Hey friends. I have yet another question for my neighbor and author on this tricky topic. Uncover your eyes and get ready. 🙂 Here’s Tracy!
How can we build a healthy foundation for our kids in the way they view their bodies and sex that sets them up well for dating and marriage?
That will be easy in a relatively short blog, right? I have so much to say on this, but I will use my self control to keep my theme centered around just that — Spirit-given, self-control.
I am so grateful that parenting is not a one-time event. We teach our kids in layers, over time, imperfectly. Both of our college age kids Josh and Caroline, have expressed to me that much of the good stuff they learned and experienced from us as parents was unspoken.
It begins with our mindset about our own bodies and the way we view and steward our own sexuality. So many women I know hate their bodies. I know from personal experience that this is a sensitive subject. I come from a family that has had deep struggles in the area of weight. Bruce always laughs because when he went to my parent’s house for the first time, I showed him my special diet-food shelf in our home pantry. No one was allowed to touch it without me freaking-out, and they really didn’t want to anyway. It’s funny, until you realize I had an all-consuming fear of being fat most of my early days on this planet.
I know girls whose moms cry in their personal closets as they are getting dressed, because they feel so shameful about their own bodies. I wonder what that little girl is thinking and deciding as she observes that. What message does that send our girls or boys? I even mentor girls whose moms take diet pills or suggest those same pills to their daughters so their prom dresses fit better. You don’t have to say anything, if you hate your body. Your kids will pick up on it. I definitely did not want to pass this family pattern of being a slave to food, or fear of being overweight to my kids. It’s been a bumpy ride, but a good one. Over time God convinced me that food is not my enemy; it is a blessing (1 Timothy 6:17). And that I have all the self-control I need right now to treat my body as a temple. I have experienced deep freedom that is available to all believers! (1 Peter 1:3) Over the years, this healthy attitude has slowly, in layers, presented itself to our children. And I have seen it manifested in their lives. So friends, it begins with learning to love and take care of your own body first.
He that would govern others, first should be the master of himself.
– Phillip Massinger
Since we are on the subject of bodies. When our kids were babies, Bruce and I used to laugh when they would run around the house naked as jaybirds before bath time. I also adored it when they shook their cute baby bottoms to the tune of “shake your booty!” Nakedness is not bad. It’s a matter of where it is appropriate and helpful.
I just realized right here that I need to address the safety aspect of nakedness. So many people have a story of being touched inappropriately as a child. It is a parents’ nightmare. Every once in a while, as I would bathe our kiddos, I would say in a strong, fun, winsome way – so not to scare them, but to empower them – “Can anybody touch your privates?” And they would say, “NO!!!!!” And then I would would say, “And if anyone ever tries?” And then we each seriously, and in a fun way, mimic hard core fighting and karate moves.
You see, in general, we don’t hit in our family. However, they were taught that in the area of protecting their nakedness and body parts, that they had our full empowerment to HIT, BITE, and be LOUD. I also, not often, throughout their childhood would matter-of-factly ask them if anyone had ever tried to touch them. Never probing, but attempting to create a safe place for anything coming to light. If any of you reading this have had a struggle yourself in this area or something has occurred in this area to your precious kid, feel free to reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I have an amazing counselor I can recommend. She has even been known to do long-distance phone consults.
Now back to the fun part, we wanted our kids to be safe, free & comfortable with their bodies and ultimately shameless with their future spouses. I would say, teach modesty as matter of dignity for yourself and others. Not out of fear or shame. We always wanted our kids to think sexuality in marriage is fun and something to look forward to.
As a matter of fact, we never had an official “sex talk.” It was way more organic than that. When they were little and we brushed up to the topic of sex, we said that mommy and daddy have a “special snuggle.” That was a helpful phrase a friend gave us. As they got older, we discussed things in a more mature manner. It is possible to create an environment that facilitates shameless conversation in the area of nakedness. One important clue is by using self-control to not freak out over sexual topics. This includes their own stories, or stories involving their friends, acquaintances or a famous person. The topic of sexuality has been unfolded relationally in our home, as the Spirit has led us. Topics might include, crushes, masturbation, wet dreams, & making-out. Now we have graduated to discussing preparing for marriage.
