Warning Your Kids About the DangersAugust 31, 2011
So you've told your kids sex is a wonderful thing. But have you told them of the dangers? Mary Flo Ridley is the author of Simple Truths, a book and video series designed to give parents a plan for shaping their children's sexual character.
So you've told your kids sex is a wonderful thing. But have you told them of the dangers? Mary Flo Ridley is the author of Simple Truths, a book and video series designed to give parents a plan for shaping their children's sexual character.
Warning Your Kids About the Dangers
Bob: Okay, I’ve got three questions for you. First, do you have children and how old are they? Second, have you had “the talk” with them? And third, if you haven’t, why not? Mary Flo Ridley joins us todayto encourage moms and dads to start the conversation early.
Mary Flo: If you have the kind of family in which this topic can be approached, I’m not telling parents “Let’s talk about it all the time.” I just say let’s start the conversation early so that it’s not such a bear of a subject and one that can only be talked about in hushed tones--or not at all!
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today® for Wednesday, August 31st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.
Today we’re going to have some coaching for moms and dads about how you have a conversation over and over again with your children on what can be a very delicate subject. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You probably heard the story about the little boy who came home from school and came up to his mom and said, “Mom, where did I come from?” And the mother wondered where did this question come from, why is he asking? She got all nervous. She thought, “Okay, I guess this is the time.” And she sat him down…
Dennis: Pulled all the charts out and had the full anatomy discussion…
Bob: Sat him down and had the entire conversation. She was sweating.
Dennis: Got it!
Bob: He was nodding…
Dennis: Got the picture!
Bob: Finally, at the end of it, she goes, “So do you understand?” And he said, “I think I understand. But Johnny, in my class, he came from Toledo and I wanted to know where I came from.”
Mom had kind of answered the wrong question there, gone into a little more details than she needed to.
Dennis: Well, I think it points out our need as parents to answer age-appropriate questions with age-appropriate answers. And we have someone to guide us in that. Mary Flo Ridley joins us on FamilyLife Today. Mary Flo, welcome back.
Mary Flo: Thank you so much.
Dennis: She has created, really, a tool for parents. This would make a great tool to get for a handful of moms and dads to watch together. It’s called Simple Truths, a Simple Natural Approach to Discussing Sex with Your Children and Where They Came From.
Mary Flo, what I wanted to ask you about was just the age in which we’re alive today, the issue of preparing your children for what they’re going to face, really, beginning at earlier and earlier ages, but especially at adolescence, is really life threatening.
I ran across some of the latest statistics about sexually transmitted diseases. By age twenty-four over one third of American women will contract HPV, human papillomavirus. The number of high school students graduating with a sexually transmitted disease is one in four.
Mary Flo: Exactly.
Dennis: I mean, the issues today we really have a sober assignment to prepare them to know how to handle their sex drive because they’re going to face it in increasingly tempting ways. It used to be they were only tempted to have sex with the opposite sex. We now have the temptation to have sex with the same sex. What do you do to prepare your adolescent for what he or she will face as a teenager?
Mary Flo: Obviously, I like to let parents know that they have to start a lot earlier, that the main things is they start very young so they can get a lot of information to their children. But this is obviously going somewhere and where this is going is preparing to launch them into adulthood, which are those adolescent years.
Obviously FamilyLife has a wonderful product, Passport to Purity®. I also tell parents to go away about a year before the onset of puberty so that they can really capture this time and launch them well. We talk about how they can formulate a timeline, which is a long sheet of paper with like eighty-eight lines on it, to discuss their life. Maybe talk about these first twelve years. Run the highlight film. What has it been like? What have you learned? Who are the important people you have met?
Bob: So you’d take a long straight line and put eight-eight tick mark along the line, one of those representing a year and say to your child, “If you live a full life, here’s what it looks like.”
Mary Flo: Yes. And actually what we found was fascinating was we just talked about their life so far. For our children this was about age twelve. And then we moved past the adolescent years and said, “Let’s talk about the rest of your life. If you life was a movie, what roles would you play?” And help them dream the dream.
Do they want to get married? Their education? What their talents are or how they think that will play out? When do you think you’ll have children? Just sort of dream the dream with them.
But then go back and highlight. We highlighted from about thirteen to twenty-one. We said, “Now this is the next stage of your life. Between where you are now and where you want to be is what we call adolescence.”
