Author: Sherie (Page 2 of 2)

My Body is a Gift Discussions: Pages 2-3

One part of healthy sexuality that we don’t often consider is having an appreciation for our bodies.  Teaching our children that bodies are good and from God is an easy way to begin discussions about healthy sexuality with very small children.  These pages address this appreciation.

Discussion questions:

Does God love you?…Yes!  He does!…And so do I!  (in our house this type of scenario is accompanied by hugs, tickles, and giggles)

Have you ever thought about your body as being a special gift?

Living your whole life in a body is a long time!  How does your body look different than it did before? (baby features, haircuts, broken bones that healed, etc.)  What can you do with your body that you couldn’t do before? (ride a bike, read, etc.)  Wow!  Look at all the amazing and wonderful things that happen as your body grows and changes!  What a neat body you have!

My Body is a Gift Discussions: Introduction

The book, “My Body is a Gift from God: Introducing Conversations to SafPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000444_00047]eguard Children” is an excellent way to begin a pattern of ongoing conversations about healthy sexuality with your children. Each page is an invitation to a variety of healthy sexuality conversations. Following the articles entitled “My Body is a Gift Discussions” will give you ideas to get your creative juices flowing. There are an unlimited number of such conversations that can begin with the pages of this book, based on the individual experiences of children and families.

Let’s get started!

Lies About Sex: Introduction

I’m planning a number of short posts that are great small-conversation starters with children ages 9+.  These conversations are follow-up conversations, once you have had talks about the process of sex.  I tell parents it is helpful to say, “now we have talked about what is real.  Let’s talk about the destructive, unhealthy, inaccurate messages you will see in the media, maybe from friends, or other places.  These messages are lies.  I want to tell you about them so you will know ahead of time and can spot them quickly.  When you see or hear one, come talk to me and tell me about it.  I’ll be proud of you for spotting them.”  To prepare for these mini-conversations you can look for posts entitled “Lies About Sex” and can also find your own lies you want to discuss.  Sometimes your kids will even find one on their own!

Children Are Like Onions

Whenever your children approach you, or when you ask them about things they have experienced, it’s always important to keep in mind that children are like onions.  When someone shares vulnerable information with another person, especially if they think highly of them, they are likely to share just a little at a time, layer by layer.  They may hold some level of shame or embarrassment around the issue.  They may be uncomfortable and want to know if you will be too.  They share a little, see how you react, and then share a little more.  So be aware that there are likely lots of layers to a situation or story.  They may only be sharing a part of how they felt (the less important part).  They may only be sharing a part of a “bad” situation.  They may only be sharing one time when something has actually happened many times.

What can you do to invite more conversation, and help them feel comfortable enough to share?

Be calm.  If you don’t get upset or emotionally heightened, they will be less likely to close off.

Be curious.  Curiosity helps you be calm, gives you space to think, and also helps you gather really important information.  Curiosity gets you gently probing for and through more layers.

Be patient and persistent.  Recognize you may not get through all the layers in a day.  But don’t assume you’ve got the full story.  If they are done for the day, wait.  Think through it yourself–be curious–look for holes or inconsistencies in the story timeline, in how they felt, etc. that may be indicative of more layers.

Trust your gut.  This is the most important part.  You may feel everything is on the table, and if so, that’s great.  But if something feels off, trust it.  You have God-given parental intuition.

The Number One Thing to Do

My number one takeaway for parents is always:

TALK, TALK, TALK, TALK, TALK, TALK, TALK, TALK, TALK

Talk to your kids about sex whenever and wherever you can.  You want to normalize the topic.  This does a few things, it makes the topic less awkward because it’s a topic that is discussed frequently.  It makes discussions less formal.  Your kids aren’t worried that if they want to have a discussion with you they have to wait until Sunday after church wearing their suit or dress, sitting straight-backed in the front parlor…you get the idea.  Because Mom and Dad talk to me when we garden, at the dinner table, while we watch TV, or driving to soccer practice, I can talk to them anytime too.

I have an aunt and uncle that are really good at this.  They regularly have discussions, often around the dinner table, about what their teenagers are experiencing outside of the home.  Their children feel comfortable enough that they come to their parents and bring up locker room talk and other things they are exposed to at school.  They don’t just take their peers’ word for it, they get the truth from their parents.

