Last week we talked about our personal experiences teaching our small children about sexuality.
How then did we teach our children about sexuality as they grew to be teenagers and young adults?
As our children grew, we made ourselves available for questions they had, and sought out opportunities to discuss topics with them.
If they had sex education at school, we asked them about the class and what they learned.
We had frequent Family Home Evening lessons on how to live the law of chastity, all the while emphasizing how wonderful sex can be when it’s done right and kept sacred – in the covenant of marriage.
If we saw something regarding sexuality on television or the news, we discussed it with them and pointed out where sex was being defiled in those circumstances, what the potential consequences were and what the people could have done instead.
Above all, we set the best example we could in our own marriage.
Progression, Not Perfection, Required
This isn’t to say we set a perfect example with each other all the time – far from it. We could never claim what President McKay’s son claimed about his parents[i], to never have raised our voices or argued in front of the children.
We faced marital problems as well – most couples do. When we did have problems though, we addressed them immediately and together until we resolved our conflicts as a team. Application of the Atonement regularly minimized hurt feelings, and cooperating as husband and wife to manage issues turned out to be a blessing. It strengthened our friendship.
As we immersed ourselves in learning about the gospel and marriage and sex and applied what we learned, our relationship grew stronger over the years. So did our children’s confidence in our counsel about everything, including sexuality.[ii]
Out of the Best Books, and Videos, and Other Sources…
When we found good sources for learning about sexuality that were appropriate to their age, we let them know. Often, we watched or read about it with them. We discussed For the Strength of Youth[iii] with them – a genius guide to safe single living in a world that prizes immorality – and taught them how those concepts would apply when they were married also.
Line Upon Line…
When those teenage hormones kicked in, our kids asked more questions. Occasionally they made small mistakes.
My wife and I knew they would, and when they did, we didn’t overreact. Instead, we calmly let them know we loved them. We let them know we understood how hard that challenge is.
We reviewed with them the process of repentance, and helped them strengthen their testimony of the sacredness of sexuality and their bodies. We went over with them what things they could do to avoid or defend themselves from future temptations and expressed our confidence in them. We followed up with them privately to check their progress and impress on them that their progress was important.
And they did better.
The situations they encountered grew more and more complex and challenging over the years, often beyond the situations we faced ourselves as teens.
One of our daughters asked us what to do when a ‘friend’ sexted her on social media. One of our sons asked us what to do when a homosexual friend propositioned him. They had questions for us about bondage and transsexuality and pansexuality. We continued to answer their questions and keep the lines of communication open, grateful that they were not only willing to seek us out but trusted our guidance.
We looked at raising teenagers as if we were staff sergeants given the task of preparing our troops for battle.
How wise would it be to send soldiers out into a conflict without running them through drills and arming them, because we’re afraid of them losing their ‘innocence’? Only hoping and praying that they’ll figure it out on their own when the “time was right” or on the eve of their first battle?
What would the results be when they actually faced combat? How would you imagine they would feel about our lack of preparing them?
Boyd K. Packer said,
“Parents today wonder if there is a safe place to raise children. There is a safe place. It is in a gospel-centered home. We focus on the family in the Church, and we counsel parents everywhere to raise their children in righteousness.”[iv]
In addition, the Gospel Principles manual (taught to investigators and new members) gives the instruction:
"Our Church leaders have told us that parents are responsible to teach their children about procreation (the process of conceiving and bearing children). Parents must also teach them the law of chastity...
By the time children reach maturity, parents should have frankly discussed procreation with them. Children should understand that these powers are good and were given to us by the Lord. He expects us to use them within the bounds He has given us.”[v]
What were the Results?
The interesting thing is, now that we have two single grown children and two teenagers, they know more about correct sexuality principles than most adults, yet they still maintain a strong sense of innocence, virtue and self-worth.
They haven’t been spared any challenge that any other child faces, yet they’re confident in themselves and their bodies, and there’s no residual trauma in their lives from the challenges they’ve experienced. They don’t feel dirty or ashamed or unclean, because of someone else’s choices to defile the sacred.
They can tell you about sexually transmitted diseases and how they’re contracted. They know their body parts and how they function. They know how the brain and body work in the limerance state[vi], and what to look for in an eternal companion.
They know what it takes to live the law of chastity and they know why they’re living it, and how to maintain those habits into their marriage.
These habits and attitudes were not established in a single ‘birds-and-the-bees’ conversation. They were the result of thousands of interactions over their entire lives.
Some of their friends at church and school haven’t been so fortunate. Of the youth that we taught over the years, those who fell into transgression or who made terrible short-sighted decisions regarding their sexuality came from families where sex (or sometimes even the gospel) was never openly discussed, or discussed very infrequently.
Next Week: So how does all of this affect our sexual relationship with our spouse?
[i] McKay, David L., Remembering Father and Mother, Ensign, August, 1984, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1984/08/remembering-father-and-mother-president-david-o-mckay-and-sister-emma-ray-riggs-mckay?lang=eng
[ii] Ether 12:25
[iii] For The Strength Of Youth (2012), https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth?cid=YS-M-youthstrength&lang=eng
[iv] Packer, Boyd K. “The Key to Spiritual Protection”, October 2013 General Conference; https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/the-key-to-spiritual-protection?lang=eng
[v] Gospel Principles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, The Law of Chastity, Ch. 39, 2009, 225