Sharing the Facts of Life
Pastor James A. Aderman
I trusted him when he told me, “I love you.” He trusted me when I said the same. We trusted our emotions when they said, “It’s OK. Show each other how much you care.” When our relationship died, so did part of me. Even now as I relive the memory, I am surrounded by darkness and intense loneliness. I don’t want to stay here for too long.
These words, shared with me by a young woman who was sexually active as a teen, could well be the words of your closest friend, your son or daughter, or you — especially if you are 40 or younger. Recent studies have shown that Christian teenagers are just as likely to be sexually active as non-Christians.
Society Promotes Sexual Laxity
Little wonder. Powerful forces shaping our society (including our public education system, our legislators, and the media) teach that it is unreasonable to expect unmarried people to abstain from sexual intercourse. In the face of such pressure, even the plague-like threat of AIDS has been unable to demand support for sexual purity. In place of chastity, the lie of “safe sex” is being promoted. Public schools put a stamp of approval on premarital sex by making condoms and abortion advice freely available to their students. Television programs frequently portray promiscuity as desirable and healthy. Comic books feature super-heroes who are gay (Marvel Comics, Northstar; DC Comics, Flash).
But we Christians need to be honest. The blame for our children’s disregard for the Sixth Commandment lies at our own doorsteps, as well. A laissez-faire attitude toward sexual morality (as evidenced in the low moral content of television programs we tolerate in our homes, the movies we spend money on, the magazines we read, the humor we enjoy) powerfully teaches flesh-pleasing sexuality. A lack of parental supervision of teens invites promiscuity (what a temptation exists when a 16-year-old couple is at home alone). And when mom and dad neglect to cultivate a Christ-centered, loving relationship with each other and with their children, those children tend to seek love-substitutes in other places.
Parents Must Not Be Silent
Parents need to speak with their children about sexuality. If you find that a challenging imperative, you’re in good company. Because of its intensely intimate nature, the thought of addressing the topic of sex with our children usually provokes a strong emotional reaction. But we dare not avoid this responsibility. We cannot prevent even young children from learning about the subject long before they need to. Sex education of children by their parents is a matter of self-defense. Only if we serve as the instructors, can we be sure our children will accurately learn the essential facts together with appropriate moral values.
Here are some suggestions regarding speaking with your children about their sexuality:
- Know what you’re talking about.
The easiest subjects to teach are those one knows the best. Read books by Bible-believing, Christian authors about human sexuality and adolescent development. That information will help you talk to your children, especially when they question you because their friends have taught them something different. But there will also be a fringe benefit. It will heighten your awareness about the kind of sexual being God has made you and how better to relate to your spouse, your children, and all others.
- Talk about sex as a wonderful gift.
Sometimes in an attempt to warn adequately against the dangers involved in abusing sexuality, parents over-emphasize the perils and minimize the gift of sex. Don’t motivate your children to abstain from sexual activity with fear or guilt or threat; motivate by God’s immeasurable grace in Jesus. Speak positively about sex. From the time they ask where babies come from, teach your children to marvel at the astounding miracle of conception. Help them rejoice in the blessing God intended a sexual relationship to be. Thank God with them for the bounty in store for those who use their sexuality according to God’s guidelines.
- Start early.
When your five-year-old asks about the difference between boys and girls, smile and calmly talk about God’s loving plan to provide families with mommies and daddies who are intentionally different but who together help each other and their children through life. Tailor your remarks to meet the maturity level of your children, but never lie to your kids.
- Practice Christian sexuality.
Examine what you and your spouse teach about sexuality with your lips and with your lives. It’s astounding how many parents never take the time to speak about sexual morals with their children, yet expect that their children will share their values. It’s stunning how many parents never relate their children’s inappropriate attitudes about sex to their own disrespect for that gift. Perhaps we need to repent, in our children’s presence, for those times we’ve made fun of sex, entertained ourselves with R-rated films, or justified the immoral living arrangements of relatives. Perhaps our children need to see us treat father or mother with much more tenderness, consideration, and respect.
- Know what resources are at your disposal.
Check with your pastor about books, videos, and tracts you might use to prepare you to talk with your child about sexuality or to give to your child as a reference. Take advantage of workshops at your congregation on parenting adolescents and pre-adolescents. You might even help arrange for someone to speak on this topic at your church (and don’t forget to invite your unchurched neighbors). Team up with other parents, share what you’ve learned, encourage each other. But, please, don’t ever abdicate your responsibility as a parent. Other resources are helpful, but none are as good as parents talking directly with their children about God-pleasing sexuality.