Monday, March 13, 2017

Innocent or Ignorant? Part 3

Here is another thought in my continuing my quest to explain keeping children innocent or ignorant of sexual things. I've discussed the definitions of innocence and ignorance and the idea of "robbing" children of innocence. Now............

3. What messages are you sending about your child's body when you don't talk about sex in an appropriate time frame?

Ummmmmm, who wanted to talk with their parents about sex for the first time after about age 11 or 12?????? It was uncomfortable, like TOTALLY EMBARRASSING! My parents never talked with me about sex and I remember being mortified to ask my mother about anything when I thought I had started my period (I had learned about periods at school in a special health lesson, so I wasn't ignorant about what it was).  I finally went to my older sisters and they helped me. I was 12.

Lack of teaching to keep kids "innocent" is still teaching something. When you don't teach your children about sex, they are learning that it's not okay to talk with you about their body and bodily functions. They also learn that there is something secret and mysterious about sex that makes their parents clam up. This usually leads kids to believe sex is bad. Most things kept "secret" are things that are bad. I want my children to find me totally ACCESSIBLE. I want them to also realize that sex is okay to talk about in the proper context. I want them comfortable enough with talking about sex that they can talk to their future spouse about sex and feel comfortable with their body and all its functions.

Lack of teaching also inadvertently teaches kids that sex is all about babies. By not saying anything, parents are missing opportunities to teach kids about sex's role in a marital relationship as a strengthening and bonding agent. By the time you get to adolescence and try to talk to them about sex, even just talking about sex as a creation process is going to be uncomfortable. You aren't even going to get to the part about relationships. You may think your kids are different and you will be able to talk with them, but, to be honest, they aren't. Even teenagers I know that have great relationships with their parents don't feel comfortable talking about sex with them when the conversations started after age 11 or 12. These parents thought they were keeping their kids innocent too. Most of these kids respond to sex as "eewwwwww gross," rather than respecting it's sacred role in our lives.

One final point here.......talking about sex is not a one time occurrence. To truly establish a habit and pattern of OPEN COMMUNICATION about sex, conversations have to start before sex becomes totally relevant in a child's life (ie the body changes and is ready for sexual experiences.....puberty; also note that puberty readies the body for sexual experiences, but there is still a proper time for it). For example, before you send a child off to kindergarten, you prepare them. They already start learning how to count and recognize letters. They learn patterns and shapes. You want them to attend kindergarten ready for the experience of blending sounds into words and other skills. Now that your child's cognitively ready for reading, the preparation you have done ahead of time in teaching them letters gives them an advantage to understand how to read. You can't skip learning letters and try to teach a child to read by just giving them words. The pieces come together when the time is right. In teaching sexuality, you have to give your child all the pieces, one at a time. Then, when puberty hits, the pieces come together. Children learn pieces about sexuality, like body parts, respect for the body, pregnancy and birth, sex for making babies, sex for pleasure and bonding........and so forth. As an adolescent, when puberty hits, they understand each piece well enough that they are able to comprehend the whole.....desire and how to channel that and how to act.............choices about sex and those affect your spirit and future................more salient things than just the pieces. If you wait to teach the pieces until adolescence, understanding about the more salient things will suffer as they try to learn both at the same time. It's like learning letters and learning to read words at the exact same time......pretty difficult.

So, I am
1. Not Taking Innocence, but Avoiding Ignorance
2. Not Robbing Childhood, but Giving Wisdom
3. Not Closing Communication, but Being Accessible

Friday, March 10, 2017

Innocent or Ignorant? Part 2

Dear family and friends,
Are your children innocent or ignorant about sexuality?
I am not usually this bold, but have felt prompted to share. It seems that when I am in a group setting, teaching a workshop or talking with friends, I have often come across a phrase that causes me some concern. The phrase is something similar to, "I want to keep my children innocent from sexual things," or "My kids are innocent."

I continue in my quest to explain another way of thinking when we consider keeping our children "innocent" from sexual things. Yesterday, I brought up how many parents feel they "rob" their children of innocence by teaching them about sex in a timely manner.

Here is Part 2......

2. How is teaching children about sex "robbing" them of their innocence?

What are we robbing? Childhood? Do we rob a child of their childhood by teaching them about sex? Was your child robbed of their childhood because you taught them about smoking? Was your child robbed of their childhood because you taught them about bullying? No. The act of smoking and bullying or being bullied robs a child of their childhood innocence, NOT TEACHING.

Adults have a funny way of believing that everyone sees the world the way we see it. Children DO NOT see the world the way we see it. When I taught my oldest about sex at age 8, he STILL CONTINUED TO BE AN INNOCENT CHILD........gasp! NO WAY!!!!!! He doesn't understand sex the way his dad and I do. He sees it in its context in Heavenly Father's plan. He understands the purpose of it, but he does NOT feel that we TOOK SOMETHING AWAY FROM HIM! Robbing is taking something away from him. Conversely, he feels that we actually GAVE him something. We gave him the gift of knowledge so he understands the plan of Heavenly Father. We gave him the gift of knowledge so that when he has encountered inappropriate things he has known what to do. It's an awful feeling to know that someone is talking about something you don't understand and could be making fun of you for it, but you have no idea what you are supposed to believe or how to act because you JUST DON'T KNOW (aka ignorance). We gave him the gift of knowledge so that he has confidence and understands sexuality's purpose so well that he can't be swayed into believing worldly views. We did not ROB INNOCENCE, we GAVE WISDOM.

