The Daddy Factor

There has been a noticeable change in my audiences over the last 10 years. Instead of a room full of young mommies who want to know how to answer their children’s early questions about sex, I look out on a very healthy mix of moms and dads. This is so encouraging to me!

Dads who show up to a workshop about how to shape their child’s sexual character are also probably going to SHOW UP in other ways…

in conversations that are uncomfortable

in setting boundaries for children they love and want to protect

in helping their children navigate the rough waters of the tween and teen years

in affirming a child’s beautiful mind and character

in leading by sacrificial example

The deep security a child knows as a result of an engaged father is immeasurable. No parent is perfect of course, but I had the blessing of a wonderful Dad, and am married to one, and see these fine men who are raising my grandchildren and grandchildren-to-be, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

The blessing of a faithful father is so important, that God made sure everyone could have one in Him, so that even when our earthly fathers don’t show up….He does.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Back to Basics… Vocabulary

This summer we are taking some time to review the basics of the Simple Truths strategy for talking to our children about sex. In Simple Truths, we focus on beginning the conversations, and preparing our families for future conversations that may be more challenging. But when our children are young and very curious, it’s the perfect time to build a foundation.

Our first step, as we have just seen in the last post, is to establish your MESSAGE. This will be the foundational image that you believe is the MOST important thing you want your children to learn about sex. See the emphasis on YOU?! This is personal to your family, and needs to reflect your values and beliefs, so only YOU can write your message.

Once you have your message (and please go back to step #1 if you do not) the next step is to consider your VOCABULARY. Parents are constantly telling their children…

“USE YOUR WORDS”

Which WORDS are you using to identify their “privates”? Are you using general words like “bottom” or are you using “wingy-wangy-words” that are somewhat silly and baby sounding? Or are you using anatomically correct vocabulary? Why do we make the choices we do about this?

For some of us, we just can’t seem to say penis and vagina in front of our children. I know this was true of me. I was much more comfortable at bath time saying, “Don’t forget to wash your privates”, instead of correctly identifying them. I had to work my way into this. I finally made a compromise I could be comfortable with. I did name their parts, but went back and forth between using them specifically, and using the general term of “privates”.

For many of you, it’s not an issue at all, and you have called these parts by name from the beginning. Good for you! I would encourage all parents to evaluate your vocabulary in light of what will be valuable as you move into more in-depth conversations later on.

Another way that you might need to examine the vocabulary you use is this:  Are your words respectful? Some words like boobies or bootie are not necessarily offensive, but are they your best choice? Just something to think about. The words we use to identify something will eventually lead to the way we think about it. Are we building a foundation of respect or of casual disregard? Words matter.

When a baby is born, we are always curious…did they have a girl or a boy? With a young child, you can explain that the parents will know right away when they see the baby! How will they know? Not by looking at their eyes or hands or anything else, but God made them a boy or a girl and either gave them a penis or a vagina.

Keeping these words from our children may keep us from being embarrassed when they use them in front of our friends, or very loudly in the grocery store, but it may also eventually keep us from some important conversations that you will not want to miss.

And here is something else to keep in mind…I have been told by pediatricians that children who can properly identify their sexual parts are better able to communicate with their parents should there ever be an issue with abuse. A little girl was trying to tell her parents for weeks that a neighbor was “playing with her tutu”…the parents thought the little boy had been trying on her ballet costume. They didn’t realize that the child had named her vagina her “tutu” because she had not been given a correct name for this. This tragic situation could have been resolved or perhaps even prevented by some simple conversations and proper vocabulary. 

Do a vocabulary check this summer…are my words the ones that will be helpful in future conversations? Are they respectful? It’s so much easier to make these adjustments while your children are young.

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Back to Basics… Your Message

Do you ever feel the need to get back to basics? Reviewing the fundamentals on how we intend to teach our children about sex can be helpful to either get us started, or remind us of what we still need to do. For the next few posts, I am going to be going over the strategy that I give parents for talking to their children about sex. There are five simple steps that make up the foundational information. If you have been to one of my talks, you may already know what they are:

  • Your Message
  • Vocabulary
  • Story of Birth
  • Seeds and Eggs
  • Conception

So today, we will start with YOUR MESSAGE…

Your child may be 4 or 5 or 7 and you wonder how to answer questions like: “Mommy, how does the baby get out of you?” or “How did that baby get in?” If you aren’t prepared, this can be heart-stopping! And yet this is a time in their life when they are naturally curious, and it’s an excellent opportunity for you to begin tiny and age appropriate conversations with them on the subject of sex. Are you prepared to capture these teachable moments? What should you do first to get ready?

#1… Your Message

The first step doesn’t involve your children, but it is the most important step.

You need to answer THIS question: “What is the main thing you WANT your children to know about sex?”

Most parents would agree that the messages in the culture are NOT the ones they hope their children adopt for their own, as they are confusing, degrading, and even disturbing. So what IS the positive, healthy message you would like your children to have? If you are a person of faith, what is the Biblical message you believe you want to send? I suggest you take some time to consider this very carefully.

Consider what the purpose(s) of sex may be? What was it designed to be? These are deep but worthwhile considerations, because being grounded in this message will help you to answer your children’s’ questions with clarity. They will need more than the basic biology, they also need context and the reasons for why any of this matters.

If you are a person of faith, you may want to go to Genesis 1:26-31 and then Genesis 2:24-25.Here in the first chapters of the Bible, God tells us the simple and beautiful truth of sexuality and what His purposes are. The beauty and the boundaries of sex are made clear here. Where then does the fear in talking to our children come from? We’ll deal with that later… but for now, let’s consider the joy of this parenting task. YOU… not porn, not the internet, not the neighbor down the street, but YOU get the privilege of giving your child their first impression of what this is all about. First impressions are powerful.

