On Wednesday I went to a Christian youth workers training session on the Sexualisation of Kids. I wanted to share some of it with you.
With the birth of the internet, the smart phone, the app, children are exposed to things now that they never used to be. Pornographic images are no longer confined to the top shelf of the newsagents; they’re popping up in internet adverts, music videos and social media. Kids clothes are now just smaller versions of adult clothes, shops sell padded bras for 8 year old girls – the same girls who can now have pole dancing birthday parties. Sex Education is taught younger and younger in schools; and your child is only as protected as the child they sit next to in class, because chances are they’re hearing it all before you’ve even thought to sit them down for The Talk.
I don’t say this to scare you – although these statistics are scary – but to show you the reality of the world we live in. Our culture tells our children that they need to please themselves first, and that using other peoples’ bodies to do that is OK. It tells them that their value is in their sex appeal. It tells them that relationships are for serving themselves. It tells girls that to get somewhere in life they must either become like a man, or be able to seduce any man. It tells boys that some women are no more than objects, and that they like it.
While parents can put measures in place to protect their children while they are young, what we really need to be doing is training our children to live wisely in a world that has made sex a commodity instead of a commitment.
And so here are my top 3 tips I picked up this week:
1. Teach children to identify worldviews
We all have a worldview. It is simply how we view the world. It’s made up of our experiences, the worldviews of our family and friends, our core beliefs, our culture. It’s very hard to identify our own worldview. It’s as though we’ve been born with a snorkelling mask glued to our face, all of our masks are tinted in slightly different ways. We can never take it off and see the world without it, but we can be aware that it’s there. Teaching our children from a young age to identify worldviews and to challenge them is so important. Learning that words and actions start in the heart will help children see the worldview behind them and help them to question our culture. Try asking them questions in everyday life with this structure: What does x say/do? What does x think? In your experience, is x true? (If you’re a Christian) According to God, is x true?
What is Daddy Pig like? Are all Daddies like that? What does God say Daddies should be like?
What does this song say about men/women/relationships? What is the songwriters view of men/women/relationships? How do you feel about that? What does God say about that?
Know that your worldview is flawed. You’re not teaching your child to take off their mask, because you don’t even know how to take off your own! You’re teaching your child that they’re wearing a mask, and so is everyone else. If you’re a Christian, the Bible teaches us The Worldview. It tells us what the world was supposed to look like from the lips of its Creator. And so pointing your child back to this is so important.
2. Teach children delayed gratification
Microwaves, Google, On Demand TV. Food. Information. Entertainment. Whatever you want at your fingertips. We are waiting less and less, and we’re teaching our children that if they want something, all they have to do is press a button.
Now, whether you believe pornography is morally wrong or not, more and more research is proving that it is damaging to relationships and to the brain. What is the point in working hard at messy, difficult relationships when you can have no strings attached, sexual gratification at the touch of a button? And if you’re a Christian and you’re teaching your child that sex is one of God’s good gifts to us, how can you expect your child to want to wait for it at its best if they’ve never waited for anything before? Let’s teach our children to wait.
Take them to a restaurant, order a meal and then wait together. Don’t frantically try and distract them so they never experience waiting. Don’t only ever go to McDonalds where the food was cooked 5 hours previously and so no waiting required.
Encourage them to save up their pocket money for something big they really want, instead of spending it on smaller things they can afford straight away.
Wait in excited anticipation for Christmas instead of buying toys and presents just because.
3. Teach children God’s Good Design
God created the world and it was good. Then He created Man and it was very good. The pinnacle of God’s creation was us! God didn’t make us men and women by accident. He made us to be different and to beautifully complement one another. And the fact that we are sexual beings isn’t a mistake, it’s part of God’s Good Design. Sex is a gift from God, He wants us to enjoy it! The view of Christians as prude and anti-sex is so far removed from what the Bible says, the Bible celebrates sex! God was clear that sex was designed for the lifelong commitment of marriage, and any other version is a poor substitute. Christians, let’s not be shy, let’s teach our children the truth about sex! Let’s teach them to delight in the Gift, and the Gift Giver. and let’s pray that they will think it’s worth the wait.
Now obviously talking about sex needs to be done in age appropriate ways, and at the right time for each individual child. But whether you’re a Christian or not, I would encourage you to open those lines of communication. If your child sees that you’re squeamish or embarrassed, they won’t want to bring up the subject when they have questions or concerns. Don’t wait for your child to hear it from their peers, or from school. Be proactive, not reactive. The truth is at some point your children are going to start talking about sex. Probably sooner than you’d like. Pre-empt that by teaching them to think rightly and positively about sex, their bodies and the bodies of others.
Sorry for the long post, but this is such a massive and important topic and there is much more to be said. Share your thoughts in the comments and let’s help each other help our children navigate this crazy world!