Good Parents, listen up! Ignorance is not innocence! No…and in this day and age, your children need to be educated properly concerning the most delicate of subjects…sex. And by the most capable of teachers…YOU, the parents!
Part Two is here.
Conclusion is here.
A question that disturbs many parents is exactly how to tell their children about sex. A generation ago the question might have been whether to tell at all. Now almost everyone recognizes that children should begin to learn about sex in their early days so that when they become adults they will have proper spiritual and emotional attitudes toward this important part of life.
Judging by the heavy volume of their inquiries at Cana Conferences, however, parents remain concerned about other aspects of sex instruction–when to give it, the atmosphere in which it should be imparted, and so on.
Much of this uncertainty derives from the tremendous amount of attention given this subject by psychologists, sociologists, educators and others in recent years. They have had unprecedented access to printing presses, radio and television transmitters and other means of reaching the public.
To the extent that they have taught parents to educate their children about sex, rather than permitting them to learn the “facts of life” on street corners as was common a generation ago, they have performed a distinct service.
However, they have contributed all shades of opinion as to how sex instruction should be given.
For instance, many have taken a naturalistic view and have sought to divorce it from all religious and moral teaching. These secularists have largely won their way in some public school systems, where children often are taught about the mechanics of sex without regard to moral factors which must govern any consideration of the subject.
In view of the many opinions which have been expressed, it is perhaps understandable that American parents have become confused.
Catholic parents need not be, however, for the Church’s position concerning this area of your child’s development is unmistakably clear.
It is based upon her centuries of experience and her unequaled opportunity to observe where and how sex education best enables children to acquire the proper reverence for the marriage act and the discipline of mind and heart that is essential for chastity.
You can gain a clear concept of your obligations and opportunities as a parent, therefore, if you keep in mind five fundamental principles which have been confirmed in Christian practice over the centuries.
First, you have a personal obligation to teach your own children about sex. By God’s command you and you alone are the primary educators of your sons and daughters. Certainly you would be failing Him if you abdicated responsibility in a matter of such importance. The human happiness of your own flesh and blood may well be at stake.
Some parents mistakenly believe that their duty to mold and form young minds extends to all areas of knowledge except sex. This is a short-sighted view of parenthood.
The reason that sex education is your job stems from the fact that you can give it better than anyone else. No matter how poor a teacher you think yourself to be, only you know best the needs of your children, their fears and their stage of development.
If parents shy away from this instruction, it is not because they are ignorant. This is one matter in which you have complete superiority, even over the most precocious child. He cannot ask any question that you cannot answer, which perhaps is more than you can say about your knowledge of other subjects.
Secondly, your children should be taught sex within the context of love, not as a thing apart. It is more important that he have proper attitudes about sex than that he always have precisely correct factual information.
Without uttering a word, you as a couple can exert the potent force of example to teach a boy or girl how a husband and wife should act in their everyday relationship.
They will learn only from you that sexual adjustment in marriage is really the result of deep spiritual and psychological communion.
It is the love relationship in the family that gives the best education for sex training, neither implying that sex is all-important in life nor conveying the impression that it is shameful or embarrassing.
Inevitably your children will wish to know how babies are born or why women differ from men. Whatever you do–if you say nothing, evade the questions, tell a fable, such as that the stork brings children, if you elaborate unduly or without regard to wholesome values, or if you speak truthfully and reverently–you give them attitudes they will carry into maturity.
As a conscientious parent, therefore, you obviously must try, by word and example, to teach him about life in a way that will best prepare him for adulthood.
The third important principle is that sex education must be intimately related to our belief in God and the natural law. A child cannot truly understand any fact of life unless he first understands that God is the author of all life.
He cannot properly respect the marital act unless he knows that this was the means chosen by God for the creation of human life. And he cannot cultivate the virtue of chastity unless he also learns that by God’s law the exercise of the sexual act is reserved only for persons in the married state.
If your child is to achieve the proper perspective about sex throughout his life, therefore, he must be reminded continually that sex is God’s creation and must be used only in the way that He has ordained.
