So, because we are a little bit of a self proclaimed "nerdy" family who loves science, nature and Lord of the Rings (wait, that doesn't fit? Says who?) we've watched the Discovery Channel, Crocodile Hunter, Animal Planet, Nat Geo etc. together as a family since my kids were born.
Anyone familiar with these shows knows that sooner or later, you're going to see/hear lions mating, chimpanzees nursing, mommy aye-aye's delivering little baby aye-ayes that look like the spawn of Satan (seriously - see one here if you dare) and all sorts of various 'circle of life' moments *cue Lion King music*.
Instead of grabbing the remote and flipping to
Naturally, these moments led to all sorts of interesting conversation topics and comments:
"What is that Daddy Lion doing?" (perfect cue in to talk about the "birds and the bees"...)
"Mom, was I as hairy as the baby gorilla when I was born?"
"Whoa! That's huge!"
"Did you carry me in a pouch?"
*card from my son on Mothers Day - age 6* "Thanks for not eating me when I was really little. Also, thanks for not making me eat my own poo. You're the best Mom I ever had! Happy Mothers Day!"
(Yes folks, it really is that easy to be the be awarded Mother of the Year status. Take Notes: #1. Don't cannabalize your kid #2 Don't make your kid eat poo. You're welcome.)
and one of my favorite remembered conversations with my then 4 year old daughter...
"Mom, I was in your belly right?" "Yup, that's right." "And I was in there for almost a year, right?" "Yup." "So, how did I get out of your belly???" *crickets* "Well..." *CRAP! Thinking fast under pressure* "I kind of...ummm... laid you... like an egg!" *silence* "Like an egg?" "Yup, kind of like a chicken lays an egg." "So, I came out of your bottom?" "Umm, yes, kind of..." (Honestly, I had no idea where we were going to go with this as I was NOT prepared to talk about this with my 4 year old yet.) Silence and then hysterical laughter as she runs out of the room screaming, "T!!! Guess what?? Mom pooped me out of her butt like an egg-turd!!!! Dad! Did you know about this?????? Isn't that disgusting?????? *Laying on floor laughing* hahahahaahahahah!"
Ok, so, I wasn't prepared. That's my fault. Good thing she didn't share with her Sunday school about it...
Seriously people, we parents have to have a plan BEFORE these conversations come up.
N and T were driving home one day from a "man date" a few years ago, and talking about sharks versus sperm whales (I told you we were a nerdy family) when T out of the blue asked, "Dad, I know that boys have the sperm, and girls have the eggs, but how does the sperm get to the egg?"
I'm fairly certain at this point Nate would have been comfortable with driving the car off the road to avoid this conversation, but instead, he gripped the steering wheel and concentrated very hard on the lane ahead of him. "So, you're asking me how the sperm meets the egg?" "Yes, Dad. How." "Well....."
T came home from that conversation, wide eyed and in a rush. Bounding into the kitchen where I was standing, he said, "Dad just told me about sex. I want kids, but I am not doing that. I'm just going to adopt." He then scampered from the room to detox from his conversation with his dad, while Nate and I just looked at each other. Nate shrugged. I, on the other hand, stressed over whether or not Nate had scarred him for life and how much therapy was going to cost in the future.
It was shortly after this talk that I jumped online and bought "The Story of Me - God's design for sex" and we read them together as a family.
Now, I'm going to give a disclaimer: I am NOT a licensed parenting expert. I do not have a degree in child development, but, N and I have worked our dang butts off trying to keep open lines of communication with our kids and feel like we have done a semi decent job in spite of our fear of this topic in today's deranged society.
My point with this post is not to come across as a know it all or expert - which I clearly am not - but as a mom that just wants to encourage other parents who feel ill-equipped, scared or unprepared. I want to encourage each of you to keep at it and share your mistakes and triumphs - we can learn from one another.
As parents, we should be the FIRST people to talk to our kids about sex, healthy sexuality, sexual abuse safety, pornography etc. Now, keep in mind, this list is by no means an exhaustive one, and each family is going to have their own approach, convictions and beliefs in this area. I'm just touching on points that we have used with our kids and links to some resources that we've either used or have received positive feed back on. So read on at your own risk. =)
My advice on how to maintain an ongoing healthy conversation with your kids about sex.
