Today I come looking for answers. I trust that some of you lurking out there have some experience in this matter that you will be willing and able to share.
As you know, I lead a home church (small group Bible study) through my church. Not too long ago our discussion turned to our children and the proper time and place to address the birds and the bees with them. The children in our group range from nearly-teens to infants. None of us have yet had to see our children through their teenage years, though a couple of the families are getting very close. Some of the children have already had a version of “the talk.” I’d hate to put words into the mouths of those parents, but it seems that they are not entirely confident that they went about things in the best way.
By way of background, all of the children in the group attend either public or Catholic schools. The Catholic School Board has only moderately better values than the Public, but of course the children are not much different. If my experience in Christian schools is any indication, they are probably far worse than their unchurched counterparts.
It seems that children these days know a whole lot more than they did ten or twenty years ago. If my experience is any indication, children learn at least the basics of sexuality from their friends. I assume my childhood was quite typical in that I slowly became aware of sex and sexuality through whispered words about what people did behind closed doors. At some point a friend got ahold of a Playboy Magazine he stole from his older brother, and we became somewhat acquainted with the allure of the naked female form. Of course I did not share any of this with my parents, and they, as parents tend to do, assumed I was perfectly naive and innocent. I didn’t know much, but I knew there were secrets. And I knew those secrets were forbidden to me at the time which just made me want to know them more.
My first memory of my parents formally addressing sexuality with me was through the book Preparing for Adolescence by James Dobson. It had all the usual warnings about increasing amounts of body hair and the need for deodorant, but also had a chapter about (tee hee) sex. I was obviously a pivotal moment in my life because I still remember many of the details. Dobson talked about how as a boy I would start to notice girl’s bodies (particular parts of their bodies more than others) and so on. My parents let me read it and then talked it over a little bit. My family was very open about such matters, so it was not particularly humiliating talking to them about it. And that was that. As I grew older I had the occasional opportunity to look at a dirty magazine, but since I was far too timid to steal one for myself (which is how my friends got them, of course) I really did not have much access to pornography. And for this I am exceedingly thankful. When I became a believer in my mid-teens, I became convicted that I should not be polluting my mind with such filth, and as far as I remember, I didn’t. Whether that was because of conviction or lack of opportunity I cannot say.
So I guess I can summarize my experience as follows:
- I came from a family that did not consider sexuality a forbidden topic. Thus I knew it existed, but only that it was for mommies and daddies.
- As I got older I was introduced by my friends to sexuality and to some extent, to deviant sexuality.
- My parents intervened while I was still young and taught me about God’s design for sexuality.
- After that foundation was laid I learned more about sexuality from my friends, but I knew instinctively what was deviant because I had the proper foundation.
As I look to the future, I realize that I want to ensure that I begin to lay the foundation for a proper understanding of sexuality while my children are still young. Ideally I would like to get to them before their friends do. However, I would love to see them maintain their innocence and childlike naivety as long as it is both proper and possible. While my wife and I are hesitant to put our children in the Public School system, we are not planning on homeschooling them, so whether in Christian or Public schools (or in the neighbourhood or in church), they will be surrounded by friends who may know more than they do while at a younger age.
At this point the questions I have should be quite obvious. When do you feel is the best time to begin educating your children about sexuality? When do you feel it is time to give them more detail? How much do you feel it is proper to tell them? To what extent do you address deviant sexuality in your talks with them? Do you make them aware of the many improper forms of sexuality they may be exposed to that are directly unbiblical?
So many questions. I would love to hear from parents who have already addressed these issues with their children. I look forward to learning from your collective wisdom and know that the parents in my home church, who asked me to post about this, do as well.