I’m so excited about this important post that my friend Janel is bringing to the virtual table today. Please take time to read it. Leading our family upstream is difficult-that’s why we need to give each other a pat or a push every once in awhile.
It was on my back porch, our fingers curled around steaming mugs of African tea exhaling their ribbons of steam, that she told me. She didn’t know if it was called rape if a boyfriend forced you. But I never talked to my parents about it, she smiled sadly. They left Sex Ed to my fifth grade teacher, and my boyfriend was the one who showed me the rest. My family doesn’t talk about that kind of stuff.
There in my grief for my friend, I started wondering. Is there anything on my parental “off-limits conversations” list?
I’ll admit—that stunning discussion played into another I had a few weeks later. My blonde-headed ten-year-old wondered into the kitchen while I was de-crud-ifying the counters and scooping leftovers into the waiting Rubbermaid mouths.
“Mom, what’s pornography?”
An avid reader, he’d come upon the word on the back of a non-fiction work for Christian adults. …This time.
My eyebrows may have lifted a centimeter or so as I wrung out the dishrag. I swallowed. Sealed a lid, wiped the same spot I’d already wiped. Reviewed my mental list of How to Deal: What I Believe About Awkward, Hairy Topics with Children.
- I want to be the go-to gal (and my hubby the go-to guy) for this stuff with my kids. How I deal now affects whether they ask later. It will only get funkier as they get older.
- Kids pick up on my “subtle” (ahem) signals. They’re looking at my body language, my terminology, my reactions. My embarrassment, shame, condemnation—or joy and grace and honesty—can show up when they confront this stuff elsewhere. Even in their marriages.
- I want to help them construct their own biblical worldview. I want Scripture to anchor them, rather than the blanks in their minds being auto-filled by Google or the kids on the back of the bus.
- Worldviews aren’t built once. Worldviews are assembled piece by piece as we apply them to real life.
- I’m building a trestle between my kids and I that will need to be rock-solid in their teenage years—and for whatever can happen to them, whatever insecurity develops. Honesty and openness starts now.
So—deep breath, Mama. Maintain eye contact.
“Great question. Glad you asked. Know how we’ve talked about sex, how welds people together, and feels good and really intimate to them?…”
After I stumbled all over those first sentences, somehow I clabbered together a kid-level definition of porn—and an open warning of its power, which snares so many Christians we know; so many marriages. I’m also trying to speak gently and practically about that billboard, or the bodice-busting women on the romance novels on the library website: I want him to know he has the power and loving obligation to “bounce” his eyes from them. And I recommended he talk to his dad.
See, I loved what Kristen had to say about the power of our dinner tables. The dinner table? You’re probably thinking. That takes it a step further.
And yeah, I think we should keep an eye out for privacy on these topics, so our kids aren’t perpetually uncomfortable and, uh, mortified. (This post on Teaching our Kids the “Raw” Parts of Scripture has some excellent thoughts.)
But one memory seared in my mind is when my then-boyfriend-now-husband first came home with me.
“You talk about that kind of stuff at dinner?” His eyes were wide. Maybe in a little stupefaction. Maybe a little awe.
See, my folks, too, decided they’d answer whatever sincere, loving questions we asked as clearly and biblically as they were able. (Trust me, one of my sisters—who eventually became a nurse—gave them a real run for their money.) They saw questions as an open door, to the highest extent age permitted, to talk about Scripture as we “walked by the way”.
It wasn’t just about sex, which wasn’t all that common. We discussed stuff my folks were walking through, at work or in life, and their thought processes. We learned alongside them; an abbreviated version, I’d guess, and not in a gossipy or insensitive way, but in a way that showed this is what discernment and wisdom looks like. The rest of us even volleyed some suggestions. Our conversation was intimate and specific—forget chatting about the weather!
Some of the best parents I know aren’t necessarily those who withhold and protect from their kids from information. They take their child’s hand and show them how to navigate difficulty—like training wheels for life circumstances.
These conversations secure trust and honesty. They communicate, I will always tell you the truth. We’ve got a good thing going here. So come to me with anything. Talking to our kids protects them. It gives them vocabulary to maturely talk about emotions, sticky situations, money, sex, and real life.
So talk with (not at) your kids about Obergefell. About Planned Parenthood. About the transsexual on the Amazon home page. About the mean girls thing your daughter’s encountering at school. About what life is like for kids in poverty. Ask good questions that help your kids take ownership of their own convictions. Teach them how to discern and love well.
Our kids will learn somewhere—whether we’re there when they need the 411 or not. Typically, when kids find themselves in unfamiliar territory, they’re looking for similar indications where they should turn: “I remember watching/listening to something like this.” “I don’t remember my folks dealing with this.” So they’re left to their own kid-sized toolbox: their best guess, the advice of friends, or other information.
Maybe they’ll wing it.
Speaking candidly hands our kids responsibility while we’re there to help them deal—and thus, builds confidence. They’re less likely to be swayed by peers or lies in the midst of their decisions, and more likely to know how the Word applies to every situation—and is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
And that’s true no matter what our kids face…or what they ask.