Did the title get your attention? Good.
You may not think it, but a significant and surprising number of elementary aged kids are dealing with issues that we tend to think of as ‘adult only’. The past week or so, one of the Children’s Ministry Leaders that I keep up with began a discussion on this topic that has gotten me thinking. After all, we don’t consider 8-10 year olds as being porn addicts, but from my own experience I can tell you that if you have a 8-10 year old boy, especially, and you think they aren’t learning anything about sexuality, then you aren’t paying attention.
Maybe it comes form school and the things they hear. Or perhaps it comes from the things they see on TV during ‘prime time’ while watching ‘family shows’. For me, it started in 2nd grade in the hallway hearing a joke. For one boy I ministered to at a previous church, he encountered porn by accident at a time when he was just becoming aware of himself…and got hooked at the ripe old age of 9.
This is a serious topic, and as leaders and as parents we should all take it seriously. Let me share a quote from another Ministry from Children’s Ministry Online.com. He writes:
- Well over half of all men fit the definition of a sex addict
- Nearly 70% of 18-24 year olds fit the definition of sex addict
- The largest user base of pornography are children between the ages of 12-17
- The average age of a persons first exposure is age 8
I think that most people would agree that pornography is significantly harmful and toxic. When studies show that 50% of men fit the definition of sex addict (primarily due to consumption of porn), that would be defined as a serious problem.
What’s even more significant is that this problem typically begins and takes root in the lives of children. The same children who are attending our elementary programs. Don’t think you can pick out which kids it is either. That kid who comes every Sunday, participates in worship as much or more than any other kid and seems to really be taking what you say to heart… yeah, that kid might be dealing with the beginnings of a porn addiction already.
This problem is real, and it has invaded the church. That’s nothing new, really. But we’re coming to a point where kids who are younger and younger are having sexual encounters and experiences while parents are blinded by the illusion of their child’s ‘innocents’.
It is important for ministry leaders like myself to be involved in the process by reassuring kids that God loves us no matter what. That even when we mess up, fall down, and do things that may not please Him, the Lord doesn’t toss us aside. Often that is how a child, or even a teenager, will feel. They get a sense of embarrassment and that they’ve done something dirty or wrong. They do everything they can to hide the issue because of that sense of guilt and shame.
My job, I strongly believe, is not to address the issue of sexuality with kids. I leave the purity series for the youth pastor. My job is to be there for the kids and help them to know God is there for them, too. But what about parents? Many times a parent doesn’t feel ready for this conversation with their child…and they often don’t address the issues and emotions behind the physical actions when they do have “the Talk”.
May I suggest that you not have “the Talk” with your children?
That’s right. Don’t sit down in one awkward setting, describe the way babies are made, and then walk away feeling absolved of responsibility. Talk repeatedly with your kids. Relational parenting is the best kind of parenting because it is involved and proactive. It doesn’t matter the subject, you should be involved in a consistent conversation with your kids. That way they know you are there for them, you care, and you can be trusted.
If you don’t show interest in the simple, small, insignificant things in your child’s life, how can you reasonably expect that when they wonder or are curious about something they saw or heard…or when they get themselves into something over their head…that they’ll want to talk to you about it? That is a core problem: Kids don’t want to talk to their parents about things often because they don’t believe the parents care or are interested in anything but being in control. While that certainly isn’t the case, actions speak louder than words.
If you only step into situations to correct or discipline your child, or for the occasional “how was your day” then you aren’t building a vital, lasting relationship or bond of trust. And don’t be afraid to talk openly with your child about things. Pose a question or a subject, then let them ask questions of you. Lead the discussion by making observations that will enable them to open up and talk about the things they may be having a hard time processing inside. After all, most 10 year olds may act like they’ve got it all together, but they don’t understand much about being in a relationship!
I have kids tell me all the time that they are going out with this boy or that girl. these are 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders… I always ask them where they went out to. Usually this stops them cold, and they I say something like ‘it’s not really going out if you talk to them in class. You have to actually GO OUT!’ That’s just a simple way that I’ve learned to begin conversations with the kids in my ministry about the sensitive subject of relationships and the changes they may be starting to experience.
Tomorrow I am going to share a very candid post about how to discuss the topic of sex with your child, as it is an important discussion that shouldn’t happen in the locker room, in the bus, or through viewing a TV show…but should happen in the home. So get your thinking caps on from this session…and lets get ready!