talking to your kids about sex

cute little girls running on beach

When I was a kid, I asked my dad to teach me how to swim. He said no because he didn’t do it correctly himself. He didn’t want screw up and teach me the wrong way to swim. I eventually taught myself. To this day, I am uncomfortable in deep water because I’m not a strong swimmer and I do not trust myself not to drown.

I totally understand where my dad was coming from. I am very comfortable talking about sex and sexuality with my clients. Yet, talking to MY KIDS about sexuality (and doing it well) TERRIFIES me. I didn’t do it all right myself, and it’s such a big deal. I get it.

I see all the hurtful, painful possibilities of distorted intimacy and sexuality regularly, and I want to protect my kids from that. It makes this task feel bigger and more complicated than is helpful. That’s where my anxiety comes in, the fear of MESSING UP something so important. If you are anything like me, I urge you not to let the fear of messing it up keep you from saying anything. We CAN do hard things. We are in this together, friends. There is grace in this. Believe me, we need a healthy measure of grace when it comes to sexuality because I’m not sure any of us on this green earth have figured it all out yet.

A few things to remember: This is hard, but you can do it. You MUST do it. They will learn about sex somewhere; let their first messages be true (and from you!) so they have a better filter for all the distorted messages they’ll get later. Keep it simple at first. Think about the big picture and what you want for your kids as they grow up. Then, be intentional about giving them the best possible foundation for those dreams you have for them. Utilize teachable moments, and keep it an open dialogue. The sex talk should not be a “one and done” kind of thing. It should be an ongoing conversation. Positive messages are more powerful than fear-based ones.

Here are some benchmarks to help you (and me). I gathered the following information from a book called, “How and When to Tell your Kids about Sex” by Stan and Brenna Jones. I put it into an outline to make it easy for you and I’ve added some of my own insight, as well.

My Big Picture:

For our kids to become healthy adults who can have deep and meaningful relationships, where they both respect themselves and others. To enjoy having emotionally, spiritually, and sexually intimate marriages. To know and feel that sex is good and for them to enjoy.

Infancy through Kindergarten (0-5ish years):

  • Teaching the goodness of our sexuality.
    • Our kids are sexual beings. Use correct names for body parts, normalizing erections (It feels good, God made men that way), noticing differences in male and female parts, God made all our parts and they are good.
      • Ladies especially, be mindful of the way you talk about and interact with your own body. Your parts were made by God and they are good, friend. A little girl I babysat helped me remember this important truth. She pointed out that my boobs were very big. I agreed and (unfortunately) told her that I didn’t like them for that very reason. She didn’t miss a beat, “Why?” she said, “That’s how God made you.” Mic drop, you guys. I got schooled by a 5 year old.
    • Sexual curiosity.
      • Curiosity is normal. It’s ok to look at and touch their own body parts (in private) and to ask questions. Explain things truthfully, but basically/broadly. Kids are usually not looking for in-depth explanations at this age.
      • Remember:
        • God’s gift is good.
        • God’s gift is private.
        • Curiosity is good.
        • Set clear boundaries and expectations. You could say something like, “But even though it’s a fine thing to be curious, I don’t want you to show your penis (or vagina, privates) to other kids. And I don’t want you to ask to see theirs. If you keep those parts of you private and special, it will help you to always feel that God made you in an especially wonderful way.” (p.83, 84)
        • Know that self-stimulation and touching is unlikely to become a problem if you do not overreact. Remind your kid’s about privacy if they are doing it around others. (p.85-87).
      • Abuse prevention (p.94-97).
        • 3 important Rules:
  1.  Your body is private. “No one has the right to look or touch your privates unless it’s mommy or daddy when we bathe you, or the doctor (and mommy or daddy are there).”
  2. Do not keep secrets. “If anyone ever asks you to keep a secret from us and says that we will be mad at you if you tell, please know that is a lie. We will never be mad at you for telling, we will be so proud of you for doing the right thing in telling us.”
  3. Trust your feelings. “Your body belongs to you. We will trust you, and we want you to trust your own feelings if you feel confused or uncomfortable about the way someone looks at or touches you.”
  • Skills:
    • Recognize danger. Teach them to pay attention to their feelings and if something feels uncomfortable or confusing, to tell you.
    • Be assertive.
      • “No” means “no”, “stop” means “stop”. During tickling and play, these words are to be respected immediately.
      • Do not make your kids hug or kiss anyone, including you. Asking for a hug or kiss is ok, but they are allowed to refuse.
      • Teach your kids to expect that their wishes regarding touch will be respected immediately by you, and should be respected by everyone. This will help them identify more easily when something “doesn’t feel right” and to be more aware of the problem when someone doesn’t do this. This will also aid them in understanding reciprocity and their right to refuse, as they get older.
  • Supportive Environment
    • Stand behind your children (if they don’t want to hug, etc)
    • Reinforce the three critical rules (your body is private, we don’t keep secrets, pay attention to your feelings)
    • Be aware of your child’s world (have a sense of the kids and parents and caregivers in their lives. Pay attention, and do not ignore any feelings you have, either)

