Posts tagged Parenting

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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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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A friendly list

Following an event last week,  I met a man and his wife who have 3 daughters. The oldest is entering middle school next fall, and the dad was lamenting, “I know that the ‘boyfriend thing’ is on the horizon…some of her friends are already there. What is a good way to start a conversation about this? I’d like to know what she’s thinking, and I’d also like to have a little input.”

My advice was for him to ask his daughter to make a list

Leave off the word BOY, and just ask her to make a list of what a GREAT FRIEND looks like. More than likely she will have things on her list like honest, loyal, funny, kind, considerate, a good listener, encouraging, someone I can laugh with, unselfish, trustworthy, caring…. Now you can admire her for her high standards, and let her know that these are also the perfect things to look for in a future boyfriend.

Somewhere along the way, you may want to point out to her that the word HOT doesn’t appear on her list. You can let her know that although mutual attraction IS an important part (our culture tells us it’s the ONLY part), it’s not nearly as important as everything else on her list. This person should first of all be a good friend.

This is obviously only the start of conversations about boy-girl relationships. But like so many things in our lives, it helps to have a starting point….and for me, it’s usually a list!

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What’s the hurry?

This last week was a mini-marathon for me & I loved every moment! Speaking 5 times in 7 days may be a record, but what a privilege to meet such wonderful parents!

One dad gave me a great idea that I want to pass along. We were talking about how we can help our kids understand delayed gratification vs. instant gratification. How do we teach them that it’s really BETTER to wait? What kind of things help them to exercise those muscles that strengthen their ability to wait?

His idea: On family vacations he gives his 4 children some spending money. Let’s say he gives each child $25.00. He and his wife let them know this is THEIR money, and they can spend it any way they like, whenever they wish. If they spend all of it at the first Cracker Barrel they come to …that is OK. But they are only getting $25.00 for the trip. Now…here is the lesson part:  He also tells his children that whatever part of the $25.00 they come home with, the parents will double.

Hmmm…so it’s better to spend wisely, and maybe even not spend at all? If I spend $10.00 on a trinket, and bring home $15.00…I can get $30.00!

He said that the first time they were given $25.00, they did spend it very quickly, but by their 3rd family vacation, the older children had learned that the coolest way to use the money was to examine all of their choices, and think about what $50.00 could buy at home. He saw a huge shift in the mental process of seeing+wanting=buying….. change into……. seeing+wanting+thinking=waiting.

Brilliant!!

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“Did you wait?”

Last Friday was the most SPECTACULAR snow day in the history of Dallas…who can be expected to sit inside and blog when you can take a walk in the snow? Besides, all the young parents I’m writing to were rolling up snowballs and dressing snowmen.

So Frequent Question Friday has been officially postponed until….today!

Because you had to wait I’m going to give you a doozy of a question. I get this almost every time I speak. If I don’t get it in the ‘raise your hand’ question time, then I usually get it from someone who comes up to ask privately.

Here is the question: “What if I didn’t wait for marriage to have sex, but I think that it would be the very best thing for my child to do that?” “What will I say when they ask me if I waited?”

First of all, please don’t let the fear of this question paralyze you from entering into important conversations with your child. When they are very young, and you are explaining birth and conception, and the beauty of God’s design in reproduction, they are probably not going to ask you if you waited. They may, however, ask when the pre-teen and teen conversations happen.

Here are a few suggestions that I have given parents. They are not perfect, but they may help you think through how to respond to this question. Walking toward your most feared questions instead of running away is very important.

“When I was young, my parents didn’t talk to me about sex. I didn’t understand what it was all about until I already had some regrets. That is one reason why I have been talking to you about this since you were 4.”

“I was not as successful at this as I’m hoping you will be. I got all caught up in pleasing others and not taking care of myself…that was a mistake.”

“Sometimes we learn by our mistakes…I hope you’ll learn from mine, and you will not have to make your own. My biggest mistake was succumbing to peer pressure. If you make some of the same mistakes, my fear is that the consequences for you will be much more devastating. When I was growing up there were 4 sexually transmitted diseases, and today there are 24….but the heartache is probably the same.”

“I totally messed up, and didn’t see sex the way God sees sex. Now that I do…I only want what is good for you. I want you to enter marriage without the baggage that I had to deal with.”

My advice to parents is to  approach this with tender honesty. You don’t need to give all the details, and remember…this is YOUR family. You can handle this however you think is best, I just hear a lot of parents panicking about the thought of having this conversation.

Try to remember…this subject is much more about their future and not so much about your past.

Also, that life isn’t always so heavy…snowman anyone?

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Keep it Simple

BlueSquareIs there anything more intimidating in the world of parenting than the idea of talking to your children about sex? When do I talk to them? What do I say? Are they ready? Am I ready?

What IS ready?

In my conversations with parents about this topic, I like to remind them to keep it simple: basic biology and your values.

Start there.

The biology remains the same from family to family, but the values do not…so take some time to consider exactly what your family values are…your core beliefs about sex. What do you want your children to understand THE MOST about sex after growing up in your home? Answering that question will start you on the path to knowing what your values are and being able to state them clearly.

This is what I call “Your Message”….and I believe it is the essential first step to shaping your child’s sexual character.

Every day our culture bombards our children with its own messages about sex, and most of those messages are degrading and disturbing. As parents we need to find our voice, and for our children’s sake, speak up!

As you follow this blog, you’ll find suggestions and encouragement for these vital conversations with your children. My point of reference will be for parents of children in the pre-school to pre-teen ages. First conversations. First impressions. These can be powerful and meaningful moments that you will not want to miss.

Life can be so complicated, and as a parent, this subject can be particularly daunting. Let’s see if we can’t make it a little simpler, and so much better.

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