My plan was to have ‘the talk’ with each of my boys the summer before their freshman year of high school. I assumed that would be the best time because they would be more mature and possibly exposed to the topic of sex because of the older kids. WRONG!
Walking through Kohl’s one day, my then 6th grader son asked me what a queef was and if I watched porn! I remember feeling light headed in the middle of the aisle, my eyes hazy, my insides burning and my teeth chattering as I was stuttering over what to say. In the midst of my panic attack, I replied that we’d talk about it when we got home. (Of course after I Googled what the hell a queef was!)
My husband and I found out later that a boy on the bus had showed them porn on his phone. Fueled with anger, disgust and outrage, my husband calmly explained what sex is and that ultimately they were too young to even be thinking or talking about it. I, on the other hand, kept screaming, “Why didn’t you get up and move to another seat?” “Did you tell the bus driver or teacher?” “Stay away from that gross little boy!!”
Fast forward, 7th grade- The boys got a phone and I guess that was permission for “let the sexting begin!” First it was relatively innocent, a few girls poolside wearing bikinis, no big deal. Then one of them decided to send a topless picture. My son showed it to me and I literally choked on my spit. I snatched his phone and replied to her “don’t send me this kind of crap again!” Then I took everybody’s phone, erased everything and hid them!
Months later after feeling like I overreacted because essentially they had not done anything wrong, I gave the phones back with an outrageously long list of rules. Much to my dismay not more than a week later, another girl sent pictures of herself completely nude to almost the entire football team, my boys included! So with the most uncomfortable feeling you can imagine, my husband & I decided to have a “serious-be completely truthful-no you won’t get in trouble-Mom will try to be calm” conversation with the boys about everything!! But we were too late. Their exposure level was: DANGEROUS, EXTREMELY TOXIC!
I contacted the school they were attending at the time, who was well aware of the “sexting” issue and was actually holding an assembly with police officers and counselors to discuss the dangers and consequences of it. (I was slightly relieved…at least we’re all on the same page.)
Did the assembly work? Did they reach those students? If only it were that simple!! Weeks later I ran into another parent who told me about how her son and several of his friends had received an explicit video of girls “experimenting” with each other. She decided he wasn’t ever getting his phone back! While I agreed with her and wanted to hide my boys’ cellphones again, hell turn off the cable, never listen to the radio, and keep them locked in their room until they’re 30, I realized that’s not really the answer. I can’t always be there to protect and shield them from everything that I don’t agree with.
I have been beyond naïve in my thinking as it relates to this generation and sex. Maybe I’ve just been living in a marshmallow world where I envisioned everything perfectly sweet and good. Trust me when I say it’s far from that. I don’t care how awesome your neighborhood is, how excellent your school district is or how great your child’s friends are… this is happening everywhere! I have talked to a lot of Moms, of all ages, race and religion and we have all experienced some level of our children being exposed to child pornography. I mean we can say ‘sexting,’ ‘explicit videos’ and ‘inappropriate images,’ but when you really sit back and think about it, it’s child porn! We are talking about CHILDREN, ages 10-16, seeing other children completely nude, and some even engaging in sexual acts.
I mentor a lot of middle & high school students and it’s really heartbreaking to hear them talk about the peer pressure they face as it relates to sex. Not understanding what to do when they see kids having oral sex on the bus (yes you read that right, they are doing this!), then joking about how oral sex isn’t really sex and then thinking it’s no big deal to, not just have sex, but to videotape it to share.
It’s like how can I drill it into them and expect them to listen, when every time they watch TV or log on social media, its overkill of SEX SEX SEX on every show, every channel. Their friends, culture and society are all saying it’s ok to have sex now, as much as you can, with whoever you want, as young as you are…and here I am shouting against the mass, NO IT’S NOT! My husband & I are still figuring it out, but so far this is what I’ve learned that may help you as it relates to your child.
Start the conversation early! If my boys were exposed to porn in 6th grade, I suggest you test the waters in 5th grade! (Lord knows I fear for my daughter’s generation, she’s only in 2nd grade!) Basically get ahead of the conversation and be the one to talk to them about it before their friends do. I’m not saying have a full blown discussion about sex, but just get a feel for what their friends are doing and get “the talk” started. This will allow you to have total control about the importance of abstinence, the value of healthy relationships, what your expectations are and what theirs should be. (This will also save you from having a severe panic attack in the store!)
Be Approachable. I used to cringe whenever my boys would tell me stuff. It wasn’t until my husband told me that they interpreted it as I didn’t care or didn’t want to hear about it, that I became mindful of my body language. So take it from me, hold your emotions in check (even when your heart is beating out of your chest). Don’t judge (in other words don’t call the other kids stupid or perverts!), resist the urge to react like a mad woman and try not to shout when getting your point across. (I have failed this on several occasions, but I’m getting better!)
Set Boundaries. My boys phones have to be off at 8pm on school nights (it used to be 7pm but they thought I was too strict!) and 10pm on weekends. I try to say yes a little bit more when they ask to attend co-ed activities & parties. Even though this sounds like the complete opposite of what I should be doing, I’m realizing they are gaining more confidence and security within themselves when I give in a little. I don’t encourage dating at all, but rather group activities, that way I can minimize the one-on-one interaction. But before they can do anything or go anywhere, I remind them of my expectations and what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Help Them Keep Their Focus. I used to think if I kept my boys busy with school activities and sports then they wouldn’t have time to think about sex, girls and all that. While that’s true, you’d be amaze at how much free time they seem to have. Use everything as a teachable moment and have real, honest conversations with them about not getting “caught up” and how much they have at stake. Every time I see one of my boys with their faces glued to the phone, TV or computer, I shout, “is what you’re looking at helping or hindering you? Shouldn’t be outside running routes or dribbling? Don’t you have Chemistry notes to review?” (They hate it, but I know it’s sinking in!)
Speak Up. I tell my boys if someone’s talking about something inappropriate or showing you something, don’t just go along with it. YOU BE THE EXAMPLE, you tell them that ain’t cool. They might tease you back and say you’re a “square” (or whatever the latest slang word is!) but who cares? I encourage them to flip it back on that kid, and say, “naw man, that’s jacked up, you’re the stupid one for thinking it’s cool!”
PRAYER! My husband gives the boys weekly scriptures to read and we pray for our children daily. In every discussion we have about sex (or really anything else) I always follow it up with a scripture. Kids today are so overwhelmed with temptations that we have to remind them of who they are in Christ. (Lord knows I’m already praying about their college life!)
It is impossible to filter the whole world and everything they do. Yes, I can set passwords for certain TV channels, filter out the Rated R movies, and get security lock on the Internet, but that’s exhausting. (I know because I did that, then I forgot all the freaking passwords to unlock everything!) But how can I learn to trust my boys if I’m that overbearing. I want to teach them self-control and self-worth. While I will admit I’m winning because my boys are doing the right thing, this is an everyday conversation and IT. IS. HARD!
Ephesians 5: 3-4 (TLB): Let there be no sex sin, impurity or greed among you. Let no one be able to accuse you of any such things. Dirty stories, foul talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, remind each other of God’s goodness, and be thankful.