Defining Your Environment: What's the Current Culture in Your Home?
You probably remember the first time you learned about sex. Maybe it was a series of strange metaphors meddled with a list of scientific facts from your parents. Maybe an older sibling or kid on the playground told you all about it. Maybe it was a class in school you hoped would be over soon. You may not realize it, but the things that first taught you about sex shaped a lot of your view of it today. The home you grew up in, whether your parents ever talked to you about it or not, sent you a message about sex. The same is true for your kids. We’ve found that there are three different environments people are typically raised in as far as learning about sex and sexuality. Each one sends a message to your children about sex, regardless of if you’re actually trying to communicate that message or not. Recognizing the environment you were raised in as well as the one you’re creating for your kids is an important step in creating a culture of healthy sexuality in the home. Ideally you are already creating a healthy environment for your children to learn about sex, but if not, it’s not too late to start.
Here are the three environments we've found:
1. Silent Environment
Some parents are so afraid of saying the wrong thing about sex or introducing the topic too soon that they never introduce the topic at all. Children may ask questions, but those are skillfully avoided or shamed for being asked. The door to learning about sex is not just closed, it’s locked shut and someone threw away the key. The mistake here is that not telling your kids anything about sex still sends them a message about sex. It sends them the message that sex is either too private or too sacred to talk about or it’s not overly important. Since the people in their life that are supposed to be helping them navigate the difficult topics are not talking about this one, they have to figure things out on their own.
The thing is, your child will be introduced to sex one way or another. If you don’t teach them how to sort through the messages they receive about sex, then they will not know what to believe. Many parents assume that their children will learn about sex in school if they don’t teach them, but school is not the only place that talks about sex. Television, movies, music, books, kids on the playground, and the internet are just a few of the other places your kids can learn about sex. If you’re not the one shaping their view on it, then there’s a good chance these other things are.
2. Saturated Environment
Some parents figure sex is just a part of life, and there’s no use trying to avoid all the places that talk about it, so they leave the door wide open. Their children learn about sex from movies, TV shows, music, and other types of media. They’re completely saturated with messages about sex and sexuality. It becomes casual and familiar. It might even reach the point where children think, “What more is there to learn? I already know it all. I’ve seen it, been around it, had my own experiences, what else do I need to know?” Since it’s everywhere, they become comfortable with it. On the upside, there’s no shame, blame, or guilt, but on the downside, sex loses its significance, its sacredness.
The message this environment sends is that sex is nothing more than a physical experience. People should be able to have sexual encounters and walk away. They can give that part of themselves away without any commitment, and then just move on with life. It’s true that we can’t protect our children from every single image or video or piece of media that contains a message about sex. However, we can teach them the truth about it. If we give them a healthy perspective, it will act as a lens they can view the rest of the world through.
3. Conflicted Environment
Some parents know they’re supposed to talk to their children about sex but are unsure how to address it, so they open the door for a moment and then it shut it quickly before things get too crazy. They may have one talk, maybe two, but then that’s it. No more conversations. Children aren’t welcome to ask questions because they shouldn’t be wanting to know anything about sex anyway. Sex remains a huge mystery, that is until the wedding night. On the wedding night, they will all of a sudden be able to know everything there is to know about sex, but not a moment before. It sends the message that sex has a value within marriage, but it is full of shame outside of marriage.
The problem with this environment is it shames children for being curious about something that is actually very normal for them to be curious about. It’s unfair to expect them not to wonder about sex or about their bodies or even about the opposite gender.Although this environment celebrates virginity and married-sex, it doesn’t fully translate the reality of sex. A good sex life within marriage takes time to grow into, and it starts with having a healthy view on sexuality.
So what does a healthy environment look like?
A healthy environment is one where our children are able to open the door and look in. Not with shame, not with the guilt that comes when they feel they’ve done something wrong, but with the freedom to take a healthy glimpse inside for the sake of understanding. We want our children to carry the vision of God's original design for sex. How did God intend for things to be in the garden? Before sin entered the world, before all the perversions came in, what was God’s original idea? If we create a solid foundation for them, they will be able to filter everything else they learn about sex through the lens of God's design. They will be able to separate truth from lies and also have a place to bring their questions and find out more information when they need to.