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BIBLICAL WISDOM FOR PARENTS

Love, Sex, and Marriage Are you worried about the messages your child is absorbing from the media and pop culture that he or she is exposed to? Yet, at the same time, you feel inadequate and unsure of how to talk to your child about love, sex, and marriage from a biblical worldview? In this booklet, Dr Cheah Fung Fong offers a biblical and practical approach to starting conversations with our children about key issues like puberty, infatuation, love, marriage, and pornography. Cheah Fung Fong is a medical doctor and frequent speaker at Christian parenting workshops and conferences. A firm believer in faith formation in families, she is deeply involved in children’s ministries in the Methodist Church in Singapore and the D6 Family Ministry.

Help!

How Do I Talk to My Child About Love, Sex, and Marriage

For more parenting resources, visit biblical-parenting.org.

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Cheah Fung Fong


Please direct all correspondence to the office nearest you: Australia Our Daily Bread Ministries – PO Box 15, Kilsyth, VIC 3137, Australia Telephone: (+61-3) 9761-7086 • E-mail: australia@odb.org Hong Kong Our Daily Bread Ministries Ltd – PO Box 74025, Kowloon Central Post Office, Kowloon, Hong Kong • Telephone: (+852) 2626-1102 • Fax: (+852) 2626-0216 E-mail: hongkong@odb.org Indonesia ODB Indonesia – PO Box 2500, Jakarta 11025, Indonesia Telephone: (+62-21) 2902-8950 • Fax: (+62-21) 5435-1975 • E-mail: indonesia@odb.org Japan Daily Bread Co. Ltd – PO Box 46, Ikoma Nara, 630-0291 Japan Telephone: (+81-743) 75-8230 • Fax: (+81-743) 75-8299 • E-mail: japan@odb.org

Produced by Our Daily Bread Ministries

Many people, making even the smallest of donations, enable Our Daily Bread Ministries to reach others with the life-changing wisdom of the Bible. We are not funded or endowed by any group or denomination. We want to hear from you. Visit us at odb.org or write to us. Refer to last page for contact details.

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introduction

The Birds and the Bees

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hat would you do if your daughter tells you that the boy whom she has been chatting with online has asked her out? How would you react if you found your son looking at pictures of scantily-dressed women on his phone?

Children today are exposed to a highly-sexualised culture at an early age, with unprecedented access to information and people online. But they may not be mentally or emotionally able to handle what they see and hear. 1


Before friends, social media, music videos, movies, TV shows, and magazines offer our children alternative portrayals of love, sex and marriage, we as parents have the precious opportunity to shape their thinking about these important issues and introduce a biblical worldview to them. If this sounds like an overwhelming responsibility, remember that God, who has entrusted us to be stewards of our children, will enable us to guide them. We can go to our heavenly Father for help whenever we feel ill-equipped or inadequate. James 1:5 assures us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” God loves our children even more than we do. He wants them to discover the good plans He has for them. In this booklet, we will look at some basic facts about these topics as well as some biblical approaches on engaging children in conversation about love, sex, and marriage, using plumblines from God’s Word. Let’s explore this together. Cheah Fung Fong

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contents one

What’s Happening to My Body? . .

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two

Am I Falling in Love? .

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three

Intimacy and Sex . . four

What’s This I’m Seeing? .

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31

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

37

five

Breaking the Silence . six

Conclusion .

EDITORS: COVER DESIGN: COVER IMAGE: INTERIOR DESIGN: INTERIOR IMAGES:

Leslie Koh, Ruth Wan, Jayni Manners Mary Tham Shutterstock Mary Tham Shutterstock

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. All rights reserved © 2020 Our Daily Bread Ministries Printed in Singapore



one

What’s Happening to My Body? Puberty changes, and how a child views his own body and that of others

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uberty is the process of physical changes that occur when a child’s body develops into an adult’s body, and is essentially the body’s way of preparing for reproduction. Puberty changes are triggered by weight. Because today’s children have better nutrition and health, they reach the critical weight earlier, and therefore experience puberty earlier.