Bob: And you’d actually take a yellow highlighter and color than in?
Mary Flo: That’s exactly right. We would say, “That is the next step in your life. You’ve gone through a lot of changes in your life. I remember when you went from being a baby to a toddler and from a toddler to a child. You don’t remember going through those times, but I do.
But the next step you’re about to go through, you’re going to be aware of it. So let me first of all tell you physically how this is going to impact you. Then we’re going to talk about emotionally how this is going to change, how some of the risks that are going to present themselves to you.”
We tried to do that in a really positive way, just like you do, and let them know that we trust this is going to be a good experience for them. But they will have challenges and that they are going to know people who are going to get into alcohol and drugs and sex. They are not going to be able to have those children they want to have or they’re not going to be able to get the education they want to have because they are going to have to take care of a child. Or they are going to have some deep regrets to the last day of their life because maybe they got their friend drunk and they had a car accident.
So there are things that we will say “no” to during those adolescent years but that’s because we’re remembering their dreams. We’re remembering the things they want to accomplish later on. So maybe that trip to Cancun is not going to happen when you’re a senior. When you’re a senior and you hear that there’s going to be a boy-girl sleepover after a prom and we say no, it’s not because we don’t want you to be with your friends. It’s because we’re remembering that there are a lot of things that are challenging in adolescence.
Dennis: And tempting. As parents all you’re trying to do is provide really, God’s perspective of sex, but also put their lives in context. You know, when you’re twelve, thirteen, fourteen years of age, you really have the sense of which you’re immortal.
Mary Flo: Yes.
Dennis: You don’t have any sense of doing anything dangerous where you could die. But today because of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV, AIDS, these are real issues that are in the culture today at increasing numbers. As parents, if we don’t prepare our children to move through this dangerous phase, then the culture could seduce them and it cost them their lives.
Mary Flo: It could. It could. And I don’t know why that is being suppressed in the culture, all of the dangerous things that our children are contracting.
Dennis: Well, it’s not just a matter of being suppressed. It’s promoted.
Mary Flo: But I’m saying the consequences…
Dennis: But that’s the point. The consequences of having sex on all of the TV shows there aren’t any of them talking about what happens when you become an unwed, pregnant mom.
Mary Flo: Right. I’ve tried to help parents think about television that their children see, the same way they think about food. Is this healthy? Is this junk? Or is this poison? And, we let our children have a little junk food every now and then. But we can’t live on a steady diet of it. We also never let them consume poison. Some of the things that are on TV are sending a message that’s very poisonous to our children. We really have to be the grownup in the room and decide this isn’t good for them.
Dennis: Alright, you’ve outlined here kind of what kind of health foods you want for your children concerning sex. Let’s take some of the hot topics.
Mary Flo: Alrighty.
Dennis: How did you handle the issue of modesty with your daughters? I mean, one of the times I wanted to personally find someone else to be the daddy was at prom. I mean, finding a prom dress that wasn’t a gownless evening strap was impossible! You know what I mean?
Mary Flo: They make it hard. They make it very difficult.
Dennis: So how did you handle that?
Mary Flo: Well, first of all we went through a few years where I would bring the dresses home. I would say, “You are too busy with volleyball and cross country and all you have to do…”
Dennis: You sold them that! Really?
Mary Flo: It didn’t last long but it latest a while. So I would bring home five or six things and say, “Let’s try these on!” and that worked for a while.
Dennis: Did they like the turtleneck look?
Mary Flo: And then they learned to drive. But, really, we sort of had laid it down pretty early that, “We have to pay for it so we have to feel good about it. You have to wear it so you have to feel good about it. So we need to find something we all feel good about.”
Dennis: That’s easier said than done.
Mary Flo: It is very much easier said than done.
Dennis: And you live in Dallas.
Mary Flo: We live in Dallas.
Bob: There are a lot of stores in Dallas.
Dennis: Lot of stores. And a lot of pressure.
Mary Flo: A lot of pressure, and at such an early age. It’s hard to find anything that you feel good about buying.
Bob: Let me ask you about other sexual behaviors because, as your kids get into the teen years, there are going to be subjects in their peer group that, as a parent, as you’ve been talking about where babies come from, this kind of stuff didn’t come up.
Did you introduce these subjects prior to your children hearing about them at school or did you wait until they came home and said, “Mom, what’s this?” Because they might not ever ask you about that.
