Listen to me discuss my book on BTR’s Podcast

Tomorrow I’ll be recording a podcast with Anne Blythe from Betrayal Trauma Recovery.  We will be discussing teaching children about healthy sexuality and my book.  Look for the podcast soon on btr.org.  Look for my book on Amazon.com

For those of you dealing with Betrayal Trauma, her website has wonderful resources for hope and healing.

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.

My Body is a Gift Discussions: Pages 18-19

Modest dress can be a heated topic among adults, and that is why it is addressed so carefully in this book.  Everything is left to parents to determine.  Parents decide their family values and implement them through the discussions that are introduced on these pages.

The central focus is that modest dress shows and invites respect for myself.  A lot of parents have the experience of teaching their children about their family’s standards of modest dress just to feel some embarrassment as the children pointing out with fingers and loud voices when they see others dressed in ways that their family would not consider modest.  There is a good question and discussion in the back of the book that helps parents have preemptive conversations about this.

Did you know that modest clothing is different based on what you are doing?  Because modest clothing is about showing and inviting respect for myself, it will change based on where you are and what you are doing.  Would you wear a swimsuit to school?  Would you wear a leotard and tights to church?  (Use other silly examples).

So what is modest clothing in our family for church?  School?  Play?  Different kinds of exercise?  Swimming?

 

My Body is a Gift Discussions: Page 17

Just as the initial pages of this book about body appreciation and body care are the foundation for healthy sexuality, this page teaches the foundational principle around prevention of sexual coercion.  The concept that my body is my own and I have a right to determine how others interact physically with me is key to standing up for oneself and not being victimized.  This may end up making changes in your family dynamics around physical affection.  It certainly did in my family when I realized the subtle messages that were, or could be, sent to my children.  Some of the messages in these examples may initially feel extreme, but is is the consistent subtle messages that give children the underlying foundation for how they live their lives.  Every message counts.

  • Give your sister a hug.  I know you’re mad but just make up.  (The message: Others get to decide what I do with my body, not me).
  • Grandma/Other Adult: Give me a kiss.  Oh come on, it’ll make me feel bad if you don’t.  (The message: Other people’s feelings are more important than yours, and if they’ll feel bad if you don’t do something physical that you don’t want to do, you better just do it.  The especially dangerous part of this is the family/well known component—not many of us would try to convince our child to hug/kiss a stranger—since most sexual abuse is perpetrated by family or someone well known to the child.)
  • Girls chasing a boy on the playground trying to kiss him.  “Oh, it’s fine, they’re just playing.”  (The message: It’s okay to sexually assault someone if it is billed as “fun and games.”)
  • Boys chasing girls on the playground to pull their pigtails.  “Boys will be boys.”  (The message: By virtue of being male it is acceptable to physically assault others. This is important in teaching healthy sexuality because if a boy learns always to respect others’ bodies he will not ever get in a space to be sexually coercive.  He will also have learned to reject out of hand the vast majority of pornography because of its violent nature.)

Make a family plan of how to respond when a child doesn’t want to physically engage with someone else.  What should they say?  What should they do?  Can they come find you and talk to you about it if someone is persistent?

Have a family discussion about the culture in your family.  Is there anything you want to change?  We simply started repeating to our children, especially in their interactions with each other, “I get to choose who touches me.”  This reminded them of this concept when they were poking each other to be annoying, wrestling without consent, etc.

My Body is a Gift Discussions: Page 16

Page 16 helps teach children at an early age about appropriate responses to peer pressure.

Has anyone ever said something, or showed something, to you that was not modest?  What happened?  Did you know what to do?

Role play situations in which they might be exposed to something in front of, with, or by friends/other children.  How can they respond?  What would they do if others made fun of them?  Help them to develop a plan.  Situations may include the following, and should be varied to include being with friends, acquaintances, bullies, really popular kids, older kids, etc.:

  • Sitting at a computer at school
  • On the bus with a smart phone
  • Inappropriate jokes

Have conversations about being a good example and helping others to make good choices.  But always help them recognize that others get to make their own choices, and that if others don’t want to change their actions, [in our family] we choose to be modest by leaving, moving somewhere else, etc.  Making it a family decision helps with accountability and solidarity.  Give examples of when you have, or have not, made modest choices in similar circumstances and what you would want to do differently in the future.

