Think back to your experience growing up in your family.
Was sex or intimacy discussed amongst family members? Clearly talked about at the dinner table? Discussed in Family Home Evenings?
Did anyone ever talk about it?
Or was it suppressed with a ‘never you mind’ or a ‘you’re not old enough yet’, or an eye-roll, or talked about reluctantly or in whispers and with some uncomfortable hemming and hawing?
Was the tone a formal ‘let’s get this unpleasantness over with’, or was it more like a matter-of-fact conversation? Was sexuality treated as something “too sacred” or “too dirty or evil” to ever talk about? Was the impression left that if something is sacred or filthy, it’s better to not mention it all to protect your “innocence”?
This exercise is not meant to point fingers at our parents – chances are, they never or rarely talked about it either, and didn’t have a good model of how to teach sexuality effectively. Their responses to you were a reflection of what was taught to them.
Parents are always braving new territory. Not only are they raising children, but often doing it in different circumstances than their parents did.
In addition, for most parents (when it comes to teaching or talking about sexuality), their only model was their parents. When things go wrong, or the kids have questions about sex, or it’s time to give the kids “the talk”, the only file we as parents have to draw from is what our folks modeled for us.
Do you ever find yourself asking…what could my parents have done better? What could I do better now that I’m a parent?
Dr. Joe Beam in a recent podcast interviewed a married couple whose lives had been caught up in sexual abuse and profane erotica from a very young age, and whose marriage suffered as a result. They worked together as husband and wife to successfully overcome these challenges and shared their experiences with Dr. Beam. When asked what would you advise parents to teach their children, they said:
“…one thing that I would say, not so much to the teenagers but the parents of those teenagers, is just simply have the conversation. Be willing to talk about it.
(My wife’s) upbringing was that sex wasn’t even mentioned. My upbringing – the only thing I ever heard was ‘Don’t do it’.And so there wasn’t really any education; there wasn’t any comfort level of ‘ask Mom or Dad a question about it.” That didn’t happen….
We want to be that safe place (for our kids). We want to give the truth to them instead of them hearing (about sex) from friends. So, have the conversation…”[i]
Who’s Teaching the Children?
I’ve seen a lot of online discussion and even criticism lately regarding how lessons about the law of chastity are taught in church by Young Men and Young Women leaders. For the sake of those children without a strong home support system, these leaders will continue doing so as part of their uncompensated callings, and they should. They will always do their very best to help those in their charge, whatever that ‘best’ looks like.
Who then really holds the responsibility of preparing the children to safely ford their way through the complex maze of sexuality in the world and in the gospel? Parents, I point the finger back at you. How are you addressing the teaching of sexuality and anatomy to your children?
Does the thought make you uncomfortable? I don’t believe it has to. In addition, comfortable or not, that responsibility doesn’t belong to schools, and I haven’t found anywhere that says the responsibility primarily belongs to Church leaders and teachers.
The Lord placed that responsibility squarely on the parents.[ii]
So how are we teaching our children about sex? Are we as parents setting what you would consider to be a positive example?
In our marriage, is sex something that strengthens our eternal bond, or is it pushing us apart and too painful to talk about?
Are we hiding the existence of sex from our kids?
Are we opening our mouths on a regular basis, teaching our kids about their bodies and how special and sacred they are, and how to protect them, no matter what their age?
Direct teaching and indirect modeling both have to be there for learning to be most effective. If they’re not, what needs to change in your family?
Next week, we’ll talk about the teaching that took place in our family when our children were young.