The first three years of a child's life are critical for cognitive, social, and physical development. The first eight years of a child's life are critical for spiritual development because they ARE NOT able to be tempted by Satan. They CAN'T be confused by the mists of darkness. You are actually teaching them doctrine during these years in pure form. If you wait to teach them when they are able to be confused by the mists of Satan, especially many years after those mists can begin (at the age of accountability), you are taking a risk that those mists have already started forming around your child. You may feel you keep your child well protected from the world. I am NOT taking that risk. I am not a thrill seeker or risk taker. A wonderful stake president I talked with shared with me that he felt he had protected his son, only to find that he had been introduced to pornography at age 9 and was having to do damage control. It CAN happen to you. Prepare like it is going to happen and your child will be protected. Don't prepare and you will be doing damage control.

One more example: a wonderful mother and friend of mine once had a conversation with me and was shocked when I told her that children should be taught most of the mechanics of sex, babies, and relationships by the age of 8. She felt her children were still innocent and that she would teach it later. I respect parent's right to decide for their children. I provide knowledge and conversation when it comes up and ask questions at times, but I absolutely respect that every parent decided what's best for their child. I let this conversation go and we didn't talk about anything related to sexuality for a few months. I guess our conversation must have made her think and consider things that were said by her oldest, who was 9, almost 10 at the time. She talked to me later and told me she realized the wisdom in starting conversations now with her children because she was starting to realize how much her son already knew by comments he made. When she assumed he was "innocent," she was not realizing what he was actually learning from his peers. The comments he made she immediately pushed into the "he doesn't know yet" compartment in her brain. When she really listened to what he was saying without automatically assuming he didn't know any of that because she hadn't taught him, her eyes were opened to what he already knew.

So, I am
1. Not Taking Innocence, but Avoiding Ignorance (Part 1, read here.)
2. Not Robbing Childhood, but Giving Wisdom

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Innocent or Ignorant? Part 1

Dear family and friends,

I have often posted material that is based on my experiences with my children. I mostly post dialogues about conversations regarding sexual topics. Usually, my intent as the author of this blog is to inform through personal experience. Sometimes, though, I feel compelled to do something more....This post is about something more.

I love talking about sex with other adults (in the teaching sense, how we talk to our children about sex and what other parents are dealing with in their children's experiences with exposure to sexual topics). It it fascinating for me to see how parents respond to their children's experiences and exposures and what these parental responses might be teaching their child.

It seems that when I am in a group setting, teaching a workshop or talking with friends, I have often come across a phrase that causes me some concern. The phrase is something similar to, "I want to keep my children innocent from sexual things," or "My kids are innocent." On the surface, this appears like a really good desire. I understand the premise behind this desire for innocence. Many parents, especially religious parents, want their children to just experience childhood and to not be introduced to adult things until they are adult. These parents also want their children to remain untainted by worldly influences. Many parents also feel they are burdening their children with adult responsibility if they talk with their children about sex. They feel they are "robbing" their children of their innocence if they talk with them about sex. I understand these reasons for wanting to keep children "innocent." I've also met a few parents that are still assuming their children have not encountered inappropriate sexual stuff, or that their children don't understand what's going on in an inappropriate situation and that protects them. BUT, you knew there was a but, here are a few questions to consider:

1. What is innocence?

First, I think we often misuse the term innocence. We assume that innocent means our children DON'T KNOW about something. They don't know about sex, therefore they are innocent. However, innocent means "freedom from guilt or sin through being unacquainted with evil" (merriam-webster). Is sex evil? You better answer NO! Knowledge of sex is NOT being acquainted with evil. Sexual SIN is what robs us of our innocence, not KNOWLEDGE of sex. Knowledge is actually being acquainted with God. He is the one who created our bodies and spirits. He is the one who commanded us to have sex in a marriage for procreation and pleasure, the greatest connection with our spouse. Children are absolutely capable of knowing about sex and continuing in innocence. I'll give you an example; our son has complete knowledge of proper names of body parts. He has respect for these parts because of the way we have taught him. A couple years ago, kids at school were teasing about their penises and using made-up names that were inappropriate and unfamiliar to our son. He asked me about these names. He was INNOCENT because he wasn't engaged in a sin by disrespecting his sacred genitals or acquainted with the evil of disrespect. AND, he still had KNOWLEDGE about body parts and sexuality that allowed him to truly understand why we don't talk that way about our body parts. Read about the whole story here.

On the other hand, ignorance means lack of knowledge, education, or awareness. The scriptures clearly state in D&C 131:6, "It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance." How can a child properly combat the world and worldly influences if he or she doesn't even have knowledge of godly principles? They are actually MORE open to losing innocence because if parents aren't acquainting them with godly principles of sexuality, then the world can acquaint them with worldly principles of sexuality. Assuming your child is not going to hear things or wonder about what they hear because they are "innocent" is leaving them WIDE OPEN for the world to fill them with tainted and sinful views. Children crave knowledge and are learning every day. Are you filling them with the proper knowledge to keep them truly innocent, rather than encouraging ignorance?

Another example: Our children know that smoking is harmful to their body. We have been teaching them this since they were little. First, we were just teaching them that smoking hurts your body. Now they are old enough to talk about addiction. Are our children not innocent anymore because they know about smoking and what it does to a body? Absolutely NOT! They are innocent because they haven't been tainted by the sin of smoking. In fact, this KNOWLEDGE about smoking is helping them STAY INNOCENT! This is exactly how teaching children about sexuality keeps them innocent. They learn proper names of body parts, then add more information as they grow older (seriously, by 8 for intercourse). This knowledge will help them STAY INNOCENT as they encounter pornography and homosexuality and other sexuality topics at home/school/work/play/internet/with friends...........

Just a note: I hate using the smoking analogy because unlike smoking, sex is something good, but that is the best illustration for staying innocent.

So, I am
1. Not Taking Innocence, but Avoiding Ignorance

Stay tuned for part 2.....