My mother also was a good example of teaching us to pay attention to the messages we received in the media, recognizing truth, and rejecting unhealthy messages.  Even though, when Mom would say, “what message is this commercial teaching us?” we would often respond with eyes rolling, “if we drink beer we will be super attractive to everyone, we will get all the ‘hot’ guys/girls, we will be super popular, and live on a beach,” it made a huge impact in my life.  While it wasn’t always about sex, I still automatically analyze commercials looking for the message they want me to believe.

Why the Porn Talk Isn’t Sufficient

Many parents want to know why they can’t just tell their kids not to look at porn.  “Why isn’t this sufficient?” they ask me.

Unfortunately we no longer live in a society where exposure to highly sexualized content is a choice.  Unhealthy sexual messages are found everywhere, not just in explicit material.  In the locker room, walking down the street, talking or joking with friends, billboards, and every aspect of the media.  If we only focus on teaching avoidance of pornography we are missing most of the picture (no pun intended).  Even if children never come in contact with explicit material (highly unlikely), they are constantly being bombarded with unhealthy sexuality.  This normalizes porn (when they are exposed, they will be less able to recognize that it is unhealthy), as well as normalizing a host of other damaging messages about their bodies, others’ bodies, and relationships.  Parents must consistently push back against these messages with truth about healthy sexuality.  Without these regular discussions of all aspects of healthy sexuality, children will grow up with warped perceptions of sexuality that can be very damaging.  Remember:  Whatever you don’t teach, the world will.

Masturbation/Self-Stimulation and Chocolate Cake

**One of the most frequently asked questions I get revolves around masturbation, or young children who have explored their body and now have a habit of stimulating themselves.  These parents believe that masturbation and habitual self-stimulation is not a form of healthy sexuality.  All parents are entitled to their own beliefs, and while I agree, if you do not, feel free to skip this post.**

While there is much to discuss on this topic, today’s questions is:

How do I explain that habitual self-stimulation is not a part of healthy sexuality when my young child says “it feels good?”

I like using analogies to help young children understand complex or difficult topics.  Self-stimulation can seem tricky, since with young children they are not masturbating or arousing themselves sexually, but it does feel good.  Help your child consider that sometimes things that are not okay may still seem fun, or feel good.  It may be helpful to talk about picking your nose, or stealing and eating a chocolate cake.

“What if someone thought it was super fun to pick their nose and it tasted super yummy to eat their boogers?  Would that make it okay, just because they liked it?  No.  How about stealing and eating a chocolate cake?  Is that okay?  No.  But what if it tasted amazing and you really wanted to, is it okay then?  No.  You’re right.  Some things may seem fun or feel good, but just because we think they are doesn’t mean that it’s okay to do.

God gave us our bodies as a special gift and He wants us to use our bodies in the way He has designed them to be used.  It feels good to touch yourself there (your vulva/penis) because your body is preparing to be a good husband/wife and father/mother.  That is the time God has designed those special parts of our body to be used.  [If the child is very young and you have not explained the process of sex yet:  When you get older we will teach you more about this.]  So even if it feels good, it is important to do what God asks—which is to save those feelings for later/marriage—because He is the one who gave us our bodies and teaches us about taking care of them.”

I Thought Kindergarten Was Safe…

I’m including this school abuse incident with permission, as there are valuable insights for parents, whether or not their child has experienced this type of situation.

A mom, who attended one of my presentations and who has been reading my book with her children, wrote me (we’ll call her Amy).  She asked her oldest, a kindergartner, about school and her little girl (we’ll call her Bonnie) said a boy in class had pushed her down and touched her “privates,” but Bonnie said it wasn’t a big deal because he didn’t seem dangerous.

Amy was able to stay calm on the outside (while freaking out inside) thanks to what she had learned in my presentation, and gathered information from Bonnie.  Bonnie said she was afraid to tell her teacher or other adults at school because she was afraid they would get mad at her.  What a blessing she had just read My Body Is a Gift From God, which reinforces to children that their parents will never be mad at them for others’ choices.  With my help Amy recognized that while Bonnie had said it “wasn’t a big deal” and she didn’t feel danger, Bonnie really did think it was a big deal because she had been afraid of others’ responses.  She was downplaying her own emotions and own internal voice to avoid others’ judgement.  I pointed her to the last follow-up discussion question in the book where it helps parents explain to their children the importance of feelings and intuition about their body.

Amy was able to use the book to reinforce other concepts with Bonnie as well:

  • She gets to decide who touches, hugs, or kisses her.
  • No one touches the private areas of her body unless her parents are helping her taking care of her body (like parents helping bathe, or a doctor giving a check-up with a parent present).
  • Always telling parents if someone touches her, even if it feels difficult to tell.
  • Her parents will always love her and help keep her safe.  They will never be mad at her, or think it’s her fault.

