Recently, the web has been ablaze with panicking parents and worried sociologists. All around the issue of children and porn use.
The latest research and studies can be fear inducing… 8 year olds addicted to porn, really!?! (Yes, too often, porn starts early, is addictive and changes futures). Without a doubt the world our children are growing up in is a completely different world than the past. The stakes are higher and the rules different. The parent that denies this reality does great harm to their child, without exception, in my opinion.
But what is a parent to do? Should we walk up to our 8-year-old and begin talking about porn?!
I think what we do today has the same foundation as in all generations past, start with the basics. If we don’t talk about relationships, love, and sex we can never get to the issue of porn.
In the hundreds of articles I have read about porn use, I also couldn’t help but notice that often there were basic things that could have been done. I’m not blaming all the parents but the reality is this; if something can’t be done to prevent this then we should just throw in the towel.
What can be done?
We as parents can take our cues from the ancient book. In the Bible, there is a man named Paul who is my hero in the area of dealing with complicated sexual issues. He ministered in highly sexualised cultures in Asia. Paul was the church leader who found himself dealing with church members who were having sex with their mother-in-law and flaunting it (1 Cor 6:1). It’s the first Cougars with a family twist! Reality TV dreams of situations like this.
From Paul’s writings in the the Bible I have observed that his strategy was basically this: Talk about sex early, openly and often. Paul quickly jumped in to the issue of sex with his people, constantly talked about sex, and openly talking about sex.
I think his principals can give us a grid for raising our own kids today.
Here’s some thoughts on the “early, openly and often” strategy.
Human development studies suggest that we talk about sex earlier than you might think. The average age suggested from both religious and non-religious sources is between the ages of 8 and 9. If you add to that, the amount of sexual content available to our children, I believe it is even more relevant to begin the discussion about sex and relationships earlier rather than later. This sets the foundation to continue to add more information as they grow older. We want our sons and daughters, when faced with comments or information from friends to say, “Oh, I know all about that stuff, my Dad talks to me about it” instead of standing there with wide eyes and a confused mind and heart.
Being honest and open is always the best strategy. Using code words and beating around the bush only confuses. It might feel awkward to us as parents. But, we need to be the adults they need us to be and not act like an immature playmate who explains sex in code words and immature giggles. What can we be open about? In age appropriate ways we explain what sex physically is, when sex happens, how sex is fun and makes us feel good, and how sex can be a burden and bring pain. Not all of this needs to happen at 8 years old! But, through the years this openness about sex needs to pervade our conversations.
I have asked many, many people how they found out about sex. Of those that heard from their parents there were basically two categories. The first is parents that sat down, explained things and never spoke of it again. The second are parents that had the big explanation but also had an ongoing conversation through the years. Of those that had parents that spoke of sex in an ongoing manner, I find they are healthier and can be more open today about their sexuality. My husband and I, in our own family try to find little opportunities to talk about things that pertain to sex.
Here are a few resources we have found helpful in explaining sex to our boys:
Two helpful articles from Focus on the Family here and here.
A very detailed article on how and what to talk about at each age.
Information from the perspective of human development.
Coming soon I will be giving more detailed thoughts and strategies for raising children in a porn filled world.
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