Six years ago, a pastor at my church asked me to “put something together” on the topic of sexual integrity for the girls in the youth group.
He had no idea what he was asking.
The topic had needled me for more than 10 years. Not only did he ask at just the right time, he used the very words I’d already heard in my mind (but had told no one about).
I was sitting in church one Sunday when I "heard," “You need to put something together for the girls.”
“But I’m not even involved in youth ministry!” I’d argued.
“It’s time,” the Voice had urged.
I might have dismissed the whole "conversation" as simply my imagination, if not for the phone call later that day. When Pastor Scott, whom I barely knew at the time, asked his fateful question, how could I say no?
He was speaking the words just as I'd heard them in my mind. The calling was clear. It was indeed time.
That fall, girls and their dads committed to a 10-week course based on a curriculum I was writing week by week. Standing on the Heights was born. Standing is about knowing what you believe and learning to stand firm in
those convictions. It’s about feeling secure in True Beauty. (It’s also about
how important our dads are to us girls in that process. I promise you more on that topic before this series closes!)
Later, Scott confessed to me that he was thinking of a two-hour special event, not a 300 page book! It’s amazing what can happen when we allow our vision to be broadened.
I share this story with you, Patch Parents, so you'll understand how important this series is to me, how much thought and passion are behind it. And so you will know that right now, you probably have only a tiny glimpse of the good things that are in store for you and your child — it's beyond even your greatest imaginings!
As I was researching (10 years of reading every "sex book" I could get my hands on!) and writing Standing (10, 60-hour weeks, then years of editing!) I sensed that this project was somehow "bigger" than the one who was writing ... or the 12 girls and four leaders in the class. I didn’t know what that meant, exactly. Perhaps I still don’t.
I only knew that people were silently pleading to talk about this topic — values girls and their parents want to embrace.
We all want to build something beautiful with our lives. Sometimes we just need someone to give us the right tools.
As a result of the course, I’ve had opportunities to speak to youth and parent groups. (Message me for info about speaking to your group!) As part of the seminar Conversation on the Heights, I identify “Ten Tenets of The Talk,” core values behind my teaching on issues of sexuality, which started with my own kids when they were very young.
They are values I hope you, too, will embrace as you teach your kids.
If you agree with these tenets, the list may provide a springboard (or backdrop, however you want to think of it) for discussion with your kids.
If, on the other hand, these ideas don’t sit well with you, I encourage you to write out what you believe. Identifying your core values about sex will help you to communicate them as part of the ongoing, everyday discussions that make up “The Talk.”
Tenets of “The Talk”:
1) Humans are more than mere flesh and blood. The “materials” we are made of are: mind, body and spirit.
2) Our sexuality does not just refer to our “sex parts.” Rather, it is a thread that runs through our entire being (mind, body and spirit), helping to define who we are.
3) Our sexuality is as much a part of our spirit as it is a part of our body and mind. Sexual attraction is a profound, spiritual mystery. While physical acts are temporal, the spiritual bonding that happens between two people during sexual acts lingers, sometimes affecting individuals for a lifetime. Because sex is not merely a physical act but an act of the spirit, it is best savored and treasured. (To explain the concept of how physical acts have a spiritual effect, ask your child how he feels after you kiss him goodnight. The kiss was temporary, but is it somehow still with him after you leave the room? Where did the kiss go? It didn't just disappear; it's still very real — in his spirit. When physical acts are appropriate, they provide warm feelings for a lifetime. This concept can eventually lead to an understanding/discussion that unfortunately, the converse is also true: unhealthy, inappropriate physical bonding leaves us with painful feelings, emptiness and spiritual "gunk.")
4) Having an understanding of “sexual integrity” equips children and adults to live in a way that promotes wholeness and celebration of mind, body and spirit. We have the opportunity to build something wonderful and beautiful with our lives, and our sexuality is an integral part of that building process, from birth to death.
5) The more comfortable parents feel in their understanding of their own sexuality, the better advocates/mentors they will be to their children. Children can read our comfort level, so if you've never worked on your own issues, it's time!
6) Children can begin learning about sexuality and sexual integrity from birth. Yes, I said from birth. for tips on age-appropriate communication.
7) Every child — indeed every person — has a basic right of protection against a wrong initiation into sexual activity. This includes, but is not limited to, protection from: child molestation, sexual abuse, exposure to pornography and pressure into and/or as a result of teenage sexual activity. Education is one important step in the direction of this protection.
8) Parents lay the foundation for a child’s understanding of his/her sexuality by attitudes expressed in their words, actions and their modeling of relationships. This foundation will be either precarious or strong (or somewhere in-between), leading to negative or positive feelings in a child regarding his/her sexuality.
9) As children grow, they need and deserve their parents’ continued presence (being physically and emotionally present for children) to help navigate emotions and decisions associated with their sexuality. Pursuing our children in positive ways leads to a healthier understanding of mind, body and spirit in both parents and children.
10) As parents work to establish open, age-appropriate communication about sexuality, children have a stronger confidence in their ability to develop healthy relationships.