Want To Know Who’s Teaching Your Kids About Sex? Look In The Mirror
by Lenore Buth
Sex is unavoidable. That is to say, sexual references and innuendos abound, in the media or on the street. No wonder responsible parents worry that what’s “out there” will pervert their child’s mind.
Yet every study confirms that what influences children and teens most is good old Mom and Dad. Kids study their parents from the first, fitting together clues about life like pieces of a puzzle. Little by little they form a picture of what it means to be “male” or “female.” So in effect you “talk” to your children about sex every moment of every day.
That’s a fearsome responsibility—and an awesome privilege—given you by God.
First Be Clear About Your Own Definition of Sexuality
Sexual identity involves more than sexual intercourse or particular body parts. Newest findings reinforce ancient logic. Females and males are different, beginning with the brain. Their bodily and emotional responses vary, even with identical stimuli. That’s not learned behavior. It’s built into us by our Creator. Sure, you’ll find individualities within the same gender, but none so striking as the differences between one gender and the other.
Christians do not find this startling. After all, we’ve read the first two chapters of Genesis, where God formed—with His own loving hands—two distinctly different beings, with individual roles.
Parents as Teachers
When you live out healthy sexual attitudes at home, you bless both daughters and sons for life. When you treat your spouse with respect and speak well of each other, you nurture your marriage. Moreover, you’ll demonstrate to your children how they can cherish their own marriage one day.
Nothing escapes your child’s notice. Suppose Dad smiles and pats Mom on the bottom, she turns toward him, and they close in for a long kiss. Even a preschooler senses these two share a different, unique connection.
Kids pick up what’s not so loving, too. If Daddy constantly puts Mommy down, kids assume: That’s how a man treats a woman. If Mommy grumbles, “He never thinks about anyone else! Men only care about themselves.” Youngsters file away as fact: Men are self-centered by nature.
Picture another scenario. Dad spots a scantily dressed female, whether on a TV screen or next door. He hoots his admiration or says something like, “That is one sexy lady!” His kids take note: Their hero approves.
Maybe Dad will add, “In that get-up she’s asking for it!” His sons and daughters get the message: A female dressed like that is fair game.
Like it or not, clothing does more than cover the body. When Mommy buys her young daughter outfits that feature the latest teen heartthrob, she also hands out a value system. Suppose Mom customarily exposes a lot of skin or Dad wears his pants down low. Their children, especially adolescents, presume that’s to be their standard, too, at least once they’re free of parental control.
Maybe you’re rearing your child alone. Count yourself blessed if the absent parent is cooperative and models a responsible lifestyle. If not, be civil and polite, anyway, to foster your child’s self-image. Remember, your example and”you can count on me” presence matter most.
Note that parents in the previous examples never specifically mentioned “sex.” They’re conveying attitudes about identity and male-female relationships, nevertheless.
For moms and dads it’s always the same daunting challenge: Walk the talk. Otherwise, don’t bother with lectures about respect and valuing people for what’s inside.
Countering Outside Influences
Every conscientious mother and father knows the dangers inherent in what’s in print and on the screen. Count in the realms available via a computer mouse, plus all those electronic gizmos kids love to be plugged into. Despite your best efforts, you can’t control what beams into your child’s mind every minute. Youngsters remain most vulnerable because they lack adult perspective. Let that drive you to pray, unceasingly, and then do what you can.
Teach your kids to be discriminating consumers of the media. Meanwhile, limit their exposure. Set up controls and strict guidelines, with time-limited cell phone plans. Even if a computer or television set in every bedroom would fit nicely into your family budget, don’t do it. Expect to hear cries of, “Aw, Mom… everybody else has one!”
Ignore the anguish. Instead, keep computers within your sight and periodically check out websites visited. Choose your quota of television programs together, then view TV and DVDs as a family.
Enlist the media as your teaching tool. Casually talk about behaviors and relationships on-screen. Did these characters display mutual respect, or was one a leader or a manipulator? Would your child appreciate being treated that way?
Talk about the clothing worn, too, and what it communicates. Help your kids recognize shades of difference within comedy, between the funny, the crude, and the hurtful. With that understanding they’ll be kinder to playmates and fellow students.
Begin this mutual exercise in thinking things through as early as you can. Make it a game to connect the dots and how choices lead to outcomes. You’ll be sharpening their judgment skills and arming your children for life.
What about the “Big Talk?”
At some point you’ll need to get specific about sexual intercourse. Timing is up to you, but don’t wait too long. Your kids get way more sexual misinformation dropped into their minds than you did—and at younger ages. Perhaps you wonder whether you’re “equipped” for presenting this information.
You are. God designed you and your child for each other.
Instead of a one-time event, look at this more as a relaxed, ongoing conversation. Read some sound Christian books and think through issues to enlarge your confidence.
Be age-appropriate, but use correct terminology rather than baby-talk or slang. Trustworthy books and DVDs suited to your child’s age can prove helpful, as a supplement or a follow-up. Just don’t rely on books alone.
Welcome their questions. If you don’t know an answer, promise to find out, then deliver. By the way, you needn’t reply to every personal inquiry. “Sorry, but that’s private” is enough.
Frame what you say in terms of God’s perfect design for human beings. That gives youngsters a faith-centered filter through which to evaluate whatever they read and hear.
Never lose sight of what you’re about. Every day you teach, you influence, the child God gave you. You lay down foundation stones in your child’s mind and heart, from which flow viewpoints and behavior… for life. This firm base will remain, even if your son or daughter temporarily loses direction.
Count on it.
Lenore Buth lives with her husband Bob in the Sacramento area. She’s the mother of four daughters and has eight grandchildren. Her book How to Talk Confidently with Your Child about Sex, fifth edition, is part of the Concordia Publishing House Learning about Sex series. Buth has written three other books on marriage and parenting, and her articles have appeared in newspapers and in a number of magazines, including “Focus on the Family.”
First Rights © Lenore Buth 2008