Mary Flo: That’s right. Even as young as third grade I remember being on a field trip with my son and a little boy was saying, “This is so gay.” I guess that was the term that they were using, really just to say, “That’s so uncool.”
Bob: Uncool. Right.
Mary Flo: Exactly. So it was then repeated in our house and I said, “You know, I really need you to not use that word in that way. That word has several meanings.”
Once again I tell parents go back to answer these difficult questions, go back to what is it that you do want your children to know about and then fill the subject in. You have to go back and say, “What do I hope is in their mind about this and how can I start to help them think about it?”
Sometimes it would come up because I would think it needed to be brought up. Sometimes they would ask. Of course, every family has the child that will never ask anything. And for that one you have to be very sensitive. They just don’t really want to talk about these things. You have to find subtle ways to say, “Do you understand this?” or “I’ll talk as quickly as I can but I want you to have my voice on this subject.”
Bob: I’m just curious. Your children are grown up now, right?
Mary Flo: That’s right.
Bob: But during the time they were in there teen years you were the mom who was going around to all the other high schools telling parents how to teach their kids about sex?
Mary Flo: (laughing) Yes, I was.
Dennis: I bet you were real popular!
Mary Flo: Not really.
Bob: How did that go over at home? What did your kids think then and what do they say about it now?
Mary Flo: Well, thankfully they are all about it now. They think it is a good thing and they think it was a good thing and they’re—
Dennis: Well of course. One of them’s had a baby!
Mary Flo: Exactly. I guess I taught them well. But there were years that I decided I was not going to teach this class in our own school district because my daughter came home with a flyer with a disgruntled look on her face and it said, “Really, Mom?” And my face and my name were all over the flyer that she was supposed to bring home.
People would walk up in the grocery store and say, “Now, aren’t you that sex lady?” I’d say, “Do you not see my children standing here? Do you really want to call me that?” So I sort of actually started giving this in other school districts or in other cities. They tolerated it.
Bob: But today…
Mary Flo: Today they are proud of me, I would say. Aren’t you, kids? Speak up!
Bob: You know, Mary Flo, we’ve got some folks who are listening who, they don’t have three year olds at home. They’ve got thirteen year olds and they’re hearing this and they go, “You know, I never had the talk because I was nervous and now I don’t know what’s going on with my kids. I hope nothing is going on. I don’t’ think there is anything going on. We pray there is nothing going on.
But if I tried to have the talk now… What do I do? I wish I’d started when they were three. I didn’t. They’re thirteen or they’re fifteen. Is there still hope for me.?”
Mary Flo: Absolutely. That is exactly what they need to say to their children. W hat you just said, to say, “Sweetheart, you are thirteen years old. When you were six you asked me about babies and I shied away from the question. But over the next couple of months I want to retrace a few of those things with you. I know some of it will sound a little bit babyish and some of it you already know. But I missed an opportunity that I want to go back and recapture in some way.”
So you have to find the way to relate to them. You can say-- You can apologize. “I’m sorry that I didn’t cover some of this when I had the chance.” You can also start with the question, “Have you ever wondered?” Or “I was hoping you would ask and you never asked. And so now I’ve turned around and you’re thirteen years old and there are some things that I never got to explain to you that I’d like to be sure that I get to explain to you.”
Bob: And the thirteen year old who says back to you, “Oh, Mom. Please. I don’t want to talk about this, please.”
Mary Flo: I know. You have to be creative sometimes. You do. You have to be creative. You can say, “Okay. You go in your room. I’ll sit in the door on the other side of the door.” Sometimes you have to say, “I tell you what. You go in your room and got on your cell phone. I’ll call you and tell you all these things I want to tell you. I know you don’t want to be in the room with me when I’m saying these things.”
So you just have to say, “This is something I need to do as a parent. I need to know that you’ve heard my voice on this. I have a few things I need to tell you and I know you don’t want to hear it. I know you think you know everything and maybe you do. But I just want to be sure you’ve heard it this way from me.”
Dennis: Every generation is going to have its unique challenges. I mean, this generation right now, sexting, hooking up, casual sex with no consequences. Would you encourage parents of a fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year old to engage their children even before they go away to college? To talk to them about hooking up, what it means to just have sex with no relationship?