#1. Use the real terminology for their body parts and start at a young age.
Since our kids were little, we have always used the scientific name for their body parts. Partly due to the fact that it annoys me when grown ups say things like "Now, Johnny, don't play with your willy!" Bah. What will poor Johnny do when he befriends a little boy named William aka "Willy". How confused will he be?
What about a little girl whose mother has affectionately referred to her parts as her "tee-tee, shi-shi, who-haa" or other various silly sounding names? Why do her body parts have to have the same nick-names as Kim Kardashians designer dog? (I'm just guessing on the Kim reference... but it sounds fairly accurate to me).
Now, calling their body parts by the scientific names has had its bumps too... Like that one time in Target when T made up a song to commemorate his err,
Start young, teach your kids the scientific names for their body. When they are older, discuss all the various slang terminology (this one is tough for a mother of a middle-schooler - trust me) for that specific body part but always bring it back to what it is actually called. Take the taboo off of talking about their body parts.
The Story of Me: Gods design for sex series
Amazing You: Getting smart about your private parts
The Boys Body Book Ages 7-12
The Care and Keeping of you: Girls ages 7-12
#2. Talk about God's design for sex.
We need to be talking about God and His view on sex often and openly.
Here's the kicker.
It seems as though most churches of today are silent on the topic of sex or approach it from what I call a "red light, green light" stand point.
RED LIGHT: Don't have sex before you're married. Bad sex, Bad!
GREEN LIGHT: Ok! You're married now - go have all the sex you want!! Good Sex, Good!
(Dr Seuss could've had an adult best seller on his hand with that one...)
With the "Red Light, Green Light" mentality and the general silence of churches on the topic of all things sex related, is it no wonder that our christian youth are ill equipped or feel like total failures when they have sex outside of marriage or experience other forms of "sexual failure"?? Whelp, I digress, That's a whole 'nother stream of thoughts that I'll have to come back to at another post.
Our churches might not talk about sex, but the Bible does and frequently. Ever hear of the Song of Solomon? Note: Giving your kid a message Bible and a goal to read the Bible in a year DOES in fact include this book... hahahah!
Talking to our kids about God's design for sex, and the very fact that we were created in His image and that human sexuality is perfectly normal in the realm of healthy Christianity is so important.
God created us as sexual creatures who desire intimacy and closeness.
Sex was created to 1. procreate 2. Bring joy and closeness in Mom and Dads relationship 3. Point us back to the total love of the Creator. As your kids get older, you can go more in depth in these topics... like timing (what 15 year old is truly ready to procreate??) respecting the other gender... you get the idea. If you're not sure what God's view on sex is, check out some of the links below.
Talk about Sex - Focus on the Family
Sex: God, Gross or Gift? - Marshill Church
How and when to talk to your kids about sex
Almost 12 - the story of sex
The Sex Talk: a survival guide for parents
Elephant in the Room: Gods Design for Marriage, Sex Dating
Parenting & Teaching about Sex
Teaching the healthy Biblical aspect of our sexuality and sex without taboo or fear creates a great platform to discuss my next point.
#3. Talk to your kids about porn - start today!!
Once our kids know about their bodies and what the Bible says about sex, we have to begin teaching our kids what to think about how the world views sex. In today's normal society, porn is an acceptable and expected form of sexuality. In fact, you and I have to change our perspective about porn. It's no longer an "IF" my children will see porn, it's a matter of "WHEN".
I hate that. I really do.
Porn is, in my book, the single most destructive tool that satan is using against families, marriages, relationships and individuals today. Society portrays porn as "normal", its portrayed as funny, expected, harmless, and "everybody does it". What it doesn't show are the broken families in the shadow of porn, the husband who no longer finds pleasure in his wife, the silent killer of marriages, the destroyer of respect for human beings, the abuse and destructive cycle that porn perpetuates...
Did you know that the average age of internet porn exposure is 8 years old?? 8!! I expect this age will continue to get younger as parents are giving smart phones to kids at a younger age.
Speaking of that - Do us all a favor - don't hand your kids a smart phone, tablet, iPad etc for their birthday without knowing exactly what you are giving them. Set up parental controls, filters, contracts... Otherwise you are handing your child a ticking time bomb that will wreak havoc in their little minds and in your life.