Next steps: Sit down with your spouse and talk about the big picture you both have for your kids. Then, review this together and discuss it. Begin telling your kids these things in every day moments (during bath time, when they ask a question, dinner time, before going to the park or visiting family, etc).

My next post will be on the big messages we give our pre-puberty (6-11ish) age kids, then puberty age (12-18ish) kids. After that, I’ll post about what to do and how to respond if abuse is revealed. If you can’t wait, check out the book, “How and When to Tell you Kids about Sex”. It’s not a perfect book, but it has a lot of good and helpful information.

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self-loathing

It’s something I see and hear all too often in sessions. It doesn’t matter if you are a teenager or a grown adult, self-hatred can be very dangerous. I’m not just talking about physically dangerous (aka self harm or suicide) either, although that is a very real problem too.

But today, I’m focusing the non-physical damage self-loathing does. It prevents forgiveness, it worsens depression, and it hinders intimacy. It leads to a lowered self-worth, which can lead to risky and promiscuous behaviors, substance abuse, and destructive relationships. It can cause you to NOT believe you are who God says you are. Or in God at all. A person who struggles with self-hatred may believe they are not worthy of good, healthy, loving relationships. They may believe are not lovable at all. Many don’t believe that they deserve forgiveness, redemption, or salvation.

I can relate. I just hope you’ll begin to understand that withholding forgiveness from yourself is just as much of a sin as withholding it from others. Forgiveness is the cancelation of debt. If this is a struggle for you, I ask that you please stop punishing yourself and begin the process of acceptance and forgiveness.

Some comfort and wisdom from the May 9th entry in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. I can bring good even out of your mistakes. Your finite mind tends to look backwards, longing to undo decisions you have come to regret. This is a waste of time and energy, leading only to frustration. Instead of floundering in the past, release your mistakes to Me. Look to Me in trust, anticipating that My infinite creativity can weave both good choices and bad into a lovely design. Because you are human, you will continue to make mistakes. Thinking that you should live an error-free life is symptomatic of pride. Your failures can be a source of blessing, humbling you and giving you empathy for other people in their weaknesses (AMEN.) Best of all, failure highlights your dependence on Me (amen again!). I am able to bring beauty out of the morass of your mistakes (amen x3!). Trust Me, and watch to see what I can do.”

And, last but certainly not least: please read this beautiful love letter. It was written for you.

30 Year Goals

I just stumbled upon my 30 year goals. I wrote these in October of 2008 while in grad school.  My professor suggested writing them in the present tense, which I thought was a great idea. It was nice to see I haven’t lost sight of these goals and I’m on my way! Before I share my goals, I wanted to suggest that you do the same. I want you to live your life purposefully in the direction of your dreams, but first…you must identify those dreams. Only then will you able to walk toward them intentionally. I’d love to see what you come up with. Feel free to share your lists, friends!

