When I was younger, getting from point A to point B wasn’t as easy as asking Siri. I never heard “rerouting” when I made a wrong turn. My navigational system consisted of tiny markings on a large piece of paper. Because my parents didn’t want me to end up in Timbuktu, they taught and modeled how to get directions off of a map.
In a sexualized culture, kids need information to prepare and equip them. They need to learn godly sexuality rather than worldly sexuality. They need direction, and parents are the best ones to guide them.
Last week we shared how allies become approachable and trustworthy by connecting with their kids. You remember what it felt like to grow more aware of your own sexuality. Realize your kids will have their own unique experiences. Through connection, you’ll build bridges of trust over which you can share crucial information about sex and sexuality that your kids need. They will get this information somewhere, and you want to be the first stop for every leg of their journey.
Sharing information about sex and sexuality boils down to this:
- Start early or start now.
- Find good resources to read with your kids.
- Answer any question with a short, honest answer.
Start early or start now.
You know how fast the parenting years fly by. You’re also aware of the natural sexual awakening that happens in every human long before puberty, so don’t wait! Normalize conversations about bodies and sexuality during the early years. Younger children trust you. They probably haven’t experienced shame related to bodies or sexuality and are therefore more willing to discuss these topics. But there may be hesitation on your part! Push through that with prayer and faith. Then…
Find good resources to read with your kids.
In the toddler years, read books together about how God made boys and girls. Also, explain appropriate and inappropriate touch. Sexual abuse is very common, and once done cannot be undone. (God Made All of Me by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb)
As your child approaches ages five to seven, teach of God’s amazing way of making babies and His design for sex. (The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality by Luke Gilkerson) Explain that this is “family talk,” that parents get to tell their own kids about sex, and discourage talk about sex among friends.
You may feel your child is too young to learn about sex. But by delaying these conversations, your child will likely learn about it elsewhere and you will miss out on a great opportunity and privilege. You may also encounter more resistance because of shame your child may have internalized. Be proactive.
Sexuality is sacred, so teach that. But soon after, begin to explain about porn. Many experts agree that on average most kids will see hard-core pornography around ages eight to ten, some earlier and some later. Don’t let your child be caught unprepared. You can help by explaining the concept of porn with words like this:
Some people don’t know how precious their bodies are and might show their private parts in pictures or videos. When I was younger, someone showed me some pictures of naked people. One day you’ll probably see something like that too, and it might make you feel funny inside.
This is a very compassionate, honest introduction to porn that you can follow up with gentle questions. “Have you seen anything like that?” “How did it make you feel?” Explain to your children the differences between an oil painting or sculpture intended to display God’s good design of the human form and images intended to entice or bring shame. You may want to explain the terms “porn” and “pornography” because children will hear these words eventually, and you don’t want Google images to provide their answers. Also, teach how we give others privacy. Turning from an image of an exposed person is our way of giving appropriate privacy and honoring his or her God-given sexuality. Devise and practice a plan with your children, such as:
- Turn away from the image, or close the computer.
- If someone shows you the image, say “I don’t want to see that.”
- Realize you aren’t bad for having seen it, and you won’t get into trouble.
- Talk with Mom, Dad, or your caregiver about it as soon as possible.
Remember that kids “test the waters” before revealing too much. They may talk about a friend’s experience or minimize their own experiences to see how mom or dad will react. Tread carefully, prayerfully, and compassionately as a trusted ally should.
As you read good books together and talk more naturally about sex and porn, your kids will have questions, so….
Answer any question with a short, honest answer.
Children are curious. They’re trying to make sense of the world they see and experience. Keep your answers short and honest. Here’s one mom’s response to her five-year-old who asked what a tampon was:
For an older girl or woman who’s not pregnant, a little bit of blood comes out of her vagina each month, and a tampon keeps her panties clean.
Simple, direct, short. If the situation doesn’t allow for an immediate answer, explain that you want to talk about it later, and be intentional to follow up. Kids hear and see things that lead to questions. It takes courage to ask questions about sex or sexuality. Honor that courage. Be a truth-teller when your kids are young, and they will turn to you for truth later.
In the event your child or teen has seen porn, work to establish trust as well as accountability with him or her, while acknowledging the courage displayed in admitting it. Sometimes kids will show others porn and then threaten them, which can make a child fearful. But also remember the pleasurable feeling that porn can elicit. Talk through all the feelings your child has felt (e.g. shame, fear, intrigue, pleasure, or curiosity), consider sharing feelings from your early years, and read some of our earlier posts.
If your kids are older, you still have time! Recognize the shame or awkwardness older kids may feel and acknowledge and identify with that. Perhaps apologize to them for not being approachable as they were discovering things. Ask how you can begin to talk more openly about sexuality and become someone they trust and turn to as they continue to mature.
For ideas on talking about porn with older children, read: My Teen Uses Porn. Both girls and boys can be drawn to porn. Even younger children or teens can become addicted to it. Realize a teen’s world is much different from the one you grew up in and is probably more sexualized than you know. Through social media, movies, music, and other aspects of culture, teens are exposed to a lot of sex. They hear of the exploits and experimentation of others and may even consider such actions acceptable. Ask good questions about your teen’s world without judging. Listen well. Don’t judge your child’s peers either as very few teens today have a wholesome, biblical view of sexuality. Don’t expect too much too soon, but keep praying and keep trying.
Teaching godly sexuality is just one aspect of parenting and you won’t do it perfectly. At times you’ll wish you’d responded differently, or believe you started too late, or think you’re ill-equipped. But God honors what He purposes, and His good plan is that your child’s sexuality would not be shrouded in shame or condemnation. God picked you as the one to lead this child, and He will provide for both of you.
Are you finding this series helpful? Please share with a friend. And email me with your comments or suggestions. I learn so much from you!
Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project in Atlanta, Georgia
Photo credit: Jan Vasek