The way we talk about sex to our kids matters. Both our method and our comfort level in discussing sex is often telling of the climate and culture in which we were raised.
“What parents should tell their children.” A pamphlet of the Racial Hygiene Association of New South Wales, Circa 1935. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The family is the cornerstone, the fundamental basis from which we build our identity and personhood. Whether we like it or not, parents need to grasp the reality that who we are and the tone we set for our families affects our children spiritually, socially, emotionally, and sexually. There are countless factors in motion that deeply affect us all as we mature and develop: the belief systems we were raised with, how our parents treated us, our relationship(s) with our sibling(s), and how we attached to our parents.
Sex is everywhere. It’s on our phone, computers, magazines, commercials and TV shows we love. Culturally, sex is glorified and practiced as a sport in many ways, as both genders
rally together and compare scorecards on who has done what with who. Parents are becoming increasingly aware of the heightened focus on sex but tend to become squeamish when it comes time to address the dreadful “it.” It can be difficult for many parents to discuss sex with each other, much less their children! Within the conservative Christian community, generally speaking, sex is often thought of in terms of being “good” in marriage and “bad” when experienced outside of marriage. This dichotomous understanding appears to stem from how an individual was raised, whether it was in a home where sex was never mentioned or in an environment where it was talked of crudely. Either way, this has a profound effect on the way we parent and educate our kids about sex.
Raising kids is undoubtedly one of the most difficult tasks appointed to adults. The issue of educating our children on sex is hard. We each individually carry around our own unique history, beliefs, and shame concerning sex from the way we were raised and the messages we believed. The fact that many adults are reluctant to talk to their spouses or closest friends about sex reveals a deep connection between sex and shame. Our silence on the subject, both with our peers and our children, communicates far more than we probably care to consider. Regardless of our comfort level, it is worth digging deeper into our personal beliefs about sex so that we can share them with clarity and purpose.
How we were raised will affect the way we parent but it doesn’t have to define it. We cannot hide or be ashamed of the way(s) we were raised or the experiences we encountered but we can choose whether or not we want to repeat how and what we learned from our parents. There is freedom and power in breaking family cycles. To begin having conversations with our children about sex, we need to first sift through the helpful and hurtful pieces about what we learned and ultimately believe about sex. We can’t fight against what we don’t know. Self-awareness is vital.
Having constructive conversations with our children about sex is so much more than the infamous “birds and the bees” discussion. It’s about developing a sexual ethic within the home. What we, as parents, believe about sex matters. It matters because you are laying the foundation for what they will think about sex, how they will construct their own beliefs, and the ways in which they will express their sexuality. Conversations are more than mere transactions of words and sayings. What we internally believe, the body language we assume and the words we use are all factors when engaging in conversation. What are you implicitly saying, without using words, to your children about sex? Would you be communicating something different if you were aware of your internal beliefs, feelings, and shame of sex?
The nature of this article is to cause the reader to think more deeply on the subject than simply retelling the anatomy of the male and female gender. The author purposefully omitted “5 steps to self-awareness” and encourages those who are curious to process with friends, a spouse, or a locally recommended mental health therapist.
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