This is a review specifically for parents; librarians and teachers may benefit as well, but children should ask their parents first before reading further. This is also part reflection/part review, so the format is a bit different and longer than our usual reviews.
With Valentine’s Day hovering, love is not just in the air, but has been assaulting our senses in vivid reds and pinks, lush chocolates, and heart-shaped everything as soon as the Christmas decorations were removed from store shelves. It’s one thing to talk with our children about love in the abstract or the ways in which we might practically demonstrate our love through service and kindness.
It’s another thing to talk about sex.
We live in a culture that bombards us with sex. Grocery store aisles, movies, books, Supreme Court legislation, the nightly news… hardly a day goes by where we are not reminded in some form or fashion that sex is not only a fact of life, but a tremendously influential part of our culture.
As Christian parents, we have a responsibility to bring our children up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord,” to train up a child in the way he should go. What does that mean when it comes to sex? Does it mean tossing a book their way so they can learn the basic facts of life while sparing us the potential awkwardness of “the talk”? Does it mean simply waiting for the inevitable questions? What about sheltering them from all possible threats? Filters on our internet service, restrictions on sleepovers, carefully screening their friends, choosing the “family friendly” grocery store aisle (which trades out magazines with scandalous headlines for obscene amounts of candy and trinkets), ….
Readers of Redeemed Reader will know that we do not shy away from hard topics. I would encourage you to adopt that attitude with your children. You, as a parent, will best be able to to discern when and how much information to give to your children about sex and other thorny-but-related subjects such as homosexuality, abortion, and the like. But do not wait too long. Sin is everywhere, and the Bible clearly tells us that Satan is prowling like a lion, looking for who he can devour. His main mode of attack? Lies. And lies about sex are one of our culture’s hottest (and funniest, most attractive, most lucrative) commodities.
There are lots of resources available to the Christian community, particularly for parents who wish to engage their children about sex. Let me encourage you to truly engage with your children about this part of our culture and not limit your discussion of sex to one time or event. Rather, as your children grow up, they will need different and more specific types of information related to their sexuality. Take advantage of some of the excellent resources out there!
One resource is the popular Passport to Purity weekend created by Family Life Ministries. David and Barbara Rainey speak on several CDs directly to you and your child as you and your child enjoy a special weekend away to connect with one another; to talk about peer pressure, puberty, and sexuality; and to set a solid foundation of communication before the teen years hit. (Focus on the Family has a similar set of CDs.)
Another approach–and one I believe is complementary to the CDs just mentioned–is the God’s Design for Sex series by Stan and Brenna Jones. This is a series of books that is designed to grow with your child. The first picture book is geared to very young children. The second picture book (Before I Was Born by Carolyn Nystrom) is for ages 4-8. The third book is a question-and-answer format designed for ages 8-11. The fourth book targets teens.
Throughout their books, the authors speak forthrightly and do not shy away from frank discussions of topics likely to make many parents squirm. Their goals include helping/equipping you to speak with your child, “understand your role in shaping your children’s views,” and “establish God’s view of sexuality.” Having read the second and third books in the series, I can attest that they follow through on their goals admirably. The gospel is clear, the recognition of sexuality as a God-given gift within marriage coupled with an understanding of the many ways that same gift is distorted in our culture is reinforced consistently, and the books are written directly to parents and children together.
Parents should know that the picture book for ages 4-8 includes “impressionistic” illustrations that are very discreet even though they hint at the life cycle discussed (marriage–>sex–>pregnancy–>baby in utero–>birth–>nursing–>YOU!). The text is very matter of fact and includes a frank paragraph about the mechanics of sexual intercourse in the context of the child’s own beginnings (your mom and dad fell in love, got married, had sexual intercourse, you were formed in the womb, etc.). A loving and wondering tone pervades, and the book does not feel like “too much.” That being said, parents are advised to buy the book and read it first, making their own decisions about the appropriate age (my family uses this book around age 9).
The third question-and-answer book (What’s the Big Deal by the Jones) is a fantastic exploration of the many issues that preteens are facing/becoming aware of: puberty, sexuality in the media, homosexuality, abortion, HIV, sexual abuse, and more. Throughout, the text consistently brings the conversation back to God’s word and what we know from Scripture. The discussions of those who break God’s law (through homosexuality, pre- and extra-marital sex, and so forth) are loving towards the people while uncompromising on their actions. Parents might even use this book as a training for their own answers to their children rather than read the entire text with their children. Either way, this is a very helpful resource. That being said, some parents may not wish to tackle the nitty gritty with their 9-year-olds. A lot of that decision will be influenced by the environment in which your children live, but please remember: we cannot completely shelter our children. And, if we are training them, we must expect that sometimes they will be challenged and have to learn to make decisions on their own. We do well to equip them.
I have not read the remaining books in the God’s Design for Sex series, but if they are like the others, they will be solid and biblical resources for families who desire to train and equip their children in the midst of a culture that is doing its best to confuse them about their sexuality.
What other resources have you used with your children and in your families to discuss God’s marvelous gift of sexuality? If you are a librarian or a teacher (Christian school, Sunday school, or public), are there resources that are good for group settings who wish to discuss these issues?