|Sex, the Culture, and Your Kids|
(by Chris Long)
Earlier tonight I was listening to a local Christian radio talk show and Dennis Rainey from FamilyLife was discussing his book "Aggressive Girls, Innocent Boys" which is about the increasing trend in our culture of girls exerting themselves sexually at young ages on boys - it is a book for parents of boys. Along with this, there were callers sharing some pretty incredible stories of sexual things that happened among their 4th/5th grade children. The whole discussion, while enlightening, was also very saddening.
I don't think it's a newsflash to anybody that our culture has become increasingly "sexualized", but what some do not realize is that one of the effects of this is that children are exposed to much more, much earlier, than previously occurred. Girls are taught to "flaunt it" young and boys are taught to "want it" young, from seemingly every corner of our society. Whether it's the Internet (with all the porn and sexual info wanted at your fingertips), t.v./movies filled with sexual talk and content, sex education curriculum forced on children in schools at young ages that teaches them immoral things (without any, or contrary to, Biblical guidance), or whereever else you want to point, it's just a fact these days that children are forced to "grow up" much sooner than previously occurred, and often times this occurs with little to no Godly perspective from parents or the church.
To be honest, most church youth groups, if they talk about sex at all in any kind of meaningful way (including subjects beyond the simple "save yourself for marriage" line - subjects like lust, pornography, self-pleasure, oral sex/petting, homosexuality, etc.), it's reserved for jr. high or high school. Yet, the reality today is that kids are exposed to much of this stuff - typically from a godless, self-seeking, pleasure perspective of the culture, years earlier. In other words, we are behind the ball in most churches. By the time the church gets around to teaching them anything, they've already likely been entrenched for multiple years in a different worldview from the culture.
In addition to the church though, parents also are often behind the ball on this stuff - if they ever talk about it at all with their children. Since parents are supposed to be the first line of instruction (in all things) for their children, as established by God, this is an important topic.
I'm going to get real vulnerable here for a minute because I want to share by personal example just why this stuff is so important.
For myself, even without the Internet and today's culture, when I was between 10 1/2 to 11 years old, I discovered self-pleasure and started looking at porn (on t.v. and magazines). I had lots of questions and was "confused" about things, but received no real Godly instruction about any of it. My parents did give me a Christian book that generically discussed some of this stuff, but that was the extent of it. There certainly wasn't any teaching coming from the church on this stuff (it's only in the last 10 years or so that the church has even started addressing some of these things a little bit with ADULTS, let alone teens and tweens). I knew innately that looking at the porn was wrong and frequently felt guilty/ashamed, which certainly isn't good for an 11-year-old to be bottling up inside. I can tell you that by the time I was 12, I was firmly addicted (yes, addicted) to porn and self-pleasure. I tried to stop and could not seem to do so, which of course led to more shame/guilt. Do you know when the first time any of this stuff was ever discussed with me in any semblance of a practical way? My senior year in my Christian high school in a theology class where the guys were separated from the girls for an hour and some of this stuff was taught on. No offense to them for trying, but I had already been involved in sexual sin for 7 years by the time the Christian church/school got around to discussing anything...
Those of you that know from my past writings know that this struggle of mine lasted for a LONG time, causing me more hurt/pain than I can even remotely begin to quantify. The Bible says that sin brings forth death. And that certainly is what it brought forth in my life in a variety of areas: physical, emotional, spiritual. When I became a Christian at 15, while many things changed about me, this struggle did not - the strongholds were VERY entrenched in my life and I lived a double-existance as a Christian for many years - and I can tell you that this is one VERY MISERABLE way to live.
One of the reasons I can easily share my story above so openly is because I KNOW from being in ministry that my story sadly echoes many, many others'. I have known men in their 60's dealing with pornography issues that got started when they were 12-years old and they've been struggling with it ever since! That's over 50-years, folks - a life of bondage, reaping in their life what sin always brings forth.
That's just the porn/self-pleasure thing, which is generally a "private" thing (though the results affect others much more than many realize!). You add into the mix all the sexual misconduct that can occur with others - all the temptations to interact sexually - even if not full intercourse, and that's a lot of ground to cover.
Sexual issues are some of the biggest (perhaps THE biggest) ones that people are dealing with in the Church. It is one of the greatest places where the devil has been tweaking us human beings out, quite successfully, for a long long time (and then convincing people that they are the only ones dealing with those issues...)
Yet, for something that's such a major issue, and a major part of us as human beings (after all, we ARE "sexual beings"), the most instruction many kids ever hear in the sexual department from a Godly perspective is to "save yourself for marriage - to be pure" - and often the reason for why actually has a focus on "to avoid STD's or unwanted pregnancies" (not that those aren't also valid reasons to discuss, because they are) rather than the "sin issue."
