When I first decided to start blogging, I planned to write about boys and sexuality as one of my first posts. I have asked so many questions and have been asked so many questions, and as a mom of two boys, I wanted to share what I have learned. However, this subject is very uncomfortable for me, and therefore, I have postponed writing about it, coming back every once in a while to see if it will all fall into place. Despite starting an outline over ten months ago, it never fell into place. I don't think it will, so I give you what I know. Please note that this is meant for other moms of boys, although numbers 1-4 below apply to all children.
I grew up in a house with my parents and three sisters. However, God saw fit to make me the mother of two boys. One day, puberty came creeping into our house when I wasn't looking, jumped out of the shadows, and scared me to death. I wasn't the only one taken by surprise. When my son's voice started changing at the age of 11, my husband thought a stray baseball may have damaged his vocal cords. It wasn't until I heard that tell-tale "squeak" when he was yelling and searched "boys voice changing age" on Google, that I realized what was going on.
Over the last few years, I have been asked lots of questions about boys, puberty, sexuality, books about puberty, etc. Here, I'll share with you just a little of what I have learned.
1. Form a healthy view of sexuality yourself.
What does the Bible say about sex. According to Rob Jackson on the Focus on the Family website, "sexuality provides at least three basic lessons that our children can understand. Sexual union exists: (1) to make babies, (2) to nurture a mommy and daddy's love, and (3) to point us back to the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." (See the full article here.) Sex is a gift from God, but timing is important.
2. Model a healthy view of sexuality.
How do you relate to your husband? If you treat him like he has a disease every time he tries to kiss you when the kids are around, what type of message does that send? Children need to know that marriage is the place where it is ok to show physical love. Do we tell our children that they should wait to be married before having sex? Then make sure the picture that they are getting is that the married physical relationship is a great one. I'm not saying that you need to be pornographic in front of your children, but don't be afraid to show affection in front of them. In fact, show affection on purpose.
Also, monitor what your children are watching on television and seeing on the internet. Watch the magazines that you bring into your house. Many televison shows display young, attractive people in serious physical relationships outside of marriage. Many magazines and now, even books, tout unmarried sex as awesome and exciting (and, well, it is, but it isn't God's plan or timing). I could lecture about how such magazines and tv shows are bad and seriously undermine God's plan for sexuality, but I'll state it simply: just keep it out of your house. Period. That is not what you want forming your kids views on relationships, marriage, and sexuality.
3. It's not just "the talk."
Teaching your kids about sex begins when your child asks the first question. It's a lifestyle. Just as Deuteronomy 6:6 says that you are to teach the Lord's commandments "when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up," so it should be with questions about sex. However, your answers should be age-appropriate using kid-language without giving too much too soon. For example, there is a story about a young girl who asked her mother where she came from. The mother, thinking it was time for "the talk," took a deep breath and told her daughter everything she felt she needed to know about sex. Her daughter, taken quite by surprise, wrinkled her nose and said, "Eww. I just wanted to know where I was from because Susan said she's from South Carolina."
If your child asks a question, don't freak out, condemn your child, or act frightened. Take a deep breath, remain calm, and even ask to think a moment before answering. Remember that sometimes, especially when young, they need very basic information. I heard another story about a boy who asked what "Sex" meant. After his father explained intercourse, he said, "Well, why in the world do you have to check 'M' or 'F' on the form?!" If your child asks where they came out, you can say, "God made a special place in the mommy for babies to come out," and surprisingly, for the young, that's all they need to know. Also, asking, "Why do you want to know?" can give you insight into what they are thinking or why they are asking. Start with the minimum when young, realizing that more is needed as puberty approaches.
As an example of "giving the minimum information", last year at Christmas time, my husband was reading the Christmas story. He read, "How can this be since I am a virgin?" My husband stopped and said, "Mary didn't understand how she could be pregnant since she had never slept with a man." My youngest, then nine years old, exclaimed, "WAIT! Is that how you have a baby -- by sleeping next to a man?" His dad replied, "Well, the man and woman sleep together in a special way." My son replied, "Like chickens and roosters?" My husband stated, "Well, yeah. They sleep together and hold each other in a special way." My son was fine with this explanation, and I have to say, I was practically hysterical, laughing in a pillow, but the point is, kids usually don't need all the nitty-gritty, just the basics.
4. It's not just "the talk," but you do need to talk.
Talking about sex and remaining calm when asked off-the-wall questions has been quite difficult for me. However, we must do it anyway. You cannot be prepared for what they will ask, but tell yourself, now, that you will answer their questions calmly without shaming them or acting horrified. If you are really thrown for a loop, ask, "Why do you want to know?" That will give you some much needed information and give you time to think. Don't be afraid to say, "That's a good question. I really don't know the answer to that" or "Let me find out and get back to you," and then don't forget to do so. Sometimes, it is appropriate to have the father answer the question for your son.
5. Boys and their body PART.
For the mother of a very young boy, nothing is more surprising than to find her four-year-old fondling himself in the bathtub with an erection and a look of satisfaction on his face. Yes, it happens, and it is so very normal. I only say this as a heads up because I remember distinctly "freaking out" and my husband replied very simply, "Well, it feels good." So, when it happens, remind your son to not do this in public because that is something private. Don't punish him for doing it or take him to the doctor. Take a deep breath and remain calm. Maybe even go around the corner and laugh.
Speaking of body parts, at my husband's suggestion, we have always used the actual term, "penis" rather than "whippersnapper," "pee-pee," "winkie," or whatever other word you'd like to use. Of course, this is up to you as the parent, but at some point, you should just state that it is technically a "penis" without blushing and move on. After a while, using the word will become natural.
6. Little boys are curious about "private" parts.
I know of another mother who was quite distressed that she found her four-year-old looking at women in swimsuits and felt he was lusting. She wanted to know how to help him avoid sexual temptation and was disturbed that he had started such behavior at such a young age. However, at this age, he is most likely simply noticing that women have breasts and that men do not and wondering why. This is an opportunity to start talking about how God made men and women differently, but such discussions should not be about lust and avoiding sexual temptation. That is too much, too soon. Instead of helping him avoid such thoughts, you'll put things in his head he's never even thought about and will not understand. At puberty, yes, he'll understand. Before that, no, he is most likely NOT lusting.
When boys start noticing differences between the sexes, it is time to discuss private parts. Explain that he should never show his private parts to anyone other than his parents and the doctor. Explain that a woman has different private parts from men because God made them differently. Everything covered by a bathing suit is a private part. Then leave it at that. Acting ashamed, disgusted, embarrassed, or angry will actually cause him to think, later, that sex is dirty and shameful and something we don't talk about, and despite how uncomfortable it sounds, you want him talking to you about it when he is a teenager if he has questions. Talk about it matter-of-factly and move on.
Questions? Ask, and I will do my best to answer. Comments? Feel free, but be nice. I think the more we talk, the less "squirmy" and uncomfortable we'll feel.
Next, see The Birds, the Bees, and Boys: Teaching Your Boys About Sex -- Part 2. I'll discuss puberty and what to expect when, followed by The Birds, the Bees, and Boys: Teaching Your Boys About Sex -- Part 3, a Book Review.