Boys and girls hit puberty at different ages. Typical changes include:

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• Boys (around ages 12–16): Their voices deepen, muscles start to grow, genitals grow bigger, hair starts to grow on the face and chest, and they experience erections and wet dreams.

• Girls (around ages 10–14): Their breasts develop and hips widen, and they experience menstruation.

• Both: Their sweat glands become more active, which may result in body odour, hair grows in armpits and pubic areas, and they experience growth spurts.

Puberty can be disturbing and confusing to children. They may become more conscious of their physical looks and bodies. They may start comparing themselves to their peers on a physical level. And, they may feel upset or embarrassed by how they look. Why do I have so many pimples? Why am I growing hair here? These are but some of the anxious questions that children may ask themselves. It is valuable for parents to reassure children during this period of physical development. Help them feel comfortable about the changes they are experiencing, which are all part of the natural development of human beings, and reassure them with wisdom from God’s Word. In construction work, a plumbline is used to ensure that walls are constructed vertically so that the building stands perfectly upright. In the same way, we can impress upon our kids the absolute standards of God’s Word. 6

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Such spiritual plumblines will help them stand upright in their faith.

There are three truths we can share with our children.

Plumbline #1: We are wonderfully made in God’s image

The Bible makes it clear that God was delighted with the first man and woman He created. Every one of us is beautiful in His eyes: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well . . . Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. —Psalm 139:13–16 We can assure our children that they are made in God’s own image. The physical changes brought about by puberty are part of the expected development that everyone goes through.

One of the key applications of being wonderfully What’s Happening to My Body?

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made in God’s image is: don’t compare. In God’s good timing, some will experience puberty earlier, while others, later. If your child is affected because he is comparing himself with his friends, you can encourage him by emphasising the next spiritual plumbline. Plumbline #2: God does not look at the outward appearance, but at the heart

During this period when our kids may be hyperconscious about their looks and what the world extols as attractive and desirable, we can share with them that God looks at the heart: But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” —1 Samuel 16:7 When the Old Testament prophet Samuel was trying to identify whom God would choose as king, he gravitated towards those who impressed him with their external looks. However, God told him that He did not look at the outward appearance. It is our heart that God examines, and as His followers, we can encourage our children to care more about the state of their heart than

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the state of their hair, skin, face, teeth, muscles (or lack of), and other body parts. Plumbline #3: We are made male and female

The Bible gives us a godly view of gender and sexuality: God made us male and female. God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. —Genesis 1:27 There is a growing trend in the world where children are allowed to “choose” their gender. This can be confusing for children. Teaching children a godly view of sexuality and gender will help them understand how God made them, and how we are to relate to each other as men and women.

Start the Conversation

If we can start the conversation about puberty early and present these three spiritual plumblines, we can help our children anchor themselves on biblical truths. Then, they will not be swept away by the different worldviews they may encounter, or be left feeling insecure when they experience puberty. Here are some conversation starters to help you start discussions with your kids:

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1. Read Psalm 139:13–16 together. Ask: How can we see from this passage that God is with us in our past and future? What does this mean for us when we are feeling anxious? What can we remember from this passage as our bodies start to develop and change?

2. Ask your children to write down their top five anxieties about their bodies and looks. They can share them with you if they want, or they can choose to keep the list private. Read 1 Samuel 16:1–13 together. Ask: Why is our physical appearance important? What are some ways we can end up giving our physical appearance too much importance? What are some signs that we may be over-emphasising outward appearance? What does God emphasise? What is the state of our heart? How can we make sure we care about our heart?

3. Ask your children what they have heard about the trend of people who are unsure about their gender identity. Ask them what they think the Bible says about this. Read Genesis 1:27 together.

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two

Am I Falling in Love? Infatuation, dating, love, and God’s plan for marriage

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ne day, my 13-year-old son asked me to pick him up from school early as basketball practice had been cancelled. When I asked him why, he replied, “Oh, Mum, it’s Valentine’s Day! Some of the boys asked Coach to cancel practice so that they could spend time with their girlfriends.”

I realised this was an opportunity to start a conversation on this topic. But to avoid turning it into a lecture, I asked him about his friends and their girlfriends, before finally asking, “When do you think is a good time to have a girlfriend?” 11


Much to my relief, he replied: “Maybe 16.” That day’s conversation gave me an opening to start talking about infatuation, dating, love, and marriage as well. As a child enters puberty, he or she may sense a difference between boys and girls, experience attraction to the opposite gender, and start thinking about dating. As there are many definitions of dating, it’s good to establish a common definition that you and your children understand. For example, you could agree with your children that dating is having an exclusive boyfriend or girlfriend with the end-goal of determining whether to marry the person or not. So, what biblical wisdom can we share with our children about all of this? Plumbline #4: The three Ms of marriage

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” —Genesis 1:27–28

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The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” —Genesis 2:18 While the Bible doesn’t talk about dating, Genesis 1:26–30 and 2:15–25 tell us about God’s plan for marriage. We can explain this biblical view to our children by using three Ms: Master, Mission and Mate. Master: Having made man in His image (1:27), God intended man to have a personal relationship with Him. Adam knew God as his Master who provided him with everything he needed (v. 29), and he did what God told him to (2:19–20). God, our Master, gives us a mission. Mission: Adam was to take care of God’s creation, be fruitful, and increase in number (1:28). To do this, he needed a helpmate and a companion, so God brought Eve into his life (2:18). Just as God created Adam for a purpose and created Eve to help Adam fulfil that purpose, He creates each of us for a purpose. As we discover and fulfil what our God-given purpose or mission is, He may bring into our lives a mate. Mate: Eve was a helper to Adam (2:20). Our life part-

ner is someone who journeys with us and helps us fulfil our God-given mission, and should thus share our faith, passion, values, and goals. Hopefully, this biblical perspective of “Master, Mission, and Mate” will help our children understand that

Am I Falling in Love?

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exclusive dating is about looking for a Mate to help in their Mission for the Master. Until then, it would be good for them to get to know people as friends and to stick to group dates, as opposed to one-to-one dates. Plumbline #5: God’s view of marriage and the role of husbands and wives

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. —Genesis 2:24 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body . . . Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . —Ephesians 5:22–33 The Bible speaks of marriage as a union between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24). Within this lifelong commitment, men are to love their wives, while wives are to submit to and respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:22–33). Some may think our children are too young to understand such weighty issues. However, some in this post-modern society no longer accept that marriage is a lifelong commitment, and that it comprises the union of 14

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a man and woman. If we are to develop in our children a biblical mindset about marriage and dating, then we need to discuss with them God’s plan for marriage as He intended it to be. This discussion can then cover the roles of the husband and wife in marriage. With a better understanding of these issues, questions about dating that may arise later can be more easily answered. For example, a question like: “Am I ready to start exclusive dating?” can be posed in this way: “Am I mature enough for a lifelong commitment to someone?” Similarly, a question like: “This person’s so cute. Should I date him/her exclusively?” can become: “Does this person have the inner qualities necessary for a lifelong commitment?” A girl can ask herself: “How’s his decision-making? Will I be able to submit to his decisions and respect him?” And a boy can ask himself: “Can I love her?” But what if your child asks: “What is love, anyway?” This is when you can bring up this next spiritual plumbline: Plumbline #6: God is love

Our children may need help to understand the difference between infatuation and love. Infatuation, or having a crush or “puppy” love, is usually based on a person’s looks, abilities, or charisma. You may be intensely attracted to a person, but the feeling may not be perma

Am I Falling in Love?

