Yet again the government is trying to squeeze through some educational legislation that will enable strangers to talk about sex with very young children, whether the children are ready to have the information or not, and riding over the role of parents again. But unless parents pick up the baton on this, forced sex ed will happen sooner rather than later.
So what about home education and sex education? It seems to me that sex needs to be taught on a firm foundation of virtue and that there is a kind of natural order to how children will ask and learn about it. In home ed circles whole families interact with each other so all the children see mums expecting babies and babies when they arrive. They will ask questions about how a baby grows in a mummy’s body and as they get older they ask how the baby got there in the first place.
We cannot necessarily “pretty” it up, for want of a better word. They will see mothers who are not married, or who have difficult pregnancies and will ask around those questions too. We answer with gentle but truthful answers that are not overloaded with details a child should not be expected to carry.
What we really must ensure is that our children grow in understanding of their own dignity and have self respect. This will guard against a lot of self destructive behaviour later on. This will grow as part of the parent and children relationships. More and more research is showing that children need a close relationship with a mother and a father.
But even this organic learning will have to have additional learning at some point. I must teach my children about marriage; how God has designed marriage and why. There’s all the interesting biology and chemistry that goes with that too and of course teaching girls to be aware of their own fertility and health with Natural Family Planning.
But there are also the really difficult areas of sex education that need to be faced and tackled. I don’t know many parents who are comfortable with discussing pornography and masturbation, but if we want our children to have a chance of a happy, healthy marriage and family, or vocation to the priesthood, religious or single life, we had better face these topics.
We live in a culture soaked in the message that all sorts of sexual practices harmful to both body and soul, are perfectly acceptable. If we, as parents, don’t tackle these things with our older children, then we can be sure those around them will tackle it for us and with horrible results.
It’s a much more difficult world for our children than for us, but how do we tackle it?
First, I think, we need to have our own eyes open. There’s no point in ignoring what the mass media puts out and pretending our children don’t see it, hear it or have it forced on them, from toddlers upwards. We need to have a sensible approach and a close, loving relationship with our children. This is a good starting point.
I know a mother who undoubtedly protected her pre-teen daughter from rape because her daughter was able to tell her about the man who was grooming her and what he was saying. It’s a horrible thing to have to deal with – but not dealing with it leads to worse horrors.
The statistics on divorce in America show that over 56% of divorces sight pornography as a reason for martial breakdown. I would add to that the fact that if you spend any time with rape victims you will soon see that pornography has played a strong role in their attacker’s lives.
The way I have tackled this is to teach children from an early age to see all their fellow men as persons with dignity, made in the image of God and with a human connection as we are all children of Adam. This then, leads to reminding older teens that the people who get involved in the porn industry often have had horrible lives and are needing respect and prayer. If it was their sister or brother posing like that, they would be heartbroken. The person IS their sister or brother in humanity and there’s nothing sexy about handing over dignity.
I have also encouraged the older three (aged 22, 20 and nearly 18) to say a prayer for anyone they come across who is doing this. Fortunately I began these “lessons” early enough as one of my sons told me that porn was easily found on the internet on school computers by some of the kids who bypassed the controls. He said teachers did not supervise closely enough.
But it’s easy enough to come across by accident when searching the net – especially, I have found, if I am searching for Biblical themes. Be very careful!
A strong prayer life is vitally important. I also encourage the children to keep holy pictures near their computer screens. It is far less tempting to click that link when the Pantocrator is staring at you, or the Blessed Mother.
Chastity rings have been another great help for us – an outward sign of the prayed for grace. It’s a little reminder.
Tackle alcohol consumption properly. Don’t turn a blind eye when your teen comes home drunk. Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed. Drinking too much leads to all sorts of other sins and problems.
What if your child/adult fails and sins? Then make sure you are willing to listen or even challenge them. Forgive them and help them get back on the straight and narrow. Make sure they can get to Confession and to a different priest if they are chicken about confessing those sins to the parish priest who knows them.
Those of us who home educate have a somewhat easier time of it than parents whose children are in school. We see our children more closely, simply because we are with them. They tell us more, because we are there. Parenting schooled children is much harder and often we don’t get the pertinent information until well after the fact. Pornography is in schools, brought in on mobile phones and other gadgets. Do not naively believe your child wont see this stuff. In fact, if you are trying to bring up a good kid, they are likely to be targeted by those who carry this stuff around.
Finally I would say this. The culture is toxic in the extreme. As parents we have much more difficult task these days than our parents or their parents had. But we must face it and do it. we must be aware of what our children are doing. Nevertheless, if you listen to Dr. Ray Guarendi long enough you will hear good parents who have genuinely tried their best, phone in about children who have seriously gone astray. It does happen. I saw it in my professional days too. Free will is just that, free will, and no matter how much we offer our children, there may be one or even two who go wildly astray. We must face that head on too, if it happens.