We’re spending a week getting honest with ourselves about how we feel about sex and puberty–so that we can make we don’t pass on sexual shame!
Being able to talk to your kids about sex without giving them the message that they should be ashamed of this part of themselves is such a gift you can give your kids. That’s why we created The Whole Story, a course for parents to go through “the talk” with their kids to help them get the information they need without the shame we so often carry through our adolescence.
Are you terrified to give your kids “the talk?”
The Whole Story is available for parents of both girls and boys. It’s an online video-based course that helped parents tell their children about sex, puberty, and growing up.
Your kids need to talk about this. And they need to talk about it WITH YOU.
Let us start those conversations, so you can finish them!
I know not all of you have teens and preteens, but I thought that during this week we could do some exercises that will help ALL of us, no matter our parenting situation, have a healthier outlook on our bodies and sex and be better equipped to talk to others in a helpful way.
Of course, if you have kids approaching puberty this is even more crucial! But it’s also important that all of us do what we can to change the culture with how we understand sex, puberty, and our bodies.
Yesterday I gave you your first challenge: Think of your first big memory that you associate with learning about sex. How did that affect you? (And many of us may have more than one big memory!).
Now I want to expand that challenge not just to look at sex, but also to look at puberty.
If you experienced a lot of shame going through puberty, that could affect how you communicate to your child about the changes that he or she is going through. But we can’t embrace the truth about how God made us, and that mature bodies are something to celebrate, until we also come face to face with the emotions that have shaped our thoughts on the matter.
And puberty is an emotionally laden time that often dictates how we feel about ourselves! Here are just a few of the comments that came through Instagram and social media last week:
I had the boob “problem” – except opposite! I’m quite flat. It took a LONG time, like well into my early 20s, to embrace it and realize I’ll just have never more than a A cup. But to make matters worse, in 5th grade – though I didn’t have a chest like most girls – I got my mom’s backside. It got to the point of being sexually harassed pretty often, though I didn’t know any better at the time.
I was so confused by my feelings towards girls. I’d get erections in class and be petrified that someone would notice. But I also couldn’t stop looking at the girls. My father and grandfather had stacks of porn magazines, and I felt like I was becoming like them. I grew up with all sisters, so it made me feel like I was becoming really creepy. I still don’t know where to look when I’m at the beach.
The worst part was how awkward and embarrassed Mom was about everything. (Sorry Mom, I know you tried your best!) That made me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I eventually asked Mom to just buy a book, because I couldn’t bear talking about it.
If those are the primary feelings you have about puberty, how is that going to affect how you feel about your body, and how you feel about your child’s body?
If growing breasts and needing a bra is shameful, then it’s going to be hard to get excited about taking your child out shopping for a bra.
If a man remembers his junior high years with involuntary erections as being a shameful part of his history, and associates it with early battles with lust that he’s never recovered from, having those conversations with his son about preparing him for these thoughts, or for wet dreams, will be even more difficult. How can you share without revealing too much ugliness about yourself?
So let’s deal with the ugliness and guilt and shame about puberty that we feel by revealing it–and then fighting it with truth.
If I were to ask you what words you most associate with puberty, what comes to mind? I’ve got a whole bunch here, and some are about sinful habits that may have started at that time. Don’t shy away from that, because often our secret sins that started then impact how we talk to our kids. We’re scared that because we started masturbating then, our kids will. And we just don’t want to think about that possibility! Look at this list, and then pick 3 words that you most associate with your own experience with puberty.
Some of you may want to pick 4 words–one from each list. But I don’t want you to do that. Just choose 3, because it forces you to ignore AT LEAST one list (and maybe more). Which list you ignore is almost as interesting as which lists you tend to gravitate to!
- Grown Up
- Too big
- Too small
- Physically Disgusting
- Unwanted attention
- Unwanted touch
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual assault
Ideally, we want to raise kids that choose at least 2 positive words–and maybe one negative one. (I really don’t think you can avoid the negative entirely! But we at least want a positive word to be the primary one.)
It’s hard to do that, though, if all of our own words are negative, dangerous, or guilt-inducing.
If Your Words Are Negative:
Mourn with yourself that you grew up with the idea that your body was somehow inadequate! It’s okay to be sad for young you. Even share with your spouse, or a friend, some of these emotions and some of these memories, so they understand. In fact, if you can recall a specific instance that gave you some of those feelings, even better.
Now, picture that memory (or memories) that caused same, and ask yourself, “What was Jesus thinking about me in this situation?” And then start telling yourself that truth!
Then ask, “What do I wish my experience had been like instead?” Try to walk through your first bra shopping, or your first period, or your first wet dream (if you’re a guy), and ask, “how would I rather than this had been handled?”
That’s how you’re going to handle it with your child! And if you’re not a parent, then still go through this exercise, because it helps you develop a better way of talking about it with other young people, or with friends.
