Many parents wonder how they can more effectively influence their child's attitudes on sexuality. First and foremost, discussions about sex should be based on a central theme of respect — for God, one another and our own bodies. Here are some additional principles and strategies to keep in mind as you build on that foundation of respect:
- Remind yourself that giving a child facts about reproduction, including details about intercourse, does not rob him of innocence. Innocence is about attitude, not information. A school-age child who understands the specifics of sex — and that it's an act which, in the proper context, expresses love and begins new life — retains his innocence. A child who knows very little about sex can have a corrupt mindset if he's been exposed to the subject in a degrading, mocking or abusive way.
- Don't tell your child everything you know about sex during a single, intense marathon session. If possible, details should be released gradually during many conversations. Practice your communication skills by discussing health and safety issues as your child grows. These might include hygiene, dealing with strangers, resisting peer pressure, avoiding substance abuse and anticipating puberty changes. It will be easier for both of you to talk about sex if you've already developed a rapport and a pattern for discussing sensitive subjects. In most cases, you'll be dispensing information on a need-to-know basis.
- Relax and create an open environment for talking and listening. Your child can tell when you're tense. To foster an environment that encourages meaningful discussion, be as calm and confident as you can. Urge your child to ask anything he wants, and thank him when he does. If you don't, he'll probably seek an answer somewhere else. Don't overreact to what he says, even if it's not what you expected to hear. The goal is to make your home the preferred place for discussions. Don't just talk; ask questions and listen to his responses.
- Give accurate, age-appropriate information. Listen closely to your child's questions and be ready to ask, "What exactly do you mean?" Don't get lost in details if your child asks a very general question. Consider his age and what's appropriate for him to know, but also remember that kids today experience puberty earlier than ever. They’re also exposed to sexual imagery and vocabulary more freely and at a much younger age.
- Love your child unconditionally and remind him constantly that you do. Tell him that you love him for who he is, not what he does. If he makes poor choices, don't take his mistakes personally. Step up to the plate and help him through the crisis.
This article appeared in the October/November2013 issue of
Thriving Family magazine. It was reprinted from Focus on the Family Guide to Talking With Your Kids About Sex
. Copyright © 2013 by Revell and Focus on the Family. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com
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