My husband and I have certainly had challenging seasons in our marriage. No perfection here. Yet, we were conscious to hold hands at times in the kids presence, and go on dates. We were also conscious to avoid being too kid-centric. How we spend our money demonstrates our priorities. It can be worth the investment to spend money on a date, a trip for two, or a marriage counselor. Tutors, sports and ballet lessons are not more important than our marriages. We tried to have Jesus, and the two of us be the nucleus of the family. We knew that those two kids would one day leave our nest, and create their own families. We wanted to prepare our kids and ourselves for that.
We wanted to appropriately cast a vision that sexuality in marriage was fun. When Caroline was little I used to take her shopping. At times, I would try on something clearly sexy. And she would always say “Mommy, that’s really pretty!” I would respond to her with a big grin and say, “I know. I’m only going to wear it for daddy!” I also wanted to cast a vision for a fun future in a different way for Josh and his friends. When he and his buddies got a little older, say 6th grade on, sometimes something inappropriate would pop-up on a commercial, or we got in a discussion about the content in a potential movie. I would say, “Guys, God has made you super visual as boys. That’s a good thing. Isn’t the way God made women awesome?
Here’s the deal, you don’t need a lot of memories in your mind of other women’s bodies. If you spend a lot of time looking at women inappropriately dressed, the enemy is a butt, and will most likely use that to distract you from your beautiful wife. I want you someday to have so much fun with your wife!” (As they got in high school, I would say, “…amazing sex lives with your wife.”) I can still see those darling faces sitting on our couch. They were mildly embarrassed, laughing and loving towards their friend’s crazy mom and they were certainly intrigued.
How do we prepare our “little people” to exercise Spirit-led self control as they steward their sex drives? To do this, I want to conclude with an excerpt from my new book “unashamed – candid conversations about dating, love, nakedness and faith.” This snippet begins with a genuine question a millennial asked me about her sex drive:
Q: Am I a bad person for wanting to be physical with someone?
“Psalm 139:14 says that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (NKJV). Your body and sexual desires are a gift from God. I recently told my 20-year daughter Caroline that a strong sex drive is a gift you bring into your marriage. It is a good thing. So the question really is: How do I manage my sex drive?
I remember when Caroline was four years old and having temper tantrums. I wish you could have seen it. She was impressive. This little one would fling her tiny body on the floor, bringing to mind the verb writhe. Writhing is defined as “continual twisting, squirming movements or contortions of the body.”
Yep, that’s what she was doing, and to add to the drama, she made the most bizarre tribal sounds. Sometimes, I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. Although I had a deep respect for her commitment and passion to these episodes, I was concerned. We used to listen to a Christian song that listed the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The last fruit of the Spirit in the song was self-control. When Caroline was having a spectacular tantrum episode, I would lean into her tiny ear and say, “Caroline, you need to use your self-control.” She would gasp for breath and in her squeaky voice cry, “I caaaan’t!”
I tend to be a futuristic person with a vivid imagination. As she was revolting madly on the floor, I would flash forward to a future drama of our Caroline at sixteen. The scene? She is in the back seat of a boy’s car making-out with him. My imagination didn’t paint a pretty picture; I saw her having a dilemma. She had to make a difficult choice between two or more alternatives, each desirable in their own way, while experiencing normal sexual feelings. I also sensed her lack of peace about hooking-up with this imaginary dude. Here was the worst part about it; I imagined her believing the lie: “I can’t help it.” Remember, that is what she said to me when I asked her to stop having a tantrum. Based on the belief that she could not control herself, she was set up to make a really poor decision. Scene over.
I am a stubborn girl. Some people call that “resolve.” As I watched my baby girl fling herself on the floor at the age of four, I made a decision. If it took me twelve long years, until Caroline turned 16, I was determined to teach her that as a Christian, she possesses all the self-control she will ever need. Enough power all day, every day, to say “yes” or “no” to anything. This is true for all believers. Christ’s Spirit lives in His children at all times (Colossians 1:27; Galatians 2:20). He is never lacking, and because Caroline is in Christ, Caroline is never lacking (2 Peter 1:3). God promises to never leave her and she is never deficient of self-control. Neither are you–if you have placed your faith in Christ. Any message to the contrary is a lie.”