If faith is not your main interest, then consider what major themes you may want to focus on… their future health and well being? The purpose of their reproductive parts and how to respect and take care of them? Whatever matters most to you will be the foundation of your message.

YOUR MESSAGE… What is it?

What expectation and hopes do you have for your children? What will their image of sex be as a result of growing up in your home? This is quite personal, and consequently the messages will vary from family to family. But the important thing is that you are confident that YOUR message reflects YOUR values, and what you truly believe you desire to communicate to your children. After you have taken some time to think about this, reduce those thoughts into one sentence.

Here are a few examples:

  • “Sex is a gift from God intended for marriage”
  • “Sex is an act of love, and can lead to babies”
  • “Sex was made by God for oneness in marriage, and for children”
  • “Sex is like that electrical plug over there… you touch it, you die!”… I was kidding on that last one.

You will find that developing a clear message will give you much more confidence to speak to your children, because you WANT them to get this specific impression and it’s a positive healthy image that comes from the people who love them the most. YOU! You may not necessarily announce your message to your children just yet, but as you will come to see, your conversations will reflect this message.

The more exited you are about this message, the less reluctant you will be to talk to your children… and that’s what we are look for. Starting the conversation. Next week, we will consider the next step in these conversations: VOCABULARY.

I’d love for you to share with me some of your messages, or let me know how having a message has helped you with your conversations. Always great to hear from you!

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A Slower Walk

I just got back from a walk, and it was glorious! This spring Dallas has enjoyed plenty of rain and cooler temperatures, and the mosquitos aren’t out yet…so it’s a perfect time for exercising in the fresh air! If you are fortunate enough to have a small child along, try not to think so much about how many steps you log on your fit bit, but rather how many details you can find in the things that are blooming around you.

Feel the soft petals of the flowers and carefully look at the sprouting buds, and talk about seeds. In fact, maybe pick up a pack or two at the grocery story, and try growing some herbs or flowers at home so that they can catch on to the excitement! This time of year just begs for conversations about new life!

Fairy gardens are fun, and lend themselves not only to conversations about how things grow, but also feeds your child’s imagination! Here is a picture of my neighbor’s fairy garden…very nice, don’t you think?

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Plus a few glances of spring from my walk

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It’s earth day today…and I’m so grateful for the beauty that God has given us in spring!!

Now I DO KNOW that this is a weed

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…but it’s my grandaughters’ favorite flower in Flo Flo’s yard!

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Summer Reading List

Summer is upon us, and with it will be a the opportunity for conversations that we just don’t seem to have time for during the school year. Have you thought about what you hope to accomplish this summer… when it comes to conversations with your children about how babies are born, or how babies are made? With more family time will come some not-to-be-missed opportunities. With young children there is a window of curiosity about how all of this works, and that window begs you to come in with great information and wisdom for these little ones about how fearfully and wonderfully they were made.

Perhaps a quiet time with books is just the ticket into that window. Here are a few suggestions to get conversations started.

I discovered these beautiful books last year, and really love the intricate illustrations:

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They are perfect for conversations about seeds and eggs, and the beauty of God’s design for reproducing plants and animals.

Here is a fun and sweet story written by Ann Higgginbottom who did so much to help me write my second book, God’s Very Good Design. This is a true story of her childhood experience at the beach discovering turtle eggs. Also beautifully illustrated.

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Simple picture books that can bring up conversations about babies…to remind of us what life is like for a baby, and how we have grown!

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Here are two books I highly recommend for reading to preschool or early elementary children who are asking the big questions. OR if they have never asked, and you feel like it’s time for them to know before someone else tells them. I read these books to my children, and I think they are wonderful. The first is the story of birth (recommended to 3-5 year olds)  and the second is the story of conception (recommended for 5-8 year olds). It’s always a good idea to look through the books yourself to be sure you are comfortable with the language and illustrations before you read them to your children.

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Of course, reading my books is a good idea too…because your children need to hear YOUR VOICE and both Simple Truths and God’s Very Good Design will help you train YOUR voice for the conversations you hope to have this summer! Just remember that these two books are NOT for children, but for YOU…their parents.

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Happy reading!

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Ridley Family Update!

March 15 was one of the HAPPIEST days in the Ridley Family! Our son Davis married Chelsea O’Teter, and if weddings are any indication, they will live blissfully ever after. Here are a few pictures from the day…and the flower girls are our 3 grand daughters! So much fun…

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Isn’t Chelsea a BEAUTIFUL bride??

Of course the Groom is pretty handsome, too!

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But together, they are amazing!!

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After a richly worshipful ceremony, we all danced the night away. We could not be happier for this precious couple!

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Blogging Booster Shot

Confession…I’m not a good blogger. I think maybe you knew that.

Maybe I’m not a blogger at all, but I’ve come to a conference this weekend to find out how to either do this blogging thing right, or….well, you know…not at all.

My hope is to be inspired and better equipped, and from the looks of it, Declare http://www.declareconference.com should do the trick. Just checked into the Marriott at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas. Not far from home, and yet I’m thinking I might be in another world…the bloggers’ world. Let’s see if I belong here or not!

If you follow me, I’d love to have any comments about what you are looking for as I’m giving all of this a lot of thought. So grateful for each pair of eyes that look to this blog for encouragement and ideas! 

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