I have never had a problem talking with students about sex or purity issues. Until that student was my son. For some reason when it’s your own kid that needs educating, I, like so many parents I have criticized in the past, wish that someone else could just do it (or that they would just magically wake up one morning with all the knowledge they need). But alas, this doesn’t happen and parenting is about taking responsibility so that’s where things are at. And parents, let me tell you something, if you DON’T take responsibility to talk to your middle schooler (grade 5-8) about sex they will learn it somewhere else – and you don’t want that. Here are some of my thoughts concerning the matter.
- It is never too late. You may think that the ship has sailed and that they know everything there is to know already because a) they told you that they know everything there is to know (and offered to educate you as well) or b) they have been on a hockey team long enough to know that the locker room has educated them or c) you found pornography on their iPad. But you are wrong. It is never too late to have a good, heart to heart talk with your kids about sex, purity and dating. Never. So pull up your bootstraps and git-er done.
- There are two extremes to avoid. We live in a over-sexualized culture and your kids are, well, surrounded by filth. What are you going to do about it? On the one hand, there are some families who take their kids out of school, move to the sticks, cancel cable and turn off the internet to protect their kids from the culture. This won’t work and your kids will turn out weird. (Caveat: homeschooling is noble. Moving to the country is great. Cancelling cable is a super idea and so is limiting internet usage. BUT doing these things because you have a protectionist, fearful, and security complex is not great at all.) On the other hand, some parents are way TOO permissive. They let their kids date with boundaries when they are too young. They provide way too much information which ends up stirring up curiosity instead of answering questions and possibly even encourage sexual exploration and deviancy. Both extremes are wrong. We need to give our kids the right information at the right time and with the right heart.
- The right information. Kids need to know about the mechanics of sex, different parts of the anatomy (and yes they should learn the real names, but I still think its funny to call a penis a “who-hoo”) and what on earth is happening to their bodies during puberty (periods, wet dreams, erections, you name it). But they need it at the right time (incidentally this is what I think many schools get wrong). They also need to understand that there are technical terms like masturbation and slang terms for the same thing, and that they probably know the slang term not the technical term.
- The right time. The right time for a kid to learn about sex is as early as possible. I mean it. It’s not nearly as awkward for a six-year-old to learn that a mommy and daddy need to have a special relationship and do a special act in order for babies to be born than a 13-year-old. But we aren’t talking about that, we are talking about middle schoolers. And guess what, if you have a middle schooler the time is right! They especially need to understand all the above issues by the time they are in grade 7 because that’s when things kick into high gear hormonally and I guarantee they will get exposed to language and concepts they have not considered before. Make especially sure you talk about God’s plan for sex and the danger of pornography. Pornography is epidemic and chances are very good that a child has been exposed to porn by the time they are 10. So when we are talking middle school, there’s no time like the present.
- The right heart. There are two great ways to talk to your kids about sex. One is by making it a special event, like a rite of passage. So you go on a camping trip or a mother daughter date and make an event of it. You can give special gifts to remember the event, like a purity ring or a small pendant of a shotgun. (That’s what I would give my daughter’s boyfriend if I was having the talk with HIM!) Another great way to talk about sex is just in everyday life. We can be normal, even funny, about sex, dating, puberty and purity. We can talk over dinner about it, or in the car (they can’t jump out as easily), or in the garage, or on a walk. The key is that we look at our child, a creation of God, and talk honestly and openly about all the realities, the challenges and the excitement surrounding our sexuality.
Now a word to you single parents out there. Most of the time single parents who are asking the toughest questions are single moms with boys. Single moms with daughter are usually ok, and there aren’t that many single dads (although I think it would be fairly simple to either get a trusted auntie or grandma to talk to your daughter, or to make an amazing memory on a father-daughter date where you show her how much you love her by telling her about her precious purity… and what you will do to any boy who tries to take it from her). But what do you do as a single mom with boys? I have some suggestions. First you talk to them. Look, you can have a great open relationship with your boys and they will still learn these things in the wrong way unless you take responsibility for them. Second there is nothing wrong with having a trusted uncle, grandpa, youth pastor or mentor step in and help reinforce the message or offer a listening ear when things are just too personal for your son to feel comfortable talking to a woman about. There are things that guys get because they are guys.
I especially feel for single parents who have different values than their ex. This is so tricky because you want to honour your child’s other parent, but you also need to speak what you believe is true. I would be very honest in that situation and acknowledge that there may be mixed messages and that no matter what your child does or chooses you will always love them. In this case, as in all cases, prayer is your greatest weapon. Whatever you do, don’t slander or disrespect their other parent, that will not accomplish what you want.
I trust that regardless of your situation that you will think carefully about intentionally having “that” conversation with your middle schooler! They might squirm now but you will be surprised at how they may come back in a few years and thank you for it!
If you want more information please contact me – I’d love to talk with you about your specific situation. Also a great website is the Center for Parent Youth Understanding with Walt Mueller www.cpyu.org.
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints.” Ephesians 5:1-3 (HCSB)