“As parents and caretakers, if we’re not talking to our kids about sex, we’re the only ones not talking to our kids about sex” – Shafia Zaloom
On Tuesday 27 June, a small group braved the cold and the dark to gather in the Cathedral and hear from Emma Argall, high school teacher and mum of 3, speak to us from Anglican Deaconess Ministries in Sydney on the topic of Essential Conversations with Kids and Teens.
Emma shared with us her research and wisdom on relationship, sex and consent education in an increasingly complex and all-encompassing online world – and how to have healthy gospel centred conversations with children and teenagers which will help build trust and understanding, as well as equipping them to navigate their course through what can be some pretty tricky waters.
Some of the statistics and scenarios discussed were pretty confronting. As Christians, we want children and young people to grow up with an age-appropriate understanding of sex as a good gift from God, designed with a purpose. Our desire is for all people to view themselves and others as image bearers of the Lord, intimately known and deeply loved by our Creator. We take great care in our safe ministry practices and our efforts to create communities where children and young people can grow up safe from harm and abuse. It can be distressing to acknowledge the extent to which sexually explicit, objectifying or degrading content permeates our society and the impact of that. We might worry that talking about the distortion and misuse of sex will be upsetting for kids and teens… or perhaps sex simply feels too personal, complex or awkward to talk about openly.
It was reassuring to hear Emma remind us that it’s pretty common for parents and carers to feel overwhelmed knowing how to share our values about sex as a good gift from God while maintaining that it’s only to be used in its right context. And it was encouraging to learn that doing this is not a matter of One Big Conversation We Must Get Right Or Else, but is a long term process of chats and decisions and growth in trust and love and grace, which hopefully is consistent with the broader work parents and carers already do as we build strong relationships with our kids day by day.
Emma’s talk covered a lot of ground, but here are three practical suggestions for parents and carers who are raising their kids to know and love Jesus, and are wondering where to start:
- Work out our own hang-ups, preconceived ideas, and attitudes about sex, pornography, consent and online behaviour. We won’t be able to engage well with our young people on these topics if we don’t properly understand how we think and feel about them ourselves.
- Banish the idea of “the talk”. We need to be having lots of little, age-appropriate conversations with our kids, regularly, and cultivating a relationship of trust and respect in which they feel they can talk to us about anything.
- Remember that these conversations are gospel opportunities. Talking with kids about sex is part of a bigger picture of our values and our knowledge about who we are and who God is. It’s also a chance to remind our kids – and ourselves – that God’s grace is big enough to cover us no matter how many times we’ve failed. And that like our heavenly Father, we will love them and be there for them, no matter what.
Nicole Jameson | 5pm congregation
How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk | Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
Teen Sex By The Book | Patricia Weerakoon
Talking Sex By The Book | Patricia Weerakoon
The Puberty Book (6th Edition) | Wendy Darvill & Kelsey Powell
She Deserves Better: Raising Girls to Resist Toxic Teachings on Sex, Self, and Speaking Up | Sheila Wray Gregoire
Episode 85: Better Sex | With All Due Respect, Michael Jensen & Megan Powell du Toit