If Your Words are Dangerous:
Was sex used as a weapon against you? Maybe you were assaulted. Maybe you grew up feeling like there was something fundamentally wrong with your body. One woman said this:
Having grown up in a community that treated anything related to sexuality as taboo, and that taught me that I had a duty to “protect my Christian brothers” from temptation…developing breasts was a nightmare. I would wear my bra as tight as it would go, and then put on TWO sports bras on top of that!! Anything to flatten myself and hide the existence of these shameful (i thought) things.
We can grow up feeling like our bodies are dangerous to ourselves, because that can cause other people to lust after us, or to actually assault and hurt us.
If you’ve been through this, I’d encourage you to think through these questions:
- Has “being dangerous” impacted how I treat my body? Has it led to overeating (so I hide my figure), undereating (so I disappear), or substance abuse?
- Has it affected how I dress? Is my primary motivation not to draw attention to myself?
- Has it affected how I see sex?
For some of you, this is an extremely traumatic exercise, because you were abused. And if that’s the case, I pray that you are able to find a counsellor to talk to who can help you through these memories. They need to be addressed, but you do not need to feel like there is something fundamentally wrong with you!
Once you’ve gone through these questions, ask yourself, “Can I change my thought patterns so it doesn’t result in destructive behaviours, or destructive ways of relating to others?”
If you’re still on a healing journey (and let’s face it; most of us are!), one word of encouragement. It’s okay to be honest with your child. If your child hears, “I never learned how to consider myself pretty when I was a teen, and I still struggle with knowing what to wear. I really want to be better, but I want you to know that I think you’re beautiful, and maybe we can learn together”, your child will feel empowered. Authenticity and vulnerability breeds closeness. You don’t need to be perfect; your child will understand insecurities. But if they hear you voice those insecurities, then they’ll be better able to process some of the things you do that may confuse them.
If Your Words Are Guilt-Inducing
For many of us, puberty was the start of a secret habit with pornography, erotica, or masturbation. And many of us have not fully dealt with that ourselves, which makes it even harder to guide our children well through this.
If you got hooked on porn or erotica when you were a young teen or preteen, please know that this is natural and common.
A young child being drawn in by that is not the same as an adult, who is fully aware of the dangers of these things, getting drawn into it. A child has no weapons against it. A child has natural curiosity about sex, and is naturally drawn to things that teach about sex (even in a bad way).
And when a habit is formed at that age, it’s very hard to stop.
If you had words in this column, admit that you have sinned. Admit that you were, or even still are, trapped. And now I’d encourage you to find freedom: Tell someone about it so that it loses its power over you. If you need it, ask for some accountability. This is especially hard to do if you’re a woman, because we don’t talk about women’s struggles with pornography very often. But they’re real, too!
And then know that just because you got sucked in, it doesn’t mean that your child will!
Ask yourself: What made it easy for me to become addicted? Was it boredom? Access to porn or erotica? My parents not knowing what was going on with me? Stress? Feelings of inadequacy?
Now, what can you do to make those things less likely for your child? You certainly can create a less porn-friendly home! And you can open up lines of communication about this, too (and The Whole Story can help with that!).
What if Sinful Words WEREN’T on Your List?
Maybe you sailed through puberty without masturbation or lust problems. That’s great! But then it’s especially important not to assume that your child will do the same. In The Whole Story, we do talk about masturbation and porn in both the girl’s and boy’s versions, which gives you a way to start those conversations with your kids. Plus, in the boy’s version there’s a whole video from my sons-in-law, Connor and David, talking about what they wish they had known in Jr. High and High School about porn and masturbation–they’ve got some great stuff in there that more kids (and parents!) need to hear. Just because you didn’t struggle with it doesn’t mean your kids won’t!
If You’re a Parent…
One last exercise. Look back at those words, and ask yourself: What are the words I want my child to one day put on their list, when they think back to puberty? And now ask yourself, “What am I doing now to make sure that happens?”
I hope The Whole Story can help you with that! And if your kids are still young, that’s okay. When you buy the VIP version, you’ll get lifetime access to the courses, including all the new elements we’ll be adding as time goes on. And I also have some pointers in the VIP version on how to start these conversations when children are very young so that they’re ready for the real talks when they hit puberty.
What if Talking to Your Child about Sex and Puberty Didn’t Have to Be Scary?
The Whole Story does the hard part for you! This online video based course features Christian young people explaining to your kids all about sex, puberty, peer pressure, dating, hygiene, and more, so that your kids have all the information they need.
But it’s not a REPLACEMENT for you. It’s a RESOURCE. Let us start the hard conversations, so that you can continue them.
Okay, I’m going to be very vulnerable with you. My 3 words were erotica, mature, and inadequate. Anyone want to share theirs in the comments?
Read the rest of the Healthy Sex Conversations Series:
- Thinking Back to Your First Lessons about Sex
- Identifying the Emotions You Associate with Puberty (This one!)
- The First Rule of Talking to Your Kids about Sex and Puberty
- Why It’s OK to Be Awkward Talking to Your Kids about Sex and Puberty