For us parents who are doing our best to shepherd our kids' hearts and lead them towards God’s truth, we have to be much more on the offensive when it comes to issues such as sexuality and media usage.
My oldest son is in sixth grade, and as a parent, I feel like I’ve never thought so much about sex. Not in the way you may be thinking. I’m not suddenly feeling extra attracted to my husband; we are too tired for that. We are prayerfully seeking wisdom on how to address the many, many ways our young kids are inundated with messages and temptation that has to do with their sexuality.
Our preteens and older are growing up in a very different culture than we did. Facebook was invented when I was a college Freshman. I made it all the way through high school without having to worry about what someone was posting about me online. As a teenager and young adult, sex was still primarily thought of as something shared between a man and a woman; there were only a handful of openly LGBTQ+ individuals in my high school and college. Pronouns remained congruent with one's biological gender. Cell phones were only used for texting, and I got my first cell phone when I got my first car, at 17 years old, not at eight years old.
That's just a few of the many ways the world our kids are growing up in is so different from the one we navigated during our own crazy teen years. For us parents who are doing our best to shepherd our kids' hearts and lead them toward God’s truth, we have to be much more on the offensive when it comes to issues such as sexuality and media usage. Unfortunately, the whole world, both good and bad, is often thrown in front of our kids at a young age through the internet, making tough conversations necessary well before we parents feel ready to talk about all the things.
Related Podcast: How Our Culture Is Distorting Sexuality and Harming Children:
Kids Are Exposed to Adult Themes Younger
I share this because maybe you are like me and feel blindsided by how quickly your child needs to be shielded from adult things. Statistically, your kids are likely to be exposed to porn before the age of 12. Thirty percent of teens reported they were shown porn at school, sometimes even on a school-issued device. We thought we had all our bases covered and then found it had popped up in our home well before the age of 12. The bottom line is we can’t be passive when it comes to the conversation of sex, porn, sexual identity and more. Gone are the days when we could slip a pamphlet under our kids’ door about the birds and bees and call it sufficient.
Our kids are seeing sex and hearing about sex. They will have friends who will struggle with their sexual or gender identity, and they themselves will struggle with these things, too. They need safe, loving, God-fearing adults to help them process these very adult issues at an age where their brains and bodies can’t fully comprehend all that is coming at them.
Emphasize God’s Good Plan for Our Sexuality
When we begin these sometimes-scary conversations, we can’t come to our children with the common ‘fire and brimstone’ vibe. Sexuality was made by God on purpose for a purpose. The world wants to bring confusion to this gift we’ve been given, and the church often operates from a place of shame when we address these important issues.
Our kids do not need shame heaped on them. We must be a safe and loving place to talk over the temptations, confusion, and mistakes they find themselves grappling with when it comes to their changing bodies and the world around them. If they don’t find acceptance in us, they will go looking elsewhere to find meaning, affirmation, and identity.
We also need to share the truth that sex was made as a gift for humanity to enjoy in the context of a marriage relationship. That does not mean that marriage equals sexual perfection, but it does mean that God does not give us these desires just to make life hard. We are made for intimacy and pleasure that one day we can express inside the confines of our marriages.
Our Identity Is Rooted in Christ, Not Our Gender
In addition to God’s best plan for sex is his good plan for gender. He has made each person unique. He tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). We are given a certain set of interests, skills, and talents, and each person is given DNA from God that defines what their bodies look like. We aren’t made to fit into the boxes the world has made! We are made from God’s glory.
When he made a girl who loves “boy things,” he did not make a mistake. She is not a boy trapped in a girl's body. She is just a girl that God made and loves, that doesn’t fit the boxes the world is pushing on us.
Our kids need to understand that their identity does not come from a pronoun; it comes from the Lord. We can find peace in him; we do not need to mutilate our bodies, change our names, or deny our biology in order to find peace in who we were created to be.
Show Our Kids Unreasonable Love
The bottom line is that even if your child doesn’t personally feel they are struggling with sexuality or gender identity, most likely, at some point, they will love a friend that is. We have to be willing to walk alongside our kids as they grapple with what God presents in the Bible as his best plan for our lives when it comes to these issues and how to lovingly support their friends or how to manage their own personal turmoil.
We need to have a poker face that is ready to go when our kids come to us, sharing something that might shock us. They need to feel our unreasonable love, even in moments of disagreement and struggle. If you’ve been following Jesus as a family for some time, they should know exactly how you feel about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of an action. When they share, what they need is an open ear to be heard, not a lecture on the evils we see at work in our world.
One way to set the groundwork for these conversations is to start talking openly about these kinds of things in an age-appropriate way from a younger age. If they know you aren’t scared to talk about things like privacy, private parts, and more, they will feel more comfortable bringing their questions to you when the time comes that they need some extra support.
Parents Take Time to Learn More
As we are easing into this more grown-up stage of parenthood, we are working hard to get trained on how to address these issues from a Christian worldview. If we aren’t talking to our kids about these things, the world is and will be! We need to be ready with sound answers about our beliefs so they know we are a reliable source of information.
A great resource is the Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender. Dr. Preston Sprinkle adheres to a biblical view of sexuality but also talks about the grace required when engaging the generations on these issues. He has so many amazing resources to help parents and others through these issues.
Christ Centered Parenting is a wonderful study that touches on these issues and many more we face in our current culture. The study has videos, articles, and questions that help parents to consider how we can best guide our kids through the culture at every age and stage.
For dads, my husband absolutely loves Intentional Fatherhood by Jon Tyson and David Kinnaman. These are just a few of the many great resources there are to help equip us Jesus-following parents for the journey ahead! This season may feel overwhelming, but God is more than able to guide us and our families towards him. No matter what struggles we face, he is with us, he loves us, and is for us!
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Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. She has most recently published a devotional, Comfort: A 30 Day Devotional Exploring God's Heart of Love for Mommas. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.