My Body is a Gift Discussions: Pages 14-15

These two pages introduce the topics of pornography and other sexual content—written or heard.  The great thing about this is that parents can decide when to introduce the words associated with these types of explicit content while still giving children protection.  It also allows parents the ability to teach their own values around these issues.  Parents  may have differing values around what content they do not want their children to be exposed to.  This may include different words, pictures, etc.  Each parent is entitled to, and has the responsibility to teach their own values.

What are the kinds of things that are not modest that you might see in a book/magazine, or on the computer?  (…also hear in music, etc.?)  This is a great starting point to teach and develop family values around modest language and images.  This is also a great time to add new things that come up that haven’t been previously discussed.

When have you seen or heard things that were not modest?  (You can also break this out into several discussions by being specific: in books, in magazines, in music, on the TV, on the computer, on my smartphone, on your tablet, etc.)

What is the child doing in each situation?  That’s right, they are telling their parents right away.

  • Why do you think they are doing that/Why do you think that’s important, or a good thing to do?
  • What do you think their parent will do/say when they tell them?
  • If you saw or heard something that was not modest, and you came to tell me right away, what do you think I would do or say? (Or simply tell them: If you saw something that was not modest and you came to me right away I would be so proud of you.  I would talk to you about it and how it made you feel and we would take care of it together.
  • Are you the kind of kid that would come and tell your parents right away if you saw or heard something that was not modest?  You are!  And that is awesome!
  • Can you think of anything you’ve seen or heard lately that you want to tell me about?  It’s always good to talk about it with your parents.

Older Children:

Tell me about what you’ve seen/heard recently at school that isn’t modest.  Did you know that lots of times kids and even adults say or do things that aren’t modest to try and be funny or cool?  Does that seem funny or cool to you?  Why/Why not?  It doesn’t to me because… (maybe add a time if you have laughed anyway to fit in, etc. and what you would choose now).

 

My Body is a Gift Discussions: Pages 12-13

If you’ve taken the time to introduce the connection between the body and the soul inside on the last 2 pages, then these pages can continue that line of discussion.  These pages address healthy sexuality at some of the deepest levels: our thoughts and words.  It is important for us to convey to our children that healthy sexuality does not mean that we simply don’t look at pornography.  It is not simply on the outside.  Healthy sexuality is also found inside—what we dwell on, how we interact with others.  Additionally, many of these questions are meant to be asked repeatedly.  Weekly discussions of what children have heard is very important in keeping updated on their experiences away from you.

Have a discussion about modest thoughts:  What are modest thoughts (adjust to the age of the child)?  What are thoughts that are not modest?

When have you heard people use language that is not modest?  (For a 2 year old you may be discussing potty-talk, for a teen you may be discussing what comes up in the locker room).

Everybody sometimes makes mistakes as they learn how to be better.  When have you said things that weren’t modest?  (Perhaps include an age-appropriate example of a time when you said something that wasn’t modest).

With an older child you could discuss how to recognize nuances about what would be healthy and not healthy when it comes to sexuality in what people say, or in their conversations.

With older children you can also have discussions about why thoughts are important. dwelling on (fantasizing about) things that are not modest.

  • What is the big deal with choosing healthy or modest thoughts?
  • Why can’t we just think whatever we want?  What if we just don’t tell anyone?  Does that make it okay?  But it isn’t hurting anyone, and no one will know, right?  (Perhaps add what your experience has been with thoughts leading to actions and character. There are many well-used quotes on thoughts that may add to the discussion. James Allen wrote a famous book in 1903 entitled “As a Man Thinketh” that contains several such quotes, two of which are below).—“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”

    — “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.”

  • What can you do if you find yourself thinking about something that is not modest?  (Tell mom or dad: I’m having a hard time not thinking about something [I saw or heard] that wasn’t modest.  Telling a parent is one of the best ways to move on and not have shame.  We can process it with you, and help you come up with other things to do that can engage your mind and body to change the focus of your mind.  *Active things help the body engage brain chemistry that can help move past a stagnant thought.  Helping other, especially if they can engage their brains in empathy and think of a need someone else might have, is also a positive substitute).

