By Laura M. Brotherson
This three-part series of articles is an abridgement of the last three chapters of the book, And They Were Not Ashamed – Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment. This book provides principles and practices, based in light and truth, to help couples strengthen their marriage by improving emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy and ONEness. The book includes three additional chapters to help parents prepare the next generation to be morally clean and better prepared for lasting happiness and fulfillment in marriage. The three articles in this series are:
To obtain the full chapters on preparing your children for intimacy in marriage you can purchase the book And They Were Not Ashamed-Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment at http://www.StrengtheningMarriage.com.
Parents’ Responsibility to Teach Their Children
Parents have the responsibility and opportunity to prepare their children for lasting fulfillment in marriage by teaching them the sacred and sanctifying nature of intimacy. God has designated this sacred responsibility to parents saying, “I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:40). Parents have been commanded to make “all things known unto their sons and their daughters” (Moses 5:12). Intimacy in marriage is one of the important topics that parents must not fail to teach.
Satan gains power over lives when the counsel to teach light and truth goes unheeded. God has warned, “You have not taught your children light and truth, according to the commandments; and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your affliction” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:42). Parents must prepare themselves to present God’s perspective on issues concerning the body and sexuality.
Secular sexual information can’t be avoided, so the appropriate action is for parents to actively counter the world’s view, not with negativity and fear, but with true doctrine and a positive godly perspective. When parents don’t teach their children correct principles, they create a vacuum for others to fill. Friends, movies, magazines and music, which rarely present God’s perspective on the sacred power of procreation, often fill that void.
Attitudes about sex, gender knowledge, and gender acceptance are contributing to your children’s sex education nearly every day of their lives.
Lighting the Way
A prophet of God has called upon parents to rise up and take the lead in teaching and showing the way for children and others to follow. President Harold B. Lee stated, “I say to you Latter-day Saint mothers and fathers, if you will rise to the responsibility of teaching your children in the home . . . the day will soon be dawning when the whole world will come to our doors and will say, ‘Show us your way that we may walk in your path'” (Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Presidents of the Church, 149. See also Micah 4:1-2).
You may encounter barriers that threaten to keep you from fulfilling your divine calling to teach your children about sexual intimacy and marriage. Some of the barriers you may encounter are:
Lack of personal conviction regarding the sanctity of sex
Lack of knowledge
Fear that sexual knowledge will lead to promiscuity
Teaching our children light and truth-God’s plan and purpose for sexuality and moral purity-provides power to avoid temptation. Christian author and speaker Joe Beam agreed. He said:
By telling . . . the truth about God’s intent for sex in marriage, we [don’t set them] up for temptation or sin or anything but a wonderful marriage. . . . Besides, we know that the forces of Satan work best in the dark, not in the light [see John 3:19-20]. It’s the misguidance and misinformation that teens get from each other or provocative TV shows and movies that sets up temptation. The truth-the light-gives the power to overcome those temptations (Joe Beam, Becoming One, 134-35).
Each of these parental barriers must be addressed so that discussions about sexuality can have a positive focus and be accompanied by a spirit of reverence and confidence. (Information on overcoming such barriers is provided in And They Were Not Ashamed.)
The truth-the light-gives the power to overcome . . . temptations.
Parental Preparation to Teach
The suggestions shared below can help parents prepare to teach their children light and truth regarding pre-marital sexual purity and the sanctity of sexual fulfillment in marriage.
1. Invite the Spirit to guide as you prepare and as you teach.
2. Gain a testimony of the sanctity of sex within marriage and the importance of teaching this to your children.
3. Remove your negative beliefs and inhibitions.
4. Educate yourself.
5. Have open and healthy discussions about sex with your spouse.
6. Role play discussions.
Why Kids Indulge in Premarital Sexual Behavior
Knowledge of the underlying causes of sexual transgression can help parents be more powerful in creating an environment for effective sexual teaching. Kids know they’re not supposed to engage in premarital sexual activities. They know about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancy, and parental or church discipline.
So why do they do it? Agency is part of the answer, but addressing the sources or contributing factors of sexual transgression, rather than the surface symptoms makes parental efforts much more effective.The following are five areas to consider in understanding why youth may succumb to sexual temptation:
1. Unmet Emotional Needs. When children feel unloved, unaccepted, or unimportant, they are more susceptible to sexual temptations. Look for signs of emotional emptiness and begin to better meet those needs. If children’s needs for love, acceptance, and feeling valued and important are met within the home, they will be less likely to seek substitute love elsewhere.
If children’s needs for love, acceptance, and feeling valued and important are met within the home, they will be less likely to seek substitute love elsewhere.
2. Rebellion. A contributing factor to sexual indulgence also related to unmet emotional needs is rebellion. Though teens may not realize what they are doing, when their emotional needs are not being met they seek to fill those needs in ways that will hurt their parents-who they see as neglecting their needs.
