“Let’s Talk About Sex”
When my son was 5-years-old, one of his neighbor friends told him about naked women he had seen in some pornographic picture or video. He said in a matter-of-fact way, “Let’s talk about sex.” This friend roamed the neighborhood A LOT and when he wasn’t roaming he was in front of a screen. His family was religious, loving, but unaware of what their boy was being exposed to.
On another occasion, a friend of mine once told me of witnessing a different 5-year-old boy in the neighborhood laying on top of a slightly older girl kissing her mouth and trying to do other things that the boy had apparently witnessed elsewhere. The girl seemed to be enjoying the attention. I’m sure (or at least hope) the parents of the boy would be mortified if they knew what their son was doing.
I could go on and on with stories about children learning and doing things that would horrify their parents. And to this day, these parents probably still don’t know about it.
Both of these stories have two things in common: 1. A young child was exposed to sexual images and then tried sharing or acting on it, and 2. The parents of these children were not involved enough to know what was happening, let alone offer guidance.
True or False: Putting your kids in a lot of activities is the same as you being involved in their life.
The answer: capital F-A-L-S-E!
Don’t worry. If you answered incorrectly, you can still make up the points by reading the rest of this article and then applying it.
There is a disturbing trend in much of our society that is going undetected. It is this:
We parents are not effectively involved in our children’s lives and this is leaving them vulnerable to unhealthy messages about love and sex.
Now before you start to despair because you already feel over-booked with your kids lives, or before you begin to attack me….hear me out.
Oblivious to the Obvious?
There are several reasons why this problem is going undetected. Some of the reasons are legitimate while others are merely excuses. This is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list.
- The illusion of involvement. We may feel that ensuring that our children are busy with soccer, gymnastics, piano, clubs, etc is how we stay involved in their life. Because we take them from place to place and book their schedules it can give us a false sense of involvement. Quality of involvement is as important–if not more so–than quantity.
- Parental freedom. The more we keep our kids occupied, the more we can get done. We can spend more time cleaning the house, at work, or on screens (TV, Facebook, etc).
- Uninformed voters. Many parents are simply unaware of the negative consequences of under-involved parenting. They could think: “I played outside all day and had very few personal interactions with my parents growing up and I turned out okay.”
I know that you want to your child to not just survive, but thrive. Your heart is all in! But it is possible to love a child totally and completely but not in the way her or she needs. It is possible for your child to be involved in so many activities without you actually being involved in their life.
Busy Doesn’t Mean Involved
Dr. Laurence Steinberg wrote:
Being an involved parent takes time and is hard work, and it often means rethinking and rearranging your priorities. It frequently means sacrificing what you want to do for what your child needs you to do.
Did you know that the strongest and most consistent predictor of children’s mental health, adjustment, happiness, and well-being is the level of involvement of their parents in their life?
Children with involved parents are also more likely to share if they have been exposed to pornography or if someone has touched them inappropriately.
Ok. To be completely honest, this article is about more than just parental involvement. I’m really just building up to talking to your kids about intimacy, sexuality, and its counterfeits. But, how can we teach and influence our children about these things if we don’t understand their hearts and minds? How can we understand their hearts and minds if we aren’t effectively involved?
Porn Kills Love
In our day and age, our children are going to be exposed to pornography. The question is not so much if they are going to see it, but when. We cannot control the choices of peers, the parents of our peers, and many, many other sources. Yet, the more connected and effectively involved we are, the more influence and guidance we can offer.
A student recently told me that her best friend was sexually abused as a child. Sadly, her friend kept it from her parents for many years because she didn’t know how to talk to them about it. In her friends’ home, they didn’t talk about the body, intimacy, and so on. It was taboo. She is now receiving therapy and getting the help she needs. But if this girl had a more open, communicative relationship with her parents, those years of guilt and depression could have been minimized.
So What Do I Do?
You’re probably wondering how to become effectively involved in your child’s life to the point you can have regular chats about love, intimacy, and pornography. Stay tuned! I will be blogging about this and also publishing an ebook about this at the end of June.
Our friends at Educate Empower Kids (EEK) have created some fantastic materials to help parents guide their children. Check out 30 Days of Sex Talks and How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography. Check out this powerful video below by EEK that I feel summarizes what I’ve been trying to say.