What goes into their minds cannot be removed, but it can be pushed aside and diminished by more positive and wholesome things.

What goes onto their bodies

The way our children dress has a powerful impact on how they feel about themselves and the messages they project to others. They don't have to be fully-covered to be modest and chaste. They just need to be taught to dress in a way that shows reverence and honors the gift they were given. Wearing camisoles under low-cut shirts and shirts that are long enough to cover their midriffs are a couple of suggestions.

The purpose of their body

We can teach children the sacred role of their body parts. Breasts were divinely given to nourish children, not just to attract boys. All parts of their special gift serve a divine purpose. Sexual intercourse is meant to bond man and woman. It is a sacred gift that should be used within a marriage to strengthen relationships and to produce children within the framework of a solid family foundation based on virtuous principles. I once heard a minister speak to a group of teenagers and told them some cultures wash their hands before they used the restroom as well as after, out of respect for the sanctity of those parts they would be handling.

By helping our children understand that their bodies, minds and spirits are not just accidents of nature, but divine gifts given from a loving God, we can teach them how important it is to care for their body and to maintain their purity. This is the true meaning of chastity.

Long before we ever tell them not to engage in sexual activity before marriage, we can teach children the blessings of being mindful of what they do for this special gift - their body. They need to respect it, protect it and demand that others do the same.

I heard a story about a father who told a young man who had come to pick up his daughter for a date, "I would never allow you to take my car out and drive it. What makes you think you should be allowed to take out my daughter who is so much more precious and irreplaceable?" We need to leave our children with that same indelible message. They are precious and irreplaceable.

If we can manage to send out these positive ideas about purity, and help them to understand how sacred their bodies and minds are, we will not need to use quite so many negative statistics and horror stories to scare them into not behaving in a way that takes away from their purity.

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