I started my lecture that Thursday morning by polling the students in the upper division family science course I was teaching at BYU.
“How many of you had ‘the talk’ with your parents?”
25% of my students in my raised their hands.
“How many had homes where sexuality was discussed openly and on repeated occasions?”
Again 25% of my class raised their hands.
“How many of you never had any discussions with your parents about intimacy and sexuality?” 50% of my class raised their hands.
I was shocked at my students responses. How and where did parents expect their children to develop appropriate understanding of sexuality if it was never discussed? Did they really want to leave it to curiosity? The heresay talk between adolescents? Surely the 5th grade maturation talk or a one time lecture to an overwhelmed 8 yr old would not be sufficient preparation for marriage?
Our discussion that day came out of their experiences. Many expressed frustration at their parents lack of information and the sometimes sad consequences of it. In a religion where exaltation hinges strongly on the values of chastity and fidelity, how does this happen? Why were discussions about sexuality so absent in many LDS families?
Parents often spend more time going over spelling words with their children, than preparing them to understand and participate in fulfilling, meaningful intimate relationships. Why is something ordained of God, integral to our very existence, and an important component of a healthy self-concept not being given it’s proper place in family teaching?
Homes should be the foundation of teaching sexuality and intimacy. Not only in terms of the nuts and bolts fundamentals but, also the modelling of healthy emotional and physical relationships. In our hypersexualized culture, if we chose not to teach the pervasive innuendo soaked media will, except it will teach it in a moral-less vacuum.
It seems too often sexuality is viewed as a taboo subject before marriage, and then as ‘anything goes’ after. This leads many to seek answers from sources which explore sexuality without an eternal perspective, which may ultimately prove destructive, in and outside of marriage. When intimacy should be viewed as an appropriate, sacred, part of our human experience from the beginning, consistently framed in God’s plan, before and after marriage.
Many friends have expressed to me their discomfort in discussing this with their children. They brush it off saying their kids don’t need to know yet (at age 10) or they don’t want to take away their innocence. I am puzzled by these responses. I desperately want to communicate to my children the importance of intimacy. I want them to see it in the way God intended it. I want to show them I trust them and that I respect their maturity. I want an honest, open dialogue, that leaves room for continuation.
If parents seem avoidant, embarrassed, obtuse, or hesitant they will doubtfully been seen as a source of information for their children in the future. How will these attitudes rub off? How will they trickle down into a child’s future marital relationships? Our Church clearly states in the introduction to A Parents Guide (a booklet published by the church, designed to guide parents in teaching about intimacy) the role of parents in teaching this to their children.
“One of the most important concepts that the Lord expects you to teach your children is the righteous meaning and use of intimate physical relations between a man and a woman.”
How can do we help keep a subject so important from falling through the cracks?
Share with me your experiences. How did your parents approach or lack of approach impact you? What would you have changed if you could? If you have children are you doing things differently? What has helped you successfully address this topic with your children?