Note: This week we have Dr. Rebecca Huizen, D.O. as our guest contributor. She is a pediatrician at Christian Healthcare Centers, a distinctively Christian membership-based primary care medical office in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She and her husband Scott have four children and they work together to homeschool.
1. Start talking to your children early about biblical sexuality values. First messages are the most powerful! As a parent, establish yourself as the trusted “expert” to your children on these matters as they grow. There is so much you can do just in small conversations along the way when your children are young that help lay a good foundation for later.
2. Teach your preschool-aged children about how they are wonderfully created by God and how their sexuality (“boy-ness” or “girl-ness”) is a gift from God. Talk about how babies are born as boys or girls and how their basic anatomy differs (perhaps you can bring this up when someone you know delivers a baby). Teach the correct anatomical names for male and female body parts. (Recommended Resource: The Story Me, God’s Design for Sex Series #1.)
3. Train your child from a young age that our private parts – parts covered by a bathing suit – should not be looked at or touched by other people (clarify exceptions). Teach them how to say a firm “no”! Children also need to be taught not to touch other children’s private parts. Older children should not be changing clothes in the same room as others. (Recommended resource for ages 2- 8: God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies.)
4. Start early with teaching your children, especially your daughters, to dress modestly. This can be an opportunity to teach them how valuable they are and to respect themselves. For your daughters, discourage early use of make-up and jewelry that may make her appear older.
5. Regulate and monitor your children’s exposure to entertainment media (including TV, movies, magazines, and Internet). Some TV sitcoms and movies may be viewed as cute and innocent but in reality teach and model sexual promiscuity in a way that can change the thinking, emotions and even behavior of your children. Do not allow your children to have a TV in their room as this can make it harder to monitor and can encourage them to isolate from the family.
6. Help equip your child to resist pornography by intentional teaching throughout childhood. Teach your preschool-aged children that pictures or movies showing people’s private body parts are not good. (Recommended resource for ages 3-6: Good Pictures, Bad Pictures Jr.) Keep this dialogue going through the elementary years and beyond. Teach your child to look away and come talk to you if he is exposed to bad images. (Recommended resource for ages 7 plus: Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-proofing Today’s Young Kids.) Only give your child access to an Internet-enabled device if you are directly supervising or very closely monitoring/restricting access.
7. Only let your child go to a friend’s home or on an outing with another family if you know well that the other family shares your values. Be especially careful about letting your child spend the night at a friend’s home. Sleepovers are a common setting for sexual abuse and exposure to pornography.
8. Regularly instruct your child from God’s Word throughout their childhood. Take the opportunity to teach age-appropriate biblical sexuality values as you discuss biblical passages such as Adam and Eve, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, and David and Bathsheba (instead of just putting this off until the teen years). Even a small child can understand concepts such as that God created marriage as a special covenant union between one man and one woman.
9. Developmentally, age 8-10 years is typically an ideal time to start the conversation with your child about sex, including God’s purpose and design for sex. Learning early about how God designed sex for married couples to express love and to begin new life does not rob a child of innocence but helps them not to view sex in a corrupt, worldly way. (Recommended resource: The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality.)
10. Be a good example. If you are married, maintain a healthy marriage and loving relationship with your spouse. If you are not married, make wise choices about dating, etc because your actions are likely to have a big influence on your children’s future choices. Also set an example by avoiding media that promotes sexual immorality.