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nent. When talking to your children about infatuation, use examples of people who have gotten together and broken up because someone else came along or they lost interest. Love, on the other hand, is based not just on physical attraction, but also character and inner qualities. It withstands the test of time and life’s challenges. When talking to your children about love, use examples from your own marriage, their grandparents’, or those of older relatives, and talk about the deep commitment despite trials and crises. 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 gives a good definition of what true love looks like: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Love is a decision, not an emotional whim. It is a commitment that often involves sacrifice. We see this most clearly in God’s love for us when He gave up His only Son, Jesus, to die for our sins on the cross.

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Start the Conversation

When should you start the conversation on infatuation, dating, love, and marriage? It depends on your child’s emotional development and his awareness of—and attraction to—the opposite gender. A good time is before he enters the teenage years. Here are some conversation starters:

1. Read Genesis 1:26–30 and 2:15–25. Ask: What do you think will be your mission in life, given by your Maker? What kind of person would make a suitable mate? What qualities should the person have?

2. Are you ready to commit to an exclusive relationship that is a lifelong commitment now? Or, would you want to meet more friends of the opposite gender first? What’s a good way to get to know someone better? What would you look for in a person you want to date?

3. What are some differences between infatuation and love?

4. In what way is God the best example of love?

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three

Intimacy and Sex Sex and physical intimacy in relationships and marriage

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hildren today are exposed to the concepts of sex and physical intimacy much earlier

than previous generations. As they are entering puberty earlier, they are also more likely to experience— and experiment with—their sexual desires earlier.

It is important to help our children understand that sex and physical intimacy are designed by God, and not by the world through their friends and social media. Although it may seem awkward to talk to your children about sex, it is best to be simple and straightforward 19


about it. Describe the act of sex factually—that is, the penis being inserted into the vagina—and how this can lead to possible pregnancy. Avoid using euphemisms, as they may confuse your children. Here are the spiritual plumblines that will help us guide our children: Plumbline #7: Sex is God’s gift for married couples

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. —Genesis 2:24–25 Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure. —Hebrews 13:4 Sex is a special gift from God and is to be enjoyed between a man and a woman who love each other deeply and who have committed themselves in marriage to each other. The Bible talks about the sanctity of sex between married couples (Hebrews 13:4, 1 Corinthians 7:3–5), while making it clear that all sexual immorality, such as adultery and sex outside of marriage, is wrong (see Exodus 20:14, Matthew 19:18). We are to keep ourselves sexually pure. 1 Thessalonians 4:3–7 instructs us to “control your own 20

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body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust”, and 1 Corinthians 6:19 reminds us to see our bodies as “temples of the Holy Spirit”. We are to honour God with our bodies because the Holy Spirit dwells in them. Plumbline #8: Do not awaken love before it is ready

Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. —Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, 8:4 Living in a sex-crazed culture certainly does not help our children remain sexually pure. In such a context, our children need more than rules; they need the biblical perspective that our sexual desire is not just another appetite to be satisfied. It is an opportunity for us to please God by honouring His plan and design, and waiting for sex until we are married. The Song of Solomon compares waiting for sex until we are married to guarding a vineyard. Vineyard tending can be a long process, during which foxes can slip into and damage the crops (Song of Solomon 2:15). A farmer needs patience and watchfulness to protect the integrity of his vineyard, but if he does so faithfully, he will reap great benefits when the vines are fully ripe. Likewise, we can teach our children not to arouse or awaken love before the right time.

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For older children, explain that physical intimacy can awaken sexual desires that put a person on an emotional roller coaster. Just as a roller coaster is difficult to stop once it crosses the peak, it is challenging to stop the progress of intimacy towards sexual intercourse once physical arousal has taken place. Discuss with your child where he should draw the line at: • Flirting (body language and pick-up lines) • Holding hands • Hugging • Casual versus prolonged kissing • Fondling, caressing, light petting (e.g., on intimate parts like the thigh) • Heavy petting (touching of genitals, often done without clothes) • Oral sex • Sexual intercourse What about younger children?

For younger children, explain that it is best to wait until they are mature enough for the lifelong commitment of marriage before they start considering exclusive dating (and with it, the possibility of physical intimacy). In the

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meantime, you can emphasise that it is not wise to touch others or be touched in an inappropriate manner. Your child may need to be taught which parts of his body are private and which parts are public, for example: • Public parts: Hands, forearms, elbows, feet (which may be touched in social interactions). • Private parts: Breasts, groin area (which should not be touched). When my children were younger, I gave specific guidelines such as, “Don’t touch anyone between the shoulders and the knees.” Younger children may also need to be taught about the circumstances when touching is appropriate (e.g., a doctor touching the private parts in a medical examination), and when it is inappropriate (e.g., an uncle stroking the thigh or groin area). Start the Conversation

Here are some conversation starters:

1. Look at Genesis 2:24–25 and Hebrews 13:4, and discuss: Our body has many appetites. We get hungry and thirsty, for example. How is sex different from an appetite that we simply fulfil? What is God’s plan for sex?

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2. Read Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4 together. Ask your children about their experiences of being involved in a long-term project, e.g., preparing for an exam, training for a sports meet, or organising a class or school activity or event. What were the values they needed to stay on track? Talk about the importance of patience, perseverance, and following the rules and plan in order to obtain the successful conclusion of a project. Sometimes, such projects can stretch for days, weeks, or months. Link this back to God’s instruction of not arousing love before it awakens. Ask what this may mean exactly for a God-pleasing marriage to occur.

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four

What’s This I’m Seeing? Pornography and sexting

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ornography today can be accessed on a wide range of media and in many different forms,

from comics and novels to videos and magazines. Technology has only increased its accessibility, allowing many teens to access sexually-explicit material on their phones. A large-scale survey of students in Singapore by Touch Cyber Wellness reveals some interesting statistics about children’s exposure to pornography: 25


• 9 in 10 teenage boys have seen sexually explicit materials at least once. • 1 in 2 boys and 1 in 4 girls were exposed to pornography in upper primary school. • 1 in 2 boys have searched for porn online intentionally, while 4 in 10 girls have stumbled onto it while surfing online. A growing trend is sexting, which is the exchange of suggestive personal photographs or messages. For some, this has even become a “normal” part of dating. Here are some spiritual plumblines we can use to guide our children: Plumbline #9: We are to honour God with our bodies

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. —1 Corinthians 6:19–20 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. —Romans 12:1

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While the world may say that what we do with our bodies is our business, and our bodies don’t really matter anyway, the Bible teaches that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Paul elevates our bodies from being just flesh and bone to being the house of God’s Spirit. According to 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, Jesus died on the cross not just to save our souls, but to save our physical bodies too. This is an important point to communicate to our children. Our entire selves, including our bodies, were bought at the price of Christ’s blood on the cross. This is a vital reason why we are to honour God with our bodies—because they are not ours; they are His. Plumbline #10: We are called to be pure

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. —1 Corinthians 6:18 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust . . . —1 Thessalonians 4:3–5

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Paul’s reminders to be pure in our sexual conduct and to avoid passionate lust follow on from the Bible’s many commandments on sexual purity. Sex is to be enjoyed only within marriage (Genesis 2:24), and adultery is prohibited (Exodus 20:14, Hebrews 13:4). Some might argue that watching porn is not partaking in the actual act of sex, but Jesus pointed out that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). As you bring in these biblical guidelines on sexuality, you can talk to your children about how they compare with pornography, which demeans the human body and sexual acts. Discuss how advertisements and movies portray sex and lust, and what the Bible might say about what your child sees on mass or social media. As with other topics, conversations on pornography will depend on your child’s mental and emotional development, and his exposure to external influences. Try introducing the topic in primary school, before your child hears about porn from his friends or stumbles upon it online. You can then continue and expand the scope of the conversation as his exposure to media and friends increases.

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Start the Conversation

Here are some questions you could discuss with your children:

1. Look at images of men and women in advertisements in the newspapers or on the Internet. How do the images portray men and women? What impression do these images give about the act of sex? What do they say about the relationship and respect between the man and the woman?

2. Look at the Bible verses listed in pages 26 to 28. Ask your children what these verses say about our bodies, sexual sin, and self-control.

3. Is it wise to look at such pictures? Why or why not?

4. Should you post flirty pictures or videos of yourself? Why or why not?

5. Are you honoured or respected when someone asks you to post a flirty picture of yourself on social media?

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What if you catch your child viewing porn? While getting angry may be a natural response, remember that it is likely to be counter-productive. What is more helpful is to calm down first before talking to your child about what he has been watching. Ask him if you can view the film together, and if he says no, discuss with him why that is so. This becomes a teaching moment, when you can talk about: • How porn is addictive and results in a growing need for more and more, such that a person cannot do without it. • How porn and sexting dishonour men and women and their body parts. • How porn disrespects men and women by portraying them as sex objects, and gives false ideals of what a man’s or woman’s body should look like. • How porn distorts the idea of sex by portraying it as an act of domination.

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five

Breaking the Silence

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alking to our children about sexuality can be hard. Not only does our culture prefer discretion and leaving sensitive things unsaid, but it can also be difficult to engage children as they enter their volatile pre-teen and teenage years.

Instead of trying to fight the hormones, I’ve found it helpful to just go with the flow when talking to children—to engage them when they’re willing to listen, and to give them space when they’re not. Meaningful 31


conversations, after all, need the willing participation of both parties. Here are some approaches to consider:

1. Stay Comfortable Think of sexuality education as part of equipping our children to enter adulthood. Just as we might teach them math, we are teaching them facts about their bodies and relationships, and about Christian principles on healthy friendships, purity, and marriage. Many parents avoid sexuality conversations because they feel that they are not equipped. We can find out more about these topics, just as we do when we are trying to explain a mathematical concept that is new to us. We can even embark on this process of discovery together with our kids, like searching about “wet dreams” online, or looking for a book on how babies are made. You can also enlist the help of books or videos that teach about sexuality using cartoons or pictures, which you can read and watch together with your children. The conversation about sexuality is not a one-off talk. You can do it in bite-size quantities, starting with the basic facts when they’re young, and adding more “layers” and depth to the conversation as they grow older and are able to understand and engage with you more. I started introducing the concept of physical intimacy to my own children when they were about four or five 32

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years old. I told them about how God created Adam and Eve, how they loved each other and got married, and how God gave them the beautiful gift of sex to be enjoyed within the safe boundary of a marital relationship. When my children entered primary school, I used a book to explain the act of sex and reproduction, and as they got older, introduced the topics of flirting, respect, and purity. Then, when they reached secondary school, we began to talk about life partners and the idea of Master, Mission, and Mate.

2. Stay Connected Several years ago, I heard about a popular television series that glamourised teenage sex and drugs. When I casually asked my then 13-year-old daughter whether she knew about it, she rolled her eyes and went, “Duh!” She had known about it long before I did as all her classmates were watching it. That gave me an opening to talk about the values portrayed in pop culture. To engage our children in conversation, we need to enter their world—or at least to know what they are seeing and hearing, and what influences them. That may mean being familiar with social media and the latest online trends. What are the latest serials on Netflix? What are people talking about on Instagram? What songs are kids listening

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to on Spotify? Staying connected to our children’s world can help us connect with them, and help them view the world through biblical values as we converse with them.

3. Stay in Communication It can be awkward to sit our children down and start “The Big Talk” about sexuality out of the blue. Such conversations are likely to feel artificial and forced, and our children may not be ready to listen. I find it much easier to look out for “teachable moments”—incidents and situations in daily life that provide an opportunity to talk about a related issue. Children are more likely to listen and be engaged because their interest will be there. For example, news that a relative is pregnant can give you a chance to talk about how babies are made, or about sex within marriage. A news report about children being sexually abused offers a teachable moment to talk about private parts. Or, if your child sees condoms at the supermarket counter, you could explain what they are used for. Look out for “random” sharing, like, “My friend has a crush or a new girlfriend/boyfriend.” These innocuous statements give you an opening to talk about relationships and ask questions like, “What do you understand about having a boyfriend? What do you think your friends do with their date?” 34

