This August The Christian Counseling Education Foundation (CCEF) began a new initiative of offering free 1-hour webinars taught by their amazing instructors. I chose to attend the session led by Julie Lowe because I have benefitted much from her articles in the past and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to hear her teach.
For many parents, talking with our kids about sex is anxiety producing to say the least. Our parents may not have experienced real talk in their childhoods, let alone “the” talk on the topics of sex and sexuality, leaving many feeling ill equipped to approach the subject with our own children. Regardless of our past experiences, the need to be intentional about talking with our kids about sex and personal safety remains. So, what are parents and care givers to do when it comes to actually sitting down to have these kinds of conversations? Below is a summary of some of the key highlights and takeaways from Lowe’s webinar:
Begin With a Positive Perspective
The way we think about sex and sexuality as adults impacts and influences how and what we are willing to talk about with our children. A good question to ask yourself is, “What do I believe about sex?” A healthy biblical view of sex understands that sex and sexuality are God designed—He is pro sexuality! Thus He’s made it pure, enjoyable, special and sacrificial. Negative views commonly associated with sex and sexuality may include shame, lust, selfishness or embarrassment. So as we begin to think about having “the talk,” start from this foundation and learn to be comfortable with the topic because it’s part of God’s plan. And if we don’t feel comfortable, look comfortable so that you model this positive perspective to your kids.
Julie made three excellent points regarding proactive parenting on this topic:
- Talk Freely
- Talk Often
- Talk Soon
The more we talk openly and regularly with our kids, the more comfortable and natural we become in discussing what can be such a loaded topic. Although some of us may prefer to avoid having these discussions with our children, the goal here is to teach them to think biblically about sex and sexuality. We need to teach them to learn to ask questions so they can apply godly wisdom in their own lives on this topic. Remember, no matter how “the talk” goes, don’t make it a one-time thing. Our goal as parents is to dialogue in a context of safety, not simply have an isolated conversation so that we can check it off our list of parenting duties!
Don’t Make It Awkward
There are age appropriate ways to start having these kinds of conversations with our young children, beginning with something as simple as teaching children the proper names for their body parts (instead of cutesy nicknames). As our children grow, teach them to discern the behavior of others. Help children learn to assess if a person is acting strange and the possible reasons why. Help them learn to evaluate behavior. The best way to make the dialogue less awkward is to be direct and say what you mean. Your kids will be relieved too and will respect your efforts.
Use Games and Role-Play
Helping children understand what’s appropriate and what’s not can’t always be communicated by describing hypothetical scenarios. Kids and young children can internalize and understand contextual behavior more fully when we use games or role-play to explain what we mean. These mechanisms are perfect for using in the more serious and awkward conversations so don’t be afraid to use them and plan them out ahead of time. The learning and discerning can be fun and it’s perfectly fine to reinforce your message by packaging it in an experiential way.
In summary, yes, it’s our job to educate and proactively prepare our children when it comes to handling appropriate and inappropriate behaviors about sex and personal safety. We need to model for them what is safe and healthy. Yet the good news is that through a patient and open dialogue we can teach them to discern the behavior of others so they become good observers of the world around them and learn to discern what is healthy and good from what is destructive and wrong. We don’t have to present things perfectly but we do need to foster conversations to help us grow in credibility with our kids. The best part is that we don’t have to be experts… we just have to start.
To check out the video recording of the webinar and materials go to https://www.ccef.org/resources/video/teaching-kids-sex-personal-safety