Ok, here’s mine (and, tempted as I am to tweak them, I didn’t! these are exactly as I wrote them 4 years ago):

1. I work out three times a week

2. I floss daily

3. I smile often

4. I am happily married to my lover and best friend

5. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

6. I am a Certified Sex Therapist

7. I am a Certified MFT Supervisor

8. I write journal articles

9. I write books

10. I teach at seminars, workshops, conferences, and churches

11. I am a good mother of 2 or 3 children

12. I am a grandmother who spoils her grandchildren!

13. I have traveled the world: tasted different cultural cuisines and enjoyed cultural differences

14. I am a loving friend to a few life-long girlfriends and my sister

15. I do not give up easily- I give people and things my best effort

16. I like the way I look

17. I celebrate my femininity and sexuality

18. I attend and participate in church regularly

19. I volunteer

20. I tithe

21. I donate money to charity

22. I save money

23. I speak Spanish

24.  I am a caring and present granddaughter, daughter, wife, sister, niece, mother, aunt, grandmother

25. I forgive those who hurt me and I seek forgiveness

26. I trust in the Lord to provide me with my “daily bread”

peace

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I’ve recently been turned on to a new blog called, “Hands Free Mama.”  The creator, Rachel realized it was time to go “hands free” because her addiction to her phone/email/to-do lists/overcommitted life was robbing her of experiencing life.

She describes her mission better than I can: “I’m going Hands Free. I want to make memories, not to-do-lists. I want to feel the squeeze of my daughter’s arms, not the pressure of over-commitment. I want to get lost in conversation with my spouse, not consumed by a sea of unimportant emails. I want to be overwhelmed by sunsets that give me hope, not by extracurricular commitments that steal my joy. I want the noise of my life to be a mixture of laughter and gratitude, not the intrusive buzz of cell phones and text messages. I am letting go of distraction, disconnection, and perfection to live a life that simply, so very simply, consists of what really matters. I’m going Hands Free. And if this sounds like a life you want to start living, come along. A Hands Free revolution starts here! I hope you will join me!”

Sounds good to me! I’ve had similar worries and thoughts, so I gladly signed up to receive an email when she posts something new. Usually her posts are tearjerkers, but always an important reminder to focus on what really matters. And so… in honor of the Christmas season, I charge you, dear reader, to let of go your phone, step away from your computers and make memories. I know you can’t walk away completely, but I hope you’ll at least set up a “no technology time/zone.” Let’s learn to embrace imperfection, enjoy our friends and family, and allow ourselves the time to enjoy a good book or conversation. To really watch our children, to enter their worlds, to see life the way they do…taking joy in the little things, in moments. To listen, laugh, and play knowing that this is time we will never get back. Let’s not waste it anymore. Start today.

Wishing you and yours a peaceful and lovely Christmas season,

Lauren

sexual communication

Talking about sex can be difficult. There are many reasons for this, but mostly I think the reasons lie somewhere in between the opposing messages of religion and culture. Religion, because of the church’s relative silence (or the message that sex is “bad”) and culture’s abuse and misuse of sex and sexuality. The idea that sex has to be illicit to be good and that sex is “just” physical.  We bring these confusing and distorted messages with us into marriage.  And, thinking that marriage would solve them; we often feel disappointed. Unsatisfied. Like there is more that we are missing.

So, in an effort to increase passion, some folks resort to adding “illicit” stuff into the mix. From watching pornography together to inviting other people into their bedrooms…it works for a little while. But by temporarily increasing passion in this way, they find themselves further from true intimacy than ever. Further from what they really craved in the first place. Connection. Being known.

I am pretty good with words. But sex is something that I have a hard time describing accurately. It is sacred. And while the Lord has redeemed it for me in so many ways, I still struggle to remember the Truth sometimes. And so, that’s why I’m going to share with you someone else’s words, I hope you find them as powerful as I do:

“Sexual union is first and foremost a means of communication. We communicate powerful messages to each other and the Lord when we join ourselves sexually. It is our most intimate form of communication, enabling us to say things about our spiritual oneness that words cannot.