We also discussed other safeguards and helpful conversations:

  • Formulating a plan and role-playing what Bonnie can do in the future if this type of situation happens again:  Tell the person loudly/firmly to stop and push them away.  Run away, tell a teacher and ask to call mommy right away!  (If your child has not experienced this before, a plan is still very important).
  • Reinforce (because she had downplayed the event and thought others would be mad at her–indicating a potential level of guilt/fault) that she has NOTHING to feel guilty or ashamed of.  It was in no way her fault.  Whether or not a child seems to feel guilt or shame, reinforcing this concept is very important because often children will not express these feelings.
  • Reinforce many times a recognition of her feelings and her own intuition.  Even though Bonnie initially said it wasn’t a big deal and didn’t feel like a dangerous situation, I recommended her mother help her recognize feelings and intuition she had:  “I can see that you didn’t feel it was quite right, because you thought people would be upset with you if you told them.  You knew something was wrong–and you were right!  (Something was wrong with the situation, not you, and it wasn’t your fault).”  Discussing this with Bonnie can help her recognize her instinct and intuition (or God’s spirit communicating with her).  That is an essential part of protection in the future.  When she can recognize that her body, mind, and God were saying it wasn’t right, it will make sense to her to push people away/yell/run as she learned from the book and her parents.  She will recognize that she is standing up for herself and what her body knows is right, and what God was telling her.
  • Get Bonnie into Play Therapy.  Even if she seems fine, children often hold the incident deep inside.  Age-appropriate therapy (play therapy) will help her heal.
  • Email the school and keep records of the exchanges.  “I’m just following up with you about the situation with my daughter.  You may remember I came to you/called/emailed on X day to tell you X.  My daughter said X happened (all details).  You took X action.  Can you confirm this has happened?  Can you send me documentation of the reporting done?  What other actions are required by policy when this type of thing happens?  Have those things happened?  Are there any other precautions you are taking?  Thank-you so much for helping me understand the process of reporting and prevention and of helping to protect the children at the school and getting help for those who need it.”  This is legally admissible evidence, which likely you will not use, but it tells them you are serious and you want them to be diligent in following through with their policies.   And they will.  This helps both the school and you.  And thanking them helps them to realize you’re not loaded for bear and looking for a chance to prosecute–you just want to make sure everything is done to help all of the children involved.

I’m a grandparent.  Do I really need to be worried about all this?

Let me answer your question with a true story.  Recently I spoke with a grandmother.  Her daughter and son-in-law had small children and had installed filters on their computers and phones.  They thought their children were safe.  Grandma and Grandpa didn’t think they needed to be educated or concerned about this topic.  After all, they didn’t have pornography problems and never watched scandalous TV.  Imagine their horror when their daughter confronted them.  Their 3-year-old granddaughter had inadvertently found something on the unfiltered internet at her grandparents’ house.  She had spent months looking for more and more whenever she was there.  Her parents finally figured out what was going on when she began exhibiting symptoms.  This granddaughter ended up needing serious counseling.  

Please become educated.  You can be a great support to your children in protecting your grandchildren.  It’s not a fun or pretty topic, but you can save a child’s life–your grandchild’s.

Won’t talking to my kids about sex make them more curious and promiscuous?

While you are certainly not the first parent to ask this question, fortunately the resounding answer is “No!”  All the research indicates that the opposite is true.  Not only are children whose parents talk to them about healthy sexuality less likely to be promiscuous, there are a number of other wonderful effects.  Let’s talk about why.  Whether or not children let on, your opinion as a parent is invaluable.  Your values and connection with them is a commodity they crave.  They instinctively look to you for truth and guidance.  And if you can impart those values in a calm and non-judgmental way, they will absorb it.
One analogy I like to use with parents is to tell them to imagine that they live in an inner-city rife with drug dealers.  Imagine you can see them out your window.  Now imagine sending your children out the door every day for school and never talking to them about drugs.  Sending them out the door hoping and praying they never become addicted to drugs.  The scenario is unthinkable.  None of us would ever do that.  Apply this scenario to pornography, which not only lurks outside our homes, but often enters our homes, despite our best efforts, through the TV, internet, and other devices.  It is equally unthinkable a situation to simply hope and pray our children will not be influenced by the unhealthy sexual messages they see around them.

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