Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
As we journey more into this process, please continue to be mindful to journey through your own story. It is naive and ignorant to think your own life in this area will not affect your kids' lives in this area. We are to steward them with diligence, faithfulness, attentiveness, wisdom, and with much, much prayer.
Kids are not dumb. They are observant, funny, talkative, little sponges building who they are and what they will think about life with each and every interaction they have with the world around them. Whether we actively value the foundation laying process of their lives or not, they will build, grow, learn, mature.
Below are a few thoughts on talking with young kids about these important topics.
One of the successes Chad and I have had in this area with our kids is to not freak out, tease, or ignore their actions or questions.
When Kyle approached us as a young kindergartener and inquired, "What does f@*$ mean, mommy?" Well, we may have freaked out a little because as we sat in shock he said it about five more times. Finally, Chad was able to calmly talk to him about choosing wise words as we speak. He answered Kyle's innocent question appropriately. Knowing our kids is so important in these times. Kyle has always been a word guy. He soaks up language, was hearing a new word in school, and wanted to know what it meant. It is not over simplifying to state that taking time to converse with Kyle in that moment built security in him to know he could come to us with his next question. Believe me when I say his questions have only grown in depth and complexity through the years.
Meet their questions with gentleness and respect. Think through the age of the child asking. What can they handle in your response?
Seven years ago one of our dear family friends was about to give birth. Kyle and Esther had been very excited and interested in the arrival of a new baby to our community. At lunch a couple of weeks before our friend's due date, they decided to question me about how the baby would make its arrival.
Esther asked, "Mom, how will the baby come out?"
Being skilled in diplomacy, I responded, "(Our friend) will go to the hospital and the doctor will get the baby."
She asked, "But how will the baby come out?"
I simply stated, "The doctor will help her, and then the baby will be here."
Not satisfied Kyle chimed in, "But how will the baby come out of her stomach?"
"Kyle. Esther. Are you sure you want to know?"
I started a very basic explanation and almost immediately their hands flew over their ears and they yelled, "No more! Stop talking! That's terrible!"
The next time they saw my friend, they approached her to give her a warning about what she was about to endure. My little community loving kids were willing to brave a difficult conversation for the sake of their friend.
Again, age appropriate answers. I didn't jump immediately into directly answering their questions. I gave them enough information to satisfy their need for knowledge of the situation. As a parent you must decide who you want answering your kids' questions. I don't know about you, but I want Chad and I to be the people they trust most in the world with their precious questions. Of course there are other people in their lives, but Chad and I ultimately are the ones responsible, especially in this sensitive topic.
Not overreacting about body parts is so fundamental in giving them security. Professionals generally state we should teach our kids proper names for their parts. I agree. But, because my family is a bunch of goofs, we also use all the other funny words. We are not a proper bunch. A few years ago a couple of my kids asked what the lady part was called. Their response was, "That sounds a lot like Virginia!" Why, yes it does, and it henceforth shall be called. My response? I laughed! We all laughed. Because it was funny. Teaching them is so much easier if you allow yourself to laugh. But, here is the key. I did not laugh at them. I made sure they knew that I thought they were brilliant and funny, not stupid for what they said. There is a huge wide world of difference. We laugh with our kids in these moments, never ever ever at them. That will build sexual insecurity faster than you can say Virginia.
But, we must make sure we are balanced. We cannot always make jokes about our bodies or we stop taking the special nature of ourselves seriously. We cannot always be so serious, or we dry up and blow away like dust because we are so boring. Roll with the style of your family. We all cackle like a bunch of middle schoolers (oh wait, half of us are middle schoolers) whenever the words balls or wiener show up in life. Every single time. It's weird. And I don't think it is unholy. Above all, honor God even in your humor. (And yes, those words show up more often than you think.)
For the most part in our home, we call body parts "privates." This is intentional. The word private means belonging to an individual person, restricted use. Yes. Exactly. "Private" does not conjure up shame. We've spoken to our kids that God made us beautifully, perfectly, intentionally, and there are certain parts He made that only belong to ourselves. "Private" means no one else touches, takes a peak, or has access to. We've talked with our kids at length about protecting what is private in life, not just body parts, so they have a healthy understanding of the word. Again, their is no shame associated with who they are, male or female, God created each.
Chad and I want to treat each other with respect and dignity, especially in front of our kids, to show them Chad does not view me as an object and I do not view him as a taker. There is no groping in our home. Neither of us ever objectify other men or women. My kids have never heard Chad comment on a woman's body parts. He is a kind man who desires to teach our daughters they deserve to be treated as treasures. He is a strong man that desires to teach our son to see women as image bearers of God, not objects.
What about your heart, attitude, or home? How will the way you respond to the opposite sex influence how your kids respond? Does how you treat your spouse in public and in your home demonstrate love, respect, and dignity? Does how you look at people around you teach your kids that humans bear the image of God?
It is important to remember the difference between groping and affection. Showing your kids that you love each other through physical touch is also important. Holding hands, cuddling, a sweet kiss show kids that the love mom and dad have for each other is different than the love they have for anyone else. They will find security in the love you have for each other. Building security in your home shapes the security they will know in Christ.
This one may be extreme for some of you, but I am speaking from experience here. Don't let your kids play too long by themselves or unattended with friends. Keep bedroom doors open when they have company. Check on them. Observe what they are playing. Ask them about their conversations. Don't interrogate them, but be interested in their thoughts, friendships, imaginations. Too much can happen to our kids when they are left alone. Know where they are, who they are with, and who they are talking to in your home, when you are out and about, enjoying the hospitality of others, and even at church.
Pray over them as the play. Ask God to give them pure thoughts. Pray that at the very least they will not be followers into areas they know are wrong, and also pray bold prayers that they will lead peers into good conversations and play time. From the beginning of parenting, I've begged God to not allow my kids to be given to rebellion and that each child would to desire to please Chad and me which would ultimately lead to their desire to please Him.
Final Thought for Today
Honestly, I could keep going on these thoughts. The more I write the more I want to tell you. Do you have any thoughts or questions about what I brought up in this post? I would love to know where you are in this journey.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.