Raising Children in a Hypersexualized Culture
Today’s American culture is what some might call “hypersexualized”. Sex is everywhere. It’s on billboards, television, the magazines in the checkout line at the grocery store, even in our public schools. There is almost nowhere a person can go in American society today and not be influenced in some way by sex and/or sexuality. It is so ubiquitous that many people in our society, Christians included, have been desensitized to some degree. What was once considered taboo just a generation ago is now commonplace. Sexual immorality is the standard for relationships on our television shows, in our books, and in every other media outlet we can think of. As a result, the covenant of marriage no longer holds the same place of value that it once did in our society. After all, if one can easily have the pleasures and benefits that are historically and biblically reserved for marriage, why would one value or honor marriage as something to aspire to or pursue?
For parents, all of this can create great anxiety and fear when it comes to our children. It seems nearly impossible to keep our younger children from seeing at least some of the sexual images and ideas that bombard our senses everywhere we go. In the case of our older kids we may even be fearful that they would be influenced so far as to forsake the biblical call on their lives to strive for purity. What can a Christian parent do in light of these fears?
Prayer is indispensable in the life of the believer, and yet it’s usually one of the last things we consider when we’re wrestling with something. Even though we are prone to forget, we can run to the throne of grace when we are in need. We should pray about this issue for our children as our Savior showed us -- let us pray prayers of repentance (acknowledgement of and asking forgiveness for our sin), praise (exalting God for who he is), thanksgiving (thanking God for what he has done, and petition (asking God for something). Often we as parents will pray for our children, asking God to protect them, while forgetting to be faithful to repent of the sin that has often motivated us to pray in the first place. The scriptures tell us over and over again not to fear. Our Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul instruct us against anxiety (Matthew 6:25, Philippians 4:6). When we go to the Lord with our fears, let us begin by repenting for not trusting Him.
We should also be faithful to praise him for his sovereignty -- his ways are best, and we are called to trust and submit ourselves to him in all things (Jeremiah 17, Proverbs 3, Psalm 56, Psalm 91). Let us also thank him for the blessing of our children (Psalm 127:3), and for the blessing of our faith (Ephesians 2:8), which is what even makes it possible for us to walk in any measure of obedience to his call on our lives as parents. Finally, let us make request of him that he would make us faithful stewards of these children, doing all that we can to care for and protect them from harm, both physical and spiritual.
The idea here is that we must talk to our children about sex. It’s no one else’s job but ours, though there are many other voices that are ready and willing to do so. No parent is ever eager to do this, but the scriptures are clear that we must. Parents are commanded to train up their children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), and to raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). God’s word gives specific instruction regarding sex, and we must pass along this instruction to our children.
This brings up several questions: At what age should I have this conversation? How much detail should I share about the act of sex itself? How deep into this subject should I go? Should we discuss homosexuality? Masturbation? Transgenderism? AHHHH!!!! This is stressing me out and I don’t want to do it!
Here are a few helpful considerations: 1) Be the first word, 2) Remove mystery, and 3) refute lies. Being the first word means that you need to talk to your kids about this before the world does. Removing the mystery typically is accomplished in the explanation of the biology of sex. In the most basic and mechanical way, how does it work? How are babies made? Does it hurt? Does it feel good? Avoiding these subjects with children leaves the mystery intact, which can fuel curiosity and future temptation. Refuting lies means that we must speak clearly and boldly about what sex is for: The enjoyment and shared intimacy of a man and woman within the context of the covenant of marriage, and for procreation, which is obedience to God’s very first command -- to be fruitful and multiply. God has given us sex to glorify Him for both of these reasons. These truths, as well as the lies that they refute, need to be explained to our children, in an age-appropriate way.
Which brings us to the question: At what age should we begin having these conversations? I would say as soon as they are able to understand it. This is typically much younger than most of us would acknowledge, usually because we are fearful of having the conversation in the first place; “He/she isn’t ready yet” is often a convenient excuse that gives in to our fear. Remember what we said in the beginning -- it is of great value to be the first word on this subject (and any other subject for that matter) with your children. Another thing to remember: This cannot be -- must not be -- a one-time conversation. This must be the opening of an ongoing dialogue with your children about sex. They need to know that they can ask you questions about this, anytime. They need to know that you will be occasionally asking them questions as well. Obviously this can’t be the subject of conversation on the way home from school every day, but keeping tabs on our children’s knowledge and understanding is necessary and important. This will help us know when we can and should discuss the more complicated sexual subjects like homosexuality, masturbation, transgenderism, etc. Remember: The enemy is not going to wait to begin telling your children lies about sex, so be wise about how long you wait to share the truth with them.
This is usually one of the strongest instincts in the mind of a parent, so here are a few suggestions and an exhortation. Protecting our kids from the sexual influences that are all around us should take several forms. First, we should consider where we go and how we get there. Is it possible to get to the movie theatre without driving past that string of lude billboards? At the mall, can we choose a path that doesn’t have us marching our children past the Victoria’s Secret storefront? Second, what are we doing to protect our children from sexually charged material (and even pornography) in our home through our internet connection? Do you have a system for filtering content on your internet connection? Do you allow your children to have internet connected devices alone in their bedrooms? Do your children have smart phones? If so, is their access to the internet limited in any way? Do you look at their browser history? Do you read their text messages? Are you previewing movies that your kids want to watch? Are you pre-reading books that they want to read? These questions and others like them can help you consider well how to protect your children from the sexuality that pervades our culture.
Now, an exhortation: Remember that these practical methods, many of which are indeed valuable and perhaps even recommended, pale in comparison to the effect that your efforts can have in the first two categories we discussed above. Prayer is by far the greatest tool in your arsenal. Our God can do far greater than anything we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Proclaiming truth to your children, establishing a relationship with them that demystifies sex and teaches them how to identify and flee from temptation, teaching them how to walk in wisdom, these things are also stronger tools than any preventative measures you can put in place. Do not try to play the part of God in your children’s lives and believe that you alone will insulate and protect them from every kind of evil. You can’t. What you can do is be prayerful, wise, thoughtful, and aware. Point your children to the one who can indeed fulfill every desire of their heart. Only the power of Christ is strong enough to overcome the sinfulness that resides in the hearts of your children.
Raising children faithfully in this hypersexualized American culture is certainly tricky, but not impossible. The Lord is our strength (Isaiah 12:2), and he has and will give us all we need to walk in faithfulness to all that he has commanded (Hebrew 13:20-21). We can lead and love our children well in the area of sexuality (and all other areas) because the word of God is sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16).