Tuesday, February 15, 2005

talking to kids about sex - part one

cheryl left a comment on my post about sex and mentioned her concerns about talking to her own daughter about this topic. she mentioned her struggle when the instruction she was given was so very lacking, this is true in my life too. how can we teach what was never taught to us? it is the question of every adult raised in a home of addiction or dysfunction.

i am no expert here, my oldest child is almost 9, so i've never talked to 'my own' kids before about sex, but i have talked to 100's of other people's. this would be my 'free advice' on the matter.

i know that my 'learning' came from very distorted sources - on both extremes of the spectrum - pornography and the church - neither of those extremes help anyone to have a real, healthy, life-giving understanding of sex and intimacy.

the most damaging aspect to my 'education' was that both extremes were so shame based. being a female was objectified by the pornography and degraded and impugned by the church. (my experience - not all i know). neither equipped me to be female. i still struggle with this today.

so i think it's most important that when teaching is done that is filled with grace, truth and love, not shame and fear. first of all i know that i can't teach anything that i don't believe to be true myself. i am wrestling with my own female-ness in part because my daughter is blossoming into a beautiful young woman and i want her to accept her femininity as a god given blessing instead of resenting and fearing all that life has in store for her. we need to own our own brokenness in this area before we can teach it to our kids. remember they have a 'b.s.' (pirate warning) detector that can sniff out hypocrisy and inconsistency from a mile away.

the best answer sometimes is 'i don't know, but i'm going to find out'. liam and i have committed to answering our kids questions honestly and age appropriately. we figure if they ask, they are old enough to know the truth. preparation for puberty comes early now as they are developing much more quickly than we did at our age.

pink and i have been reading the care and keeping of you together since november. it's a great start that begins with things like brushing your teeth and combing your hair. all things that were totally left out of my education - no one every did basic hygiene with me - i always felt like i was trying to keep up, and watching my friends to learn and copy. it was a horrible place and made for a very insecure childhood and teen age years. i don't want pink to have to learn anything from copying - who knows who she will think is worthy of copying? i know the people i copied were definitely not the kind of people i want my children to model themselves after.

liam is on the lookout for something similar to begin with buck soon. he's only going to be 7 next month, but we know that being intentional with these precious things needs to be one of our priorities.

the book eventually will come to the place where body parts and feminine hygiene will be discussed. this will bring many questions (as it should) and i want to be there to be able to answer each and every one.

one of the other things that i feel needs to happen with children; is that they need never to be shamed for asking questions. parents who project their embarrassment with these issues on their children punish them for their innocence. too many times of shaming and kids will know they're on their own and search for answers elsewhere.

the other area of sensitivity that i would caution about is not punishing your children for telling you the truth - even if it means they have broken the rules or 'sinned'. there needs to be consequences for these actions, but not for the truth telling. punishing your children for telling the truth creates liars and sneaks. children are brilliant - they know the logic of relational math - [i tell you the truth] + [you punish me] = i am stupid and will stop telling you the truth.

most parents fail to realize the real effects of this kind of economy in their homes. thoughtful consequences vs. reactionary punishment will build the kind of relationship that will keep communication open with your kids in a way that keeps you in the circuit. it's not fool proof, but you've got a better chance of being the person they come to instead of going to places where misconception and ugly lies dwell.

the next item i've been realizing is that metaphor speaks truth into my life in a much less threatening manner that facts and figures. i think we can use story and metaphor to describe those things that are conceptual about marriage, sex and love in ways that honor our children's brains and souls, and in a way that stays with them into the times when they really need it.

the only equipment i was ever given was 'just say no'. it worked for a year or two, but when i realized i didn't want things to stop i was out of ammunition to fight temptation and the emotional/hormonal/societal pressure i was facing.

my parents, youth workers and the church couldn't admit that in marriage sex was fun, wonderful and something to be desired to themselves, so they were unable to prepare me any farther than they were willing to go themselves.

honesty and transparency without graphic details at age appropriate times is the best direction to take - speak the truth in love.

love casts out fear, is never shame based and honors the other person and yourself in a way that brings hope and life. it takes courage. most of the time we avoid it because it might bring up our own baggage - but when we take the time to unpack our bags and deal with those things that are holding us hostage our children will benefit, but more importantly so will we.

so, i guess it's taking longer to get to the 'birds and bees' - so i'll make this part one.

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