Mary Flo: Yes, I would definitely confront them on that. I would talk about the transition that they are going to go through. You’re going from a house where you have a living room or a den or someplace that’s appropriate to meet and now you’re going to have a dorm room and you’re going to have boys down the hall or girls down the hall. This is going to be a completely different environment.
How are you preparing yourself to face that? Give them a few hints. Tell them to leave the door open. Give them a few suggestions for how they can cope with this.
Dennis: You know, I want to comment on that because, as believers in Christ, we are forgiven because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. I think as we approach this subject with our kids we want to rescue them from perhaps mistakes we made growing up and we so want to protect them. We don’t want them to make any of those mistakes.
And yet when they fall they need to know that you, as a parent, are safe and that the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is a God in heaven who reached out of heaven and beyond eternity. He pierced humanity and came and lived a life of perfection and then became the sacrificial lamb and paid the price for our sins, for what we couldn’t pay and He offers forgiveness for every possible sin we can make.
I think as we talk to our children about the standard and about protecting your body, as they cross the line or, if they cross the line, we need to let them know that there is one who loves perfectly. As a parent, we want to exhibit His kind of love for them, and forgiveness. They need to feel free to come to us if they ever fail, to be able to talk about that failure and let’s work it through. Not give the enemy a foothold in an area of their lives.
Mary Flo: I could not agree more, Dennis. I will say that is one of the strongest arguments I make to parents for starting early. Because if you have the kind of family in which this topic can be approached I’m not telling parents let’s talk about it all the time. I just say let’s start the conversation early so that it’s not such a bear of a subject and one that can only be talked about in hushed tones or not at all.
It’s easier to extend that grace to your children and it’s easier for them to come to you with those things if they know you know what they’re talking about. So it’s starting the relationship, is I think the key here.
I think there are a lot of other resources out there for helping parents with teenagers. My focus is helping parents of young children get stared and also parents of pre-teens to maybe go back and circle back over some of the things that they’ve missed, if they haven’t started young. But I think the beauty of starting young is that if they do trip up and fall or if they do make mistakes, you’re there for them and they know you are. That’s key.
Dennis: I think you’ve done a good job of really incorporating both relationships and truth. It really is about teaching boundaries and what God’s Word says about sexual immorality. But the way you teach that it through the relationship you’ve built with your child. In fact, Mary Flo, I actually came to the conclusion after going through this with all six of our kids, who didn’t do it perfectly by the way, and we didn’t do it perfectly either, in terms of our education…
Mary Flo: We didn’t either.
Dennis: …of them. But I was convinced that a key component of my relationship with my sons and yes, even with my daughters, was the component of being able to have had multiple conversations around the most intimate of all interactions between a man and a woman, sex. And having breached that sacred, mystical things called sex, and we talked about it. If we can talk about that, we can talk about anything.
Mary Flo: That is a fact. That’s right. I like the way you said that. You breached that chasm because it is such a big subject. But just making a few conversations, just making yourself available, is key.
Dennis: I sure appreciate you and the ministry you have through this resource, Simple Truths, and also through the ministry you’re associated with, “Just Say Yes.”
Mary Flo: Just Say Yes. It’s a wonderful non–profit in Dallas and the “YES” stands for Youth Equipped to Succeed. They are wonderful group that helps parents and students and teachers really learn how to give healthy choices to children, help them to choose healthy choices.
Bob: And we’ve got a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com for folks who want to find out more about Just Say Yes and about your blog and about other resources that are available.
Dennis: And Mary Flo, I appreciate you. Stand firm. You may be a reluctant prophet but you’re a good prophet. I appreciate you.
Mary Flo: Thank you so much for having me.
Bob: Once again, let me point our listeners to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information about the curriculum that you’ve put together and for information about the organization that you’re working with, Just Say Yes. Again, go to FamilyLife Today.com.
There’s also information available there about our Passport to Purity weekend, the resource that we’ve put together to help parents have a weekend where you talk about peer pressure and dating and all kinds of subjects. Not just the birds and the bees, but really helping get your son or daughter ready for adolescence. Find out more about Passport to Purity online at FamilyLifeToday.com as well. Or if it’s easier, call us at 1-800FLToday, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word TODAY.
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And we want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow. Paul and Robin Pennington are going to join us and we’re going to talk about what God is doing to stir the heart of his church when it comes to the needs of orphans. We’ll have that conversation tomorrow. I hope you can be here for it.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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