3. Touch Deprivation. In the book And They Were Not Ashamed (Chapter 12) we discuss the powerful universal need for physical touch. Many children are touch deprived. Telling a touch-deprived adolescent not to engage in sexual behavior may be like telling a hungry child not to eat the cookies sitting out on the table.
4. Boredom and Unhealthy Habits. Particularly during preadolescent years, children may discover pleasurable feelings associated with parts of their bodies, and may engage in these activities out of boredom or because they have developed unhealthy habits.
5. Lack of Divine Understanding. Kids engage in inappropriate sexual behaviors when they don’t have a deep enough understanding of God’s divine purposes for sexual relations in marriage. When youth have the power of light and truth behind them and a positive understanding of why they should wait and what the value or blessings are of waiting, they are able to find greater desire and strength to resist temptations.
Strengthening the Foundation for Sexual Discussions
In addition to the parental preparation discussed above, there are substantive ways you can strengthen the personal foundation upon which children can best receive your teachings and carry them into their hearts. If there is a strained relationship between you and your child, it will be more difficult to have a positive experience together. The following are ways parents can prepare for sexual discussions by strengthening their relationship with each child:
1. Build Relationships. If children feel loved and accepted, they will be more likely to receive your teachings. Spend time and effort to build your relationship with each child.
2. Give Loving Touch. There’s a healing power in physical touch that communicates love and acceptance in a way nothing else can. Feed your child’s need for loving touch with lots of hand holding, hugs, kisses, or a comforting hand on their shoulder.
3. Provide Positive Flooding. Flood your children with encouragement. Look for the good in your children and tell them regularly.
4. Spend One-on-one Time. Scheduling regular one-on-one time not only prepares the relationship for more important discussions, but also sends the message: “You are important. You are worth my valuable time.”
5. Hold Personal Parent Interviews. Personal parent interviews (PPIs) are another wonderful way to build relationships. Show your children that you care by asking probing and pertinent questions about their feelings and their problems.
6. Learn to Love in Your Child’s Love Language. Chapter 10 of the book, And They Were Not Ashamed, provides information on learning to love in your spouse’s love language. Each of your children also has an individual love language. To be most effective in loving and building a relationship with your child, you need to know exactly what makes him or her feel loved and cared about.
7. Use the Intentional Dialogue Communication Tool. Using the Intentional Dialogue to mirror, validate, and empathize (as outlined in Chapter 10 of And They Were Not Ashamed) during your discussions with your children is another great way to provide a safe and open forum for discussion.
If children feel loved and accepted, they will be more likely to receive your teachings.
The Need for Positive Sex Education
Lack of sexual knowledge and understanding, coupled with incorrect and negative beliefs not only put children at risk in their youth, but can also cause unnecessary problems within marriage. It isn’t just sex education that is needed, but positive sex education. Dr. Brent Barlow, marriage counselor and BYU professor asked:
Why does something so beautiful sometimes become a source of so many problems? Part of the difficulty stems from mistaken ideas. Some people still believe that sexual intimacy is a necessary evil by which we have children. These people get an inaccurate view from parents who were too embarrassed to discuss such matters with their children or who were so concerned that their children live the law of chastity that they taught only the negative consequences of the improper use of intimacy (Brent Barlow, “They Twain Shall Be One,” Ensign, Sep. 1986, 50).
Understanding the “Good Girl Syndrome” (see Chapter 1, And They Were Not Ashamed) with its unintended negative conditioning will help to confirm the need for a more positive approach to sex education. Positive teachings are a greater long-term deterrent to sexual deviance than threats of “hellfire and damnation.”
What children need is a positive atmosphere and attitude surrounding all aspects of sexual matters with a focus on the blessings of premarital purity and the sanctity of post-marital sexual relations. This creates the environment for sexual learning to be an ongoing, edifying process. The goals of teaching children and youth about sex should go beyond having our youth safely married in the temple. We need to help them learn what it takes to live “happily ever after.”
Respect can replace recklessness as youth gain greater light and truth regarding God’s promised power and the blessings that come from reverencing sexuality and the body. Parents can experience special parent/child bonding as they prepare and then teach their children a godly perspective of sexuality, better preparing their children for happiness and lasting fulfillment in marriage.
The goals of teaching children and youth about sex should go beyond having our youth safely married in the temple. We need to help them learn what it takes to live “happily ever after.”
(While this article does not provide all the necessary details for teaching your children about intimacy in marriage, we hope it will provide enough insight to encourage you to prepare. A list of additional resources is listed at the end of Chapter 14 in the book, And They Were Not Ashamed.)
Laura M. Brotherson has a bachelor’s degree in Family Science with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy from Brigham Young University. She has recently written and published a book on marital intimacy entitled, And They Were Not Ashamed-Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment. For more information about Laura’s book and to order, visit http://www.StrengtheningMarriage.com. You may email her at Laura@StrengtheningMarriage.com“>Laura@StrengtheningMarriage.com.