The word intercourse conveys this notion of communication. It is not exclusively a sexual term but simply means ‘to have an exchange or communing between persons.’ Couples must ensure that the messages of their verbal intercourse and their relational intercourse line up with the messages of their sexual intercourse. If they are communicating love throughout the day in the ways they serve, honor, and cherish each other, then the joining of their bodies in lovemaking bears testimony to that love. If, however, they are communicating anger, hatred, criticism, neglect, or disdain, the statement of their sexual union becomes a lie. With their bodies they are saying, ‘I love you so much that I want to have every part of you and to give you every part of me’; but they have communicated something entirely different throughout the day.”

(From the book, “When Two Become One” by Christopher and Rachel McCluskey).

I know I’ve barely scratched the surface. But the main message I’m hoping to get across is this: Sex is Sacred. It makes me sad to think about how often we exchange this beauty for something false or incomplete. Physical intimacy should be an extension of the emotional and spiritual intimacy you share with your spouse. My hope is that you will one day be able to experience sex the way I think we were made to: to feel safe enough and loved enough to bring more than just your body into lovemaking, but your soul and mind as well.

intimacy in marriage

How would you define intimacy in marriage? Friendship? Connection? Spiritual closeness? Sex? All true. All good things. And yet…I think I can define it simply.

Intimacy is knowing.

A facebook friend posted a comment recently that made me smile. She was bragging on her husband for buying her lavender and vanilla scented trashbags. She went on to say that it may not seem like a big deal, but that he knows her. And it feels good to be known.

Ah yes, it feels good to be known.

Sadly, I would argue that this seems to be one of the fundamental things missing from so many marriages. Couples barely like each other, let alone take the time to know one another.

What turns her on? Makes him laugh? What is stressing him out right now? Who are her best friends? How does she act when she’s nervous? Lonely? Hungry? What was his childhood like? Her biggest fear?How often do we take the time to enter each other’s worlds? To really know each other with our bodies? To really see each other? How often do we say the words, “what can I do to help?”

Unfortunately, many men and women don’t experience this kind of intimacy in marriage.

So then we begin to withhold our love from each other. We don’t offer because we feel we aren’t receiving. Our unmet needs and hurt feelings leave us violated, sad, and vulnerable to more pain. So we use anger as a defense to protect ourselves.

Anger can take many forms: impatience, a quick temper, depression, jealousy, or suspicion. Or passive aggressive forms: procrastination, silence, sarcasm, or avoidance. Our unmet needs make us feel fearful and rejected. The fear can take several forms: perfectionism, control and addictions (from the book, Intimate Encounters).

“What’s on the inside is what comes out when we’re squeezed.” – Dave Lewis

Steps toward healing and greater intimacy:

  1. Accept responsibility for your part in causing the hurts as well as your part in the healing.
  2. Show understanding. Your partner feels hurt. Do you care?
  3. Confess and repent. If you are a Christian this means agreeing with God. What does God say about being selfish, critical, dishonest, disrespectful, etc.?
  4. Talk to each other! Reconnect. Seek to know each other. This often requires making sacrifices to have time together, taking time to check in, and being honest about your feelings.

Ultimately, healthy couples will fight. They will get their feelings hurt. They will take out frustration on each other. I believe that a couple is in a good place when they can give each other the benefit of the doubt and seek to build each other up. I want couples to be in a relationship that is safe enough for both partners to feel free enough to be “naked and unashamed.”

So that they can be known, because it feels good to be known.

grateful thursday!

because doing this on Monday wasn’t an option… and somehow, it’s already Thursday! As usual, I am overly blessed and happy to focus on that instead of all the things that stress me out!

First of all, I’m grateful for all the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. I appreciate our country and the freedom and opportunities that can be so easily taken for granted.

Caleb’s first time at the big pool! He loved it!

Amy’s Bachelorette Party! Grateful for this group of women and how we worked together to make it fun!

No bachelorette party is complete until the pimp cups are used! Got the flutes from Party City and the stickers from JoAnn’s…happy sipping!

Best burger and potato salad ever! Yes, that is an english muffin instead of a bun…highly recommend!