It seems that everywhere we turn, children are being exposed to more and more conversations and lifestyles that rush them into a world of sexual knowledge long before they are emotionally or intellectually ready to handle such knowledge. This reality begs the question: How can parents protect their children from intrusive knowledge, whether it comes from a school health class or a playground conversation?
What if your seven-year-old asks, “Why does Katie have two mommies?” What if Katie lives in your neighborhood and she invites your daughter over to visit and play? How will you answer that question and others like it?
The ideal time to be thinking about your response is before the situation arises, because it will arise, especially if your children attend a school where misguided and misdirected sex education advice is prevalent. Parents who send their children to private or Christian schools fare only a little better, depending on the school’s philosophy relating to protecting the innocence of childhood. Even in the most protected environments, teachers and school administrators cannot monitor every lunchroom or playground conversation.
The question of how parents can protect the sexual innocence of childhood is not a matter of whether or not sexual knowledge should be transferred, but what knowledge should be transferred, how should it be transferred, and when.
The good news is that parents can mitigate the threat of intrusive sexual knowledge without having to totally isolate their children from the world waiting just outside their front doors. The place to start is with Mom and Dad’s understanding of how to transfer sexual knowledge to children. A great way to deepen this understanding is to find a Protecting the Innocence of Childhood class, either locally or online at https://growingfamilies.life/find-a-class-home.
Or, you can order the series and workbook at https://www.gfibookstore.com/protecting-the-innocence-of-childhood/ and go through it as a couple. The course provides a full explanation of the practical things parents can do to manage the sexual overload challenge that robs children of their innocence.
But what about your child and the two questions:
- “Why does Katie have two mommies?”
- “Katie invited me over to visit and play. May I go?”
How do you respond, and where do you begin?
At some point your children will likely ask a probing question. Will you be ready? What information can you safely share? How detailed should that information be? Where is the line separating “sufficient information” from “too much information”? Please consider these three guidelines:
- Remember the age of your child. As simple as this principle may sound, parents often forget to whom they are speaking. Is the question coming from a curious first-grader or a probing 13-year-old? A question generated by a five-year-old does not carry the same weight of expectation or urgency as a similar question asked by a teen. Nor should Mom or Dad’s answer provide the same level of detail. The deciding factors will always be the child’s age, and his/her moral and intellectual maturity to handle the information. Attached to a 12-year-old’s questions are experiences, associations, observations, and a level of comprehension which are not present in a five-year-old. When a five-year-old asks, “Why does Katie have two mommies?” the answer does not have to be overly detailed. It can be a simple as, “Katie only has one Mommy, but her Mommy has a friend living with her who also loves Katie.” However, if that question comes from a 10-year-old, parents no longer have the luxury of providing simple answers. Some additional age-appropriate facts will still be necessary.
- Make sure the question you hear is the actual question being asked. A seven-year-old arrives home from school and asks, “Where did I come from?” Unprepared for the question, his mother works her way through a red-faced explanation. When she is done, she asks if he has any questions. The son replies, “Just one. The new kid in school came from St Louis and I wanted to know where I came from.” Sometimes parents answer the wrong question with detailed information that the child is not seeking. Understanding the question starts with understanding the why behind the question, especially if it is coming from a young child. To help discover the why behind your child’s question, do a little probing, such as, “That is an interesting question. Why are you asking?” or, “What made you think of that question?” Parents can navigate and respond to any question if they know what the real question is.
- Not every question needs an immediate answer. When dealing with sexual matters, parents are not under any obligation to provide an answer on demand. Not every moment is the right moment, nor does every question have a simple answer. The truth is that no matter how prepared you think you are, some questions need a little extra time to figure out. Answering with, “Let’s save that question for tomorrow,” or “I’ll explain that when you get older,” are very legitimate responses. Delaying an answer is also a way to measure the child’s actual level of interest and whether the question was just a fleeting, momentary idea or a pressing need. If it was the latter, rest assured your child will ask the question again.
To address the second question regarding your daughter playing at Katie’s house, consider a play date at your house instead. Take control of the situation by controlling the play environment. If Katie’s mom allows her to come to your home, that provides you the opportunity to get to know the child and monitor the conversation. If you are challenged by a question and unsure of what the best response is, consider this helpful tool for wise decision-making at https://growingfamilies.life/search?q=MYV5-15S.%20
The home environment is a child’s first classroom and it sets in place patterns of thought and attitudes that carry the child forward. Even after peers begin to exert influence, such influence does not tend to overshadow the influence found in strong family relationships. How you respond to the difficult questions your child asks today will lay the foundation for their continued purity as they mature into adolescence and adulthood.
Anne Marie Ezzo serves with her husband in ministering to families around the world through Growing Families International. For the past 30+ years her passion has been, and continues to be, to encourage wives and moms to practically understand what it means to “love your husband and children”.