 

My Body is a Gift Discussions: Pages 10-11

This page addresses the healthy sexuality topics of body image and body appreciation, as well as introducing concepts of self-worth, and appreciation for different races, genders, ages, and abilities including special needs.

Discussion Questions:

How does your body look different or act different than others’ bodies?  Does that make you better or worse than them?  No!  It just makes you different and that is wonderful!  All of your bodies are still amazing even if they look different!  Brown and blue eyes are both beautiful and both can see…that’s amazing!  Round tummies and flat tummies both help bodies get nutrients…that’s amazing!

Ask them about their friends, how are they different, and discuss how that makes them wonderful.  Add discussions of what things they love about those friends.

Did you know that your body is special and wonderful just because it IS?  Just because it exists!  Do you know why?  Because it’s a gift from God!  So all bodies are special, wonderful, and unique just by existing!

 

Extra Questions for Older Children:

What messages do you hear about the way bodies “should” look?  What do people say is “attractive” or “ugly?”  Do you think those things really matter?  Why/Why not?  What do you think does matter? (This is a great opportunity to link the body with the soul inside).

I highly recommend the organization Beauty Redefined.  They have done phenomenal work on body image.  In a TedEx talk of theirs, Dr. Lindsay Kite says this:  “Girls and women aren’t only suffering because of the unattainable ways beauty is being defined, they’re suffering because they are being ‘defined by beauty.’  They are bodies first and people second.  So, rather than working to ensure more women’s bodies are viewed as valuable, we are working to make sure women are valued as more than bodies to view.  Our work is founded on the premise that positive body image isn’t believing your body looks good; it is believing your body IS good, regardless of how it looks.”  I would add that boys and men also have acceptable and/or ideal images that should not define them either.

My Body is a Gift Discussions: Pages 8-9

Thus far the questions I have listed have been more directed toward younger age children since these concepts are generally taught to this age group.  Older children see these pages as more of a review, though many of the discussion questions can be easily adapted to them (discussions on healthy food, frequency of bathing, the dentist’s latest evaluation of their brushing, etc).

Pages 8-9 are an introduction to a definition that will be explained in more detail throughout the rest of the book, so I don’t generally have discussion questions here.  However, older children can be engaged in a preemptive discussion of what it would look like in action to be modest, respectful, etc.

My Body is a Gift Discussions: Pages 6-7

The theme of these pages is another often overlooked area of early-childhood healthy sexuality: caring for our bodies.

Discussion Questions:

How do you keep your body clean? (bathe, toilet appropriately, brush teeth, comb hair, etc)

What foods are healthy? (In our house this would be said with dramatic uncertainty…are you noticing a pattern?  I mention this because in my experience small children respond very well to over dramatizing questions).  Do you eat those foods?  What foods do you think are not healthy? (With these and all questions, parents can suggest and instill their own values in the conversations).  Should we practice eating more healthy foods so we can take care of our special bodies?

Do you get plenty of sleep?  When do you sleep?  Why do you think sleeping is a way to take care of your body?

What is your favorite way to exercise?  What other kinds of exercise do you do? (play on the playground, ride bike, run around the house, etc.)  Do you get lots of exercise or just a little bit?

My Body is a Gift Discussions: Pages 4-5

**Theme Continuation from 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 our bodies are wonderful and can do incredible things is an easy way to begin discussions about healthy sexuality with very small children.  These pages address this appreciation.

Discussion Questions:

What wonderful things can you do with your body?

Can you move your body? (In my house that would be said with dramatic mock uncertainty and a raised eyebrow).  Show me how your body can move!  or  What is your favorite way to move your body? or  Let’s practice different ways of moving our bodies! (Dance, martial arts, reaching high and low, etc.)

Do you learn and explore?  Yes!  I know you learn because you’re smart!  I know you explore because you’re curious and you want to figure things out.  What do you like to learn about?  (or point out different things they have learned recently).

Does your body feel?  Mine does too.  (Discuss and explore textures, and/or kinds of emotional feelings and what they mean).

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén