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Taking On "The Talk"

How do I bring up the "birds and the bees"?

I have two children ages four and six. I want to train my kids to lead sexually pure lives when they enter their teen years. When and what are the best ways to talk to my children about sex?

Everywhere you turn, the world is talking about sex. That's why it's so important you join the conversation and keep the dialogue with your kids open and honest!

Here's how we've handled this issue in our family; you can decide whether you think it might be effective with your children.

When each of our children turned ten, my husband, Steve, and I took them to a hotel for an overnighter, just the three of us. We would check in one early afternoon and spend the rest of the day doing something fun together.

Before heading out to dinner, we read the chapter "Male+Female+God's Gift of Life=Baby," from a book entitled How You Are Changing (Concordia), by Jane Graver. This was the moment when our son, Tucker, responded with, "I should have packed a barf bag!" and when our daughter, Haven, began with, "You mean our pastor did that?" then proceeded to ask the same question about every parent she knew.

Over dinner, we answered any questions our children had (although at this point, Tucker never wanted to hear the word "sex" again!). When we returned to the hotel, we read a few chapters from the book, What's the Big Deal: Why God Cares About Sex (NavPress), by Stan and Brenna Jones. Steve and I like this book because it forthrightly answers so many questions from a godly perspective without giving more information than necessary. Before our son or daughter hit overload, we laid the book down for the evening, snuggled up in bed together, and rented a family movie.

The next morning was interspersed with a few more chapters, a lot more fun, a few more questions, and a lot more hugs, until we completed the book together.

After each of our children learned about the real "Facts of Life" (sorry, I couldn't resist), we discovered the best time and place to talk about sex is whenever and wherever they want to! Believe it or not, a parent's voice is still louder than the world or peers.

Clash of the Video Picks

I'm pretty strict about the videos I allow my preteens to watch. The problem is, I've discovered that several of my kids' friends, who are from Christian families within our church, have different viewing standards. For instance, one of my children came home from a sleepover, and I learned she watched a video I wouldn't have allowed! How do I handle the movie issue, particularly when it involves other Christian families?

I know exactly what you mean. Once, when Tucker was five, I drove him over to a friend's house to play. I liked this little boy and his family, but I knew they were somewhat lenient about the choices they allowed their son to make, especially in regard to videos. We rehearsed a few ways Tucker could excuse himself if a show came on television or they popped in a video he knew he shouldn't watch. He simply could suggest they play outside or do something else besides watching the movie. Or he could ask to get something to drink, and then go off to play by himself until the show was over. Or he could blame it on me by saying, "I'm not sure my mom would allow me to watch that show. I better give her a call and ask first."

Now that Tucker's a teenager, I've learned these same situations actually provide safer-than-average testing grounds.

I may not agree with all the choices some of our Christian friends make, but I know these families well enough to know they love the Lord and they love their kids. While with some of these families, Tucker's watched some television shows or videos I wouldn't allow in our home. At the same time, there have been times when he's stood up and said, "I'd really rather not watch that show because of its rating." He was shocked when one of his buddies once responded, "Wow, I'm impressed!"

Empowering Tucker to make his own media choices (up to a point) is building strength of character and trust between us. It's also teaching him how to "be in the world but not of it." Tucker's made some mistakes, but even those have been good learning experiences as we've discussed these movies or television shows afterward and why they may not have been the wisest choice of entertainment.

It's important we protect our children, know the families they spend time with, and give them "outs" if caught in tough spots. But we must be careful not to impose our standards on others.

Sticky Fingers Caught with Candy

I recently discovered my eight-year-old son and his friend shoplifted candy from the local convenience store. I'm devastated he would do such a thing—I'm sure he knows stealing is wrong. What's the best way to handle this?

I remember stealing some gum from our neighborhood gas station when I was about the same age. My mother made me go back to the store, confess what I'd done, and pay for it out of my own money. It was sooooo embarrassing. That punishment was enough to put the kibosh on any "klepto" tendencies I may have harbored.

So don't panic; this one episode doesn't mean your son's headed for a life of crime. But this is a great opportunity to teach him in no uncertain terms why he wants to avoid any future run-in with the law.

Consider asking a local police officer to come to your home and talk to your son about the ramifications of stealing. Obviously you'd want the officer to deal gently with your son. (The uniform and squad car alone should be enough to underscore the message.)

But be sure you take your son to an even higher authority—God's Word. Show him Ephesians 4:28, which says, "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need." You then could help your son find some odd jobs to do. Encourage him to work hard to earn a predetermined amount of money. Then together take the money to a homeless shelter or missions center. tcw

Lisa Whelchel is the author of Creative Correction (Tyndale) and So You're Thinking About Homeschooling (Multnomah). She and her husband, Steve, have three children. Check out her website at www.lisawhelchel.com. E-mail your parenting questions to tcwedit@christianitytoday.com, or see page 6 for other ways to contact us.


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