Listen, if you don't remember anything else, please, please remember this: The porn industry is LOOKING for your kid. These moguls have set up a system that literally prowls around, waiting to devour our children, teens, husbands, us... We need to be proactively setting up boundaries to prepare for that moment when (not IF - WHEN) the porn industry comes to steal away our kids's innocence and replace it with a false reality about sex, women, men, and relationships. Porn is no respector of persons - porn doesn't care how old you are, how much money you make, what family you come from, if you love your spouse... porn's purpose is about getting you hooked and coming back for more. Like a drug that slowly sucks away anything good in your life. Porn kills. We need to be ready to combat it.
Start a conversation, bring it up. Bite the bullet and casually ask if they've ever seen any inappropriate pictures on the internet, at a friends house, on an iPhone...
When Children View Porn - Focus on the Family
Porn Proof Kids
Pornography Addiction: 3 tips to keep kids safe online
5 Ways to monitor handheld devices
Internet Monitoring Software
Parental Controls for Kids Electronic Devices
Freedom from the porn trap
Christianity Today: Pornography
#4. When your kids make a mistake try not to freak out on them
Lets face it, we are all going to make mistakes. No one comes out of their childhood, teen years or college years unscathed... did you? More importantly, when you did make those mistakes, did you talk about them with your parents? Me.... erm.... NO. I did not have safe communication with my parents and we rarely talked about anything of importance - let alone sex.
Nate and I have spoken to our kids about our past mistakes, both sexually, socially and spiritually (keeping it age appropriate of course). We have tried to portray to them that we are NOT perfect people which means that we are naturally, imperfect parents. In some areas we have failed at this due to some serious legalism that we are coming out of (another future post) and that legalism leaks into our parenting at times. But, for the most part, we have had some amazing conversations about failures, struggles and worries. We keep trying to point back to the grace of God and His ultimate love for us, even when we fail miserably.
We all fail, we all make mistakes. Make it a goal to facilitate open communication in your home. If you've failed at open communication in the past, don't give up, try again. I beleive the thing that hinder most of us parents from creating an environment of openness is fear. "What if I don't like what my kids say?" "What if I don't agree with, want to hear or understand what my kid is saying?" "I'm afraid they already know too much..." "What if they are doing...." "What if _______ has already happened to them?"
Don't be afraid. Kick your own butt out of the corner, get back in the ring, You can do this. We can do this. I can do this. Don't be afraid of fear.
Last year, our 10 year old son came home from a swim party and in the car (this is his favorite place to drop F-bombs on us I guess) he asked, "Mom, what's ________? Some of the boys I didn't know were talking about __________ and ________ and said __________. " Oh my word. Now, I did not know what he was talking about, no clue actually, but I knew it had to be super sexual - my ears were ringing, I was fighting the impulse to freak out (rightly so!!) but I knew he was trusting me by asking this question. As calmly as I could, I said, "You know, I'm not sure. Lets talk to Dad about it when we get home."
I did it. A triumph as a mom, I maintained my cool, I didn't let it shake me visibly (Inside I was vomiting in a bucket repeatedly) and when we got home we invited his dad into the conversation. We were cool calm and collected. It wasn't until my blonde, blue eyed boy went to bed that I allowed myself to freak out, cry, rage and vent about how angry I was that our kid was exposed to something derogatory at a swim party. (Oh and you can better believe I had those birthday party moms on the phone that night getting to the bottom of it.)
Warpath. Me. Face Paint.
The simple fact of the matter is, no matter how diligent, open or careful we are as parents, we wont be able to shelter our kids from every negative outside influence, unfortunate incident or inappropriate media exposure. That's why daily, day to day, open communication is VITAL.
No kid is exempt from failure. No parent is free from mistakes. The key is to keep talking through our failures, keep loving in the middle of our mistakes and reaching out to others when we fall and can't get up alone. My prayer for us is that we keep going, keep fighting, and keep turning to the One who Created us all for help.
How about you? Any tips to add on talking to your kids about sex? Ever felt like a failure in parenting?
Share with me, I'd love to hear.
P.S. I have a guest Blogger posting next week and a give away - stay tuned!!