How to Talk to Kids About Sexuality: It's Not Just About Sex.

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A list of don't do's, purity pledges and one talk about the birds and the bees are simply not going to cut it when it comes to preparing children as they face increasingly complex sexuality issues today, a Christian author argued.

"I think what our parents did is probably not at all up to equipping us for what we need to be doing with our kids," said Dr. Julie Slattery, co-founder of Authentic Intimacy, during the online Parenting Teens Summit last week. "The conversation about sexuality … has expanded. It's no longer this idea of either you wait or you don't wait for marriage. Now, the average even 12- to 13-year-old is addressing issues like what does it mean to be a boy or a girl? How do I know if I'm homosexual or heterosexual … or pansexual?"

Rather than relying on the old model, parents need to adopt a new concept — what Slattery calls "sexual discipleship." This entails an ongoing conversation starting from the early years of a child. Each talk doesn't necessarily have to be about sex but what parents should do is set a context and build a foundation based on what the Bible says.

You can start teaching your 1- or 2-year-old that mom and dad have a bed and bedroom that's theirs and their privacy needs to be respected, explained Slattery, author of 25 Questions You're Afraid to Ask About Love, Sex, and Intimacy. You can also talk to your toddler about why mom and dad hug and kiss each other.
"Or when you go to the zoo, 'what are the elephants doing right now?' 'Where do babies come from?' 'Why does my friend have two daddies?' All of that is part of sexual discipleship," she said.
"You're not getting into anatomy or politics … but very gently setting a framework."

If that continuous sexual discipleship doesn't happen, children's knowledge about sexuality is most likely coming from the world, Slattery indicated. "What I've realized is that most people that grew up in the church have actually been discipled sexually by the world," she noted.

"They might know how to talk about some topics from a biblical perspective but when they're asked questions about sexuality or they have to make personal decisions, … they think like the world thinks because the world has been consistently training them how to understand sexual issues from a worldly perspective, whereas the church maybe in your lifetime you get three or four sermons on sexuality and that's it."

Slattery, a mom of three teenage sons, encouraged parents to get ahead of the curve by teaching toddlers that God has a design for everything and His design is written in the Bible. Once a child enters his or her teen years (around age 10-12), parents need to be more intentional about having talks about sex, porn and other sexuality issues, she emphasized.

For Slattery's three boys, her husband took them out one weekend solely to discuss these matters — what she called a rite of passage kind of conversation. The purpose of that weekend was to lay a foundation and let the boys know that they can feel free to talk with their parents about these issues.

Slattery, meanwhile, has spoken to her sons about dating, how to treat women, protecting a girl and other sensitivities of women. One big mistake parents make, she pointed out, is presenting sexuality "in very binary ways" of good or bad. In other words: "either you're a virgin or you're not; you either stayed pure or you didn't; you do everything that follows God or you're a terrible, awful sinner."

That type of binary presentation can be destructive, Slattery said.
"We create these categories that the Lord … never really created. God never says 'Go into all the world and make virgins or make heterosexuals.' He says 'preach the Gospel and make disciples of all people and teach them to obey my Word.'
"I think when even well-meaning pastors or parents make this conversation about an either/or choice, it becomes really confusing because the average kid doesn't fit in either category. Even if they haven't sleep with somebody yet, but they've probably looked at porn, they probably have done things that crossed lines. Or maybe they have had sex … but now they want to be pure."

Slattery stressed that the whole concept of discipleship is to teach the Gospel: "All of us our sinners in need of a savior, none of us can achieve God's righteousness on our own strength and … once we come to Christ … He becomes the Lord. Him becoming the Lord of my life means sometimes I fall flat on my face … but He is full of grace and says pick yourself up again and depend on my Spirit, memorize my Word, know me, walk with me, I'll work my righteousness out into your life.
"If we talk about sex in those terms, I think we have a very different conversation with our kids."

Other issues that children may bring up with their parents may involve their peers. "I have a friend at school who's gay, what do I do about that? Other people are being mean to that person, what do I do with that? Or they have friends who move from girl to girl to girl," Slattery listed.

The Christian mother further offered practical responses to two possible scenarios: one involving a daughter who lost her virginity but is repentant and another involving the discovery of contraception in a son's room.

In the first scenario, the author suggested hugging and weeping with your daughter. Thank her for sharing that information and assure her that you love her and that God loves her. "That's all you need to say" for that first conversation.
In the next conversation, simply listen to her story and let her tell you how it happened. "Don't judge. Just listen," Slattery said.
"After you've listened, then there's a time to begin helping and putting in some boundaries (so it doesn't happen again) and helping address the situation with the guy."

In the second scenario, Slattery advises that parents first wait 24 hours before confronting their son about the discovered contraception.
"Pray. Get rid of that immediate reaction (of anger and feeling like a failure). You won't handle it effectively if you handle it emotionally. Get some wisdom from the Lord and maybe a trusted pastor."

Then have the confrontation, preferably with both parents involved. Tell him what you found and how your heart is grieved because he has done something that God says is clearly wrong and has done it behind your back. The trust between you and your son is broken.

Now your son needs to work on rebuilding that trust. Part of that process includes pulling back some of his freedoms, such as taking away his cell phone or limiting use of the car.
"You have to show them that we all make mistakes and you have the opportunity over the next several months to rebuild trust."

Overall, the end goal of sexual discipleship is to help the children see that their parents aren't trying to control them, but rather trying to train them for accountability. And someday, when they're out of the nest, they will be accountable to God, their church, friends and employers.

How to Talk to Kids About Sexuality: It's Not Just About Sex. How to Talk to Kids About Sexuality: It's Not Just About Sex. Reviewed by Nene Sochi-Okereke on Tuesday, 6 June 2017 Rating: 5

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