Most kids are left to fend for themselves (and thus receiving "instruction" from fellow children and the entertainment culture) in regards to puberty/changes in their body, attraction to the opposite sex, porn (which no matter how well you protect your kids, they're pretty much BOUND to run across in this culture of ours!), self-pleasure/sexual pleasure, lust, sexual contact with others, the subject of homosexuality, etc.
Make no mistake: All the cards are highly stacked AGAINST your children coming into their sexuality and managing it in an appropriate, God-honoring way. The schools aren't helping (and in the case of public schools, usually very much harming!), and sadly, most churches aren't helping either. In fact, you might be surprised at some of the stuff kids say to each other and sexual stuff that goes on among children WITHIN some youth groups (obviously where the youth leaders aren't aware). That type of stuff is more common than I believe any of us really realize.
The culture (including many schools) is pretty much ready to tell your children that:
- sex outside of marriage is not only OK, but to be celebrated (and just use a condom to avoid STDs)
and lots more...
That means it is up to you, as a parent, to "train up your child in the way he/she should go" (see Proverbs 22:6) in the sexual arena, just as you would in any other arena. This bluntly means some real dialoguing with your kids about these types of things, and really a 1-time conversation isn't enough either - there needs to be some "proactive parenting" in this area, because the culture is VERY proactive with its messages that are very contrary to the Word of God.
One reason why many parents feel uncomfortable in talking with their kids about these types of things is because many parents (unfortunately) still have unresolved issues/questions/sin/guilt/shame in these types of things because THEY were never appropriately taught either. Unfortunately, it can be a vicious cycle. But it's time to start working to break out of that cycle.
Some practical thoughts:
1) If you never really discuss Biblical things with your children (i.e. don't do devotions with them regularly) and just come out of the blue at them wanting to talk about this stuff, you will be facing an uphill climb... These kinds of discussions work best in a relaxed setting where the kids already know they can dialog with you about this stuff because you've dialogued about lots of other subjects in their life in relation to the Bible over the years. In such settings, when you bring it up, it will be easier for them to talk with you and receive from you. [If you haven't really had a track record of discussing things Biblically with your children, though it may be harder, don't let that discourage you from starting with this...]
2) I think it is a GREAT idea for dads to take their sons, and mothers to take their daughters, on a special "getaway" (i.e. a weekend camping trip for the guys, etc.) where there will be able to be good uninterupted time for dad/son or mother/daughter to really bond and "get real" in discussing this kind of stuff. This hopefully will be a "bonding" time where some of these issues can really be talked about, which will also then pave the way for future discussions going forward in the weeks, months, years to come. In fact, maybe trying to do one of these "special getaways", in addition to regular discussions, once a year over a number of years during those critical years wouldn't be a bad idea.
3) It obviously is really important that you yourself have a handle on these issues/know what the Bible says about them, so that you can appropriately teach them to your kids and help them with any areas they may be struggling. Reading the Bible yourself is the best way for you to do this, but there's also a number of books out there that address these subjects from a Christian perspective which might be helpful to read. (i.e. go to your local Christian bookstore and pick up one or more of these books). There are also books out there that can help you in talking with your kids, etc. Finally, don't forget to pray and ask the Lord to help you be able to talk about it correctly, and without being uncomfortable.
4) I STRONGLY exhort parents to HIGHLY control their children's Internet access, especially in the tween and early teen years. That means no computers in their room, no Internet access on any cell phone/ipod/mobile device, Internet filter on the "family computer" in the house, monitoring any of their social networking sites (i.e. facebook), etc. Your kids will probably majorly gripe at you about all of this, but it's a protective mechanism for them. The Internet has claimed many many MANY victims - it is one of the biggest tools the devil uses to draw kids into immoral actions and lifestyles.
5) I STRONGLY exhort parents to monitor what their child's school is teaching them in the sex department. Make sure you know what kinds of things they are teaching and when they are teaching it (i.e. review the curriculum). If need be, don't be afraid to exempt your child from some or all of that instruction as needed if it contradicts your Biblical values. (Be advised though that in some public schools now, they are teaching some things in such ways that it's very difficult to really fully exempt).
At the end of the day, your children are a stewardship that God has given you to raise and train up according to His precepts. Far too many parents are neglecting their RESPONSIBILITY to do so in the sexual arena, and by default are giving their kids over to a wicked and perverse culture to do so instead. Don't let that be you.
With love to you in Christ,
This is version 1.2 of this document (May 15, 2012).