The child who is taught that his newborn sister was given to him by God, or that God has arranged the body of woman in such a way that after marriage she can become a mother, or that Our Lady and St. Joseph, both of whom were virgins, were beloved above all others by the Son of God, is always likely to approach sexual matters with reverence.
The fourth principle is that sex education should be intimate. You are dealing here with a matter of the utmost importance to the salvation of your child’s soul as well as to his happiness on earth.
Details of sex should not be discussed publicly, but rather treated confidentially between parent and child. Only in this way can the dignity of sex be respected and modesty preserved.
Moreover, each child reacts differently when he learns of the fundamental facts about birth and life.
Only by discussing these facts with your child individually can you observe his reaction and temper your approach to meet his own needs. Few people who support public sex education mention the repugnance which some children, particularly girls who are endowed with natural modesty, feel at the open discussion of sex.
But it is a fact. As many people have been harmed in marriage by brutally disclosed information as by ignorance.
The fifth principle is that knowledge about sex should be acquired gradually throughout life. It starts at the cradle, where the child learns how his mother reacts when he experimentally touches his sex organs.
He learns from what she says–and how she says it–when he asks her where babies come from. He learns from the way that his parents prepare him for the coming of puberty; even if they do not prepare him, he develops an attitude from that fact also.
He may gain or lose reverence for marriage by what his parents teach him about dating and “going steady.” His attitude will be affected by his parents’ reaction to births and marriages within the family circle and by the control which they exercise over his choice of reading matter, movies and television programs.
Obviously, the old caricature of the father calling in his son for a ten-minute “man-to-man talk” in which the father reveals all he knows about sex is completely out of touch with reality.
Keeping these five principles in mind, you can clearly understand why you must accept the responsibility for your child’s sex instruction.
As the first principle shows, you give this education inevitably, the only real question is whether you will give it properly or not.
You are best equipped to apply the second and third principles of teaching the physical facts of life within the framework of God’s law. You can best provide the intimate environment in which this education should be given.
And, since you are your child’s permanent custodian, you are also in the best position to give him the information and attitudes he should have at various stages of his development. No other individual or agency can apply the five basic principles for instruction about sex as readily and as completely as you.
In fulfilling this responsibility to your children, you should be guided by the words of Pope Pius XII, spoken to a group of Christian mothers in 1941:
“If imparted by the lips of Christian parents, at the proper time, in the proper measure and with proper precautions, the revelation of the mysterious and marvelous laws of life will be received by them (the children) with reverence and gratitude, and will enlighten their minds with far less danger than if they learned them haphazard from some unpleasant shock, from secret conversations, through information received from oversophisticated companions, or from clandestine reading, the more dangerous and pernicious as secrecy inflames the imagination and troubles the senses.
Your words, if they are wise and discreet, will prove a safeguard and a warning in the midst of the temptations and the corruption which surround them, ‘because foreseen an arrow comes slowly.’ …With the discretion of a mother and a teacher, and thanks to the open-hearted confidence with which you have been able to inspire your children, you will not fail to watch for and to discern the moment in which unspoken questions have occurred to their minds and are troubling their senses. It will then be your duty to your daughters, the father’s duty to your sons, carefully and delicately to unveil the truth as far as it appears necessary, to give a prudent, true and Christian answer to those questions and set their minds at rest.”
It is a good rule of thumb that fathers instruct the boys and mothers the girls. However, whoever is asked the questions, should give the answers. And prior to the marriage of one of their children, there are many advantages in a mutual discussion of the subject between the child and both parents.
“A decent young man really respects the young woman who quietly refuses to be ‘pawed over’ and ‘necked’; he wants a wife who has kept pure.
A decent girl breathes a sigh of relief when she finds that a young man respects her as a human being, as a friend, and as a lady.
There is nothing so beautiful and so powerful as virtuous loveliness. Riches, high position, physical beauty—none of these entrances as does sinlessness. Self-control, purity, exalts the soul while preserving it from defilement.” – Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, Clean Love in Courtship http://amzn.to/2uVnoE6 (afflink)
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