For some the issues of pornography, masturbation, and sex make them giggle. Others are more likely to jump out of a plane than have a conversation about “that.” I remember when my mom sat me down and had “the talk.” I felt weird, a little sweaty under the arms and anxious. Looking back, it felt like the dark veil had been lifted and there was no going back. No longer could I pretend that babies were made by a boy and a girl wrestling under the covers. Anatomically I now knew why boys had different private parts and what they were used for. I eventually learned that sex is far more than tingling sensations. There was beauty in sex and I didn’t learn that from the girls swapping stories on the bus ride home. I learned that from my parents.
Every person’s story begins in the home. For some, their home environment might be sterile, portraying a distinct desire to brush all the problems and emotions under the proverbial rug. Others might relate to homes that poise extreme openness where no boundaries reign and sex is regarded more as a “sport” than a precious gift. The extremes are easy to pinpoint but finding a middle ground is hard work. Unfortunately, there is no “5 simple steps to a healthy family.” I truly believe, though, where there is openness, self-awareness, healthy boundaries and an environment of grace things can change.
In order to talk to our kids about sex we have to begin with us. How do we feel about sex? What is our body and behavior saying when the topic is broached? What do we ultimately believe about sex? If we were raised that sex is “bad,” how can we preach something different to our kids? It may seem obvious but each one of our children are unique in who they are. They each demand various things from us and must be engaged differently from their siblings. Raising children requires our whole self, our authentic self; not the self we think others want but the one that others need.
The moment we pretend that sex isn’t a big deal to our children is the day we fail them. In the internet age no longer can we assume innocence. If we’re not creating an open and safe environment to deal with the hard issues they’ll find someone else who is willing and it may not be the kind of person you want informing your child on the nitty gritty details on sex, masturbation, and pornography. Recent statistics have shown that, on average, a child will have his/her first encounter with pornography by age 11. Again, you should know your child best and it may not be appropriate to have these conversations with your specific 9 year old. Statistically, though, your child is more likely the rule than the exception. Ask, inquire, and be interested in what your child knows and what they want to know. You’ll never know if you never ask and assuming in a sexified culture is never a safe choice.
My parents began having conversations with me about my body when I was young. Informing me that no one was allowed to touch “this” or do “that.” We love you and want to protect you, they said. I was always allowed to ask questions, I was never shamed when I asked a “silly” question nor was anything “off limits.” No question was too tough for them, that was the environment they created. My parents could not fully protect me, though, no matter how hard they tried, from being molested or looking at pornography but they could give me specific tools and knowledge that would help me even if those things happened. We can’t sex-proof our kids no matter how hard we try. The chastity-belt-preaching-parents preach legalism, not grace. Often, the message is simply “DON’T” and hardly an explanation as to what sex is and why it should be kept for one person.
We can choose to have open and honest relationships with our children and provide an environment that not only promotes healthy curiosity but also does so without shame. What kind of home environment are you creating? What is your silence about sex saying to your children?