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Ask Dr. Mary

Sex in the News: And other tough questions

For weeks, my children have been talking about the sex scandals surrounding the President. How should I respond when sex is in the news?

The first rule of talking about sex is to let your child raise the issue. On the other hand, when sex makes headline news you have an invitation to open the discussion.

Determine what is appropriate to discuss, and remember the commandment to "put the best construction on everything." Rather than repeating gossip, help your child understand what he needs to know.

Before you talk with your child, decide what you're comfortable sharing. Otherwise, you can blunder into a situation and then say, "Whoops, I don't know how I'm going to say this."

Then, decide what is appropriate to share with your child. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Younger kids see life as right and wrong and need to hear simple, clear guidelines about God's gift of sex.
  2. Older kids see things differently. As the mother of older teens, I've been shocked at terms that have crept into our dinner-table discussions. Teens tend to latch on to whatever is juicy or somewhat gross. If possible, avoid over-reacting. Let your teen talk it out.

Then, if children use street language, you might say, "Well, that's really not an appropriate word; it's called this (and use the proper terminology)."

Regardless of your child's age, establish yourself as an askable parent: "If you hear anything else, let me know, and we'll talk about it."

Stop Santa?

I recently became a Christian. I've taught my kids all about Santa, but now I want to make some changes. How do I correct what I've taught my children, but still keep their trust? How do I handle the comments of my husband and the extended family, who don't share these new convictions?

Growth is a characteristic of a healthy parent. It's all right if your children see that you want to change in response to what you've learned; that's not a sign of weakness.

Briefly explain why you want you change. You might say, "Christmas is Jesus' birthday. Because Jesus is the reason for the holiday, let's look at ways we can focus more on him."

As you make judgment calls about specific activities during the next weeks, ask yourself, "Will this practice hurt, support or have a neutral effect on my walk with the Lord?"

Some Christian families include both Santa and Jesus in their Christmas. You might adopt this as a transitional approach to ease family tensions. As you seek more Christ-centered traditions, maintain fun in the holidays. Perhaps your relatives incorrectly assume that being Christian means being boring. You might want to have a "manger march" as creche figures move through the house each day, ever closer to the manger. Or decorate a "Jesus birthday cake" for dessert.

Healing Past Hurts

I have custody of my nephew, age 2-1/2. He has never had a stable home, and as a 1-year-old was beaten by his mother's boyfriend. What can I do now to bring him healing and security?

You used the word security, and that's exactly where to start. Begin building a storehouse of trust events. Your nephew needs to learn that he can count on the people who care for him. He will gradually feel like the child at the top of a playground slide who asks, "You'll be at the bottom to catch me?" and every time the answer is "Yes." Building this sense of trust will be a long-term process.

Maintain close contact with your nephew's social worker, counselor or psychologist. Also, find a program for adoptive and foster parents. The discussions will help you understand your situation, assess your effectiveness and gain support.

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, an educator, mother of three and best-selling author, lives in Belleville, Illinois. She is an adviser to Christian Parenting Today

Have a question for Dr. Mary?
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c/o Christian Parenting Today.
465 Gundersen Drive
Carol Stream, IL 60187

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