HELP! HOW DO I TALK TO MY CHILD ABOUT LOVE, SEX, AND MARRIAGE


How we conduct these conversations is also important. It can be tempting to jump on the opportunity to deliver a lecture, but nothing turns a child off more! And avoid being judgmental if a child says something shocking, as that will only make him clam up. I’ve found the “GLAD” principle useful in communicating with my kids: G – Give your child your full attention. Drop whatever you’re doing and focus on the conversation. L – Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Watch for body language to see how your child is responding to the conversation. A – Ask questions. Find out what your child is thinking and try to understand things from a young person’s perspective. D – Don’t lecture! In addition to “GLAD”, I am also grateful for our Heavenly Father who is always present to help us. Prayer is an essential element when engaging children, and shooting up “arrow” prayers has always helped me in my time of need. In addition, I have found that praying with my children helps, especially when we find we do not have all the answers, or we are falling into an argument or impasse.

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4. Stay Consistent Role modelling is one of the most important lessons we can give our children, especially in how we relate to people of the opposite gender. Children are always watching us: if we do not act consistently with what we say or teach, we may become a stumbling block to them. But if we try to walk the talk, they will pick up on the lessons we want to impress on them. For example, if we want to teach purity, we shouldn’t be watching the wrong kind of TV shows at home. If we want to teach a boy to respect girls, the father will need to respect and honour women, especially his wife. In fact, the relationship between husband and wife is one of the most important living lessons on loving, respecting, and cherishing loved ones, as it offers children the best example of how marriage looks like as God intended it to be. It is also why both father and mother need to get involved in conversations about sexuality, with both sons and daughters. While some parents divide it up—mothers with daughters and fathers with sons—hearing from both mum and dad can give a child a healthy, balanced view of sexuality and relationships. Sons can learn from dads about respecting women, and from mums about how girls want to be honoured. And girls can learn from dads about how they can be cherished and respected. 36

HELP! HOW DO I TALK TO MY CHILD ABOUT LOVE, SEX, AND MARRIAGE


six

Conclusion

A

s Christian parents, we can make an important difference in our children’s emotional and spiritual growth by sharing the Bible’s spiritual plumblines with them. These will guide them for the rest of their lives—not just through puberty and the teenage years, but even to their adult lives and through marriage.

And we have God to help us. As He has given us this mission of imparting His commandments to our children, I believe He will give us the strength, wisdom, and discernment to do so. 37


That means we can lean on God and keep turning to Him for help to teach our children—His children. Ask Him to guide and lead you in this challenging endeavour. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the opportunities He will give you, and your heart to sense the prompting to talk to your children. And keep praying for your children, for God, who loves them more than we ever can, will answer our prayers for our children according to His good plans for them. I believe you will find in your joyous moments, and even in your moments of deepest challenges in parenting, that He is always there, only a prayer away.

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HELP! HOW DO I TALK TO MY CHILD ABOUT LOVE, SEX, AND MARRIAGE



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BIBLICAL WISDOM FOR PARENTS

Love, Sex, and Marriage Are you worried about the messages your child is absorbing from the media and pop culture that he or she is exposed to? Yet, at the same time, you feel inadequate and unsure of how to talk to your child about love, sex, and marriage from a biblical worldview? In this booklet, Dr Cheah Fung Fong offers a biblical and practical approach to starting conversations with our children about key issues like puberty, infatuation, love, marriage, and pornography. Cheah Fung Fong is a medical doctor and frequent speaker at Christian parenting workshops and conferences. A firm believer in faith formation in families, she is deeply involved in children’s ministries in the Methodist Church in Singapore and the D6 Family Ministry.

Help!

How Do I Talk to My Child About Love, Sex, and Marriage

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Cheah Fung Fong