It often seems like we, as parents in a modern world, have two choices. We can . . .
a. shelter our children from the world, safeguarding their innocence, and protecting them from knowledge and experiences that might be confusing or damaging to them
or . . .
b. expose our children to the world, giving them a lens through which to view challenging situations, and the tools they will need to cope with the world in which they live.
Of course, either method has its detractors. The anti-a folks love to tell you about their cousin’s niece’s kids who were homeschooled and didn’t watch TV and how they all went off to college and got pregnant and tattoos. And the anti-b folks want you to know that kids who watch PG-13 movies and listen to pop music are quite likely to end up in jail and on drugs.
So . . . what’s a parent to do?
Well, for this parent at least, the answer has been both-and to a. and b. and thanks-but-no-thanks to the doomsday prophesy-types on either side.
I want to BOTH safeguard the innocence of my children AND prepare them for the real world. Both.
The way we do it is twofold. First, we respect the age-appropriateness of certain influences and activities. Second, as our kids mature, we help them to process and understand a more grown-up world by sharing influences and activities with them.
It’s often hard to put a particular age on anything, but a wise man once advised me to shelter my kids as much as possible until age ten, and that by that point, they will have internalized OUR family culture to an extent that they are able to hold on to our values in a world that champions a very different way of life. It’s been working so far.
So when questions come up about particular books or video games or
movies, we make age-appropriate, family-culture-based
decisions. In our family, we are comfortable exposing our kids to some
scariness and violence, when the story has a clear message and we agree
with that message. So, even our toddler has seen some of the Star Wars and Harry
Potter movies. But we’re more careful about
language and (even jokey, maybe ESPECIALLY jokey) sexual content, and “bad boy” heroes. So only
our twelve year old has seen Guardians of the Galaxy, because even
though I (and he) really liked it, I think it sends a confusing message
about right and wrong that is best interpreted by older kids with help
from their parents. Also I really don’t want my six year old cranking “the bird” up at people.
We use the same system to judge real life issues as well. So, when my four year old asks me a question about where babies come from, she’s going to get a different answer than my twelve year old would if he asked the same question. But they’re both going to get a real, truthful answer.
I found it very helpful to read The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality by the Pontifical Council for the Family, here’s paragraph 4. of section VI. Learning Stages:
4. Parents should provide this information with great delicacy, but clearly and at the appropriate time. Parents are well aware that their children must be treated in a personalized way, according to the personal conditions of their physiological and psychological development, and taking into due consideration the cultural environment of life and the adolescent’s daily experience. In order to evaluate properly what they should say to each child, it is very important that parents first of all seek light from the Lord in prayer and that they discuss this together so that their words will be neither too explicit nor too vague. Giving too many details to children is counterproductive. But delaying the first information for too long is imprudent, because every human person has natural curiosity in this regard and, sooner or later, everyone begins to ask themselves questions, especially in cultures where too much can be seen, even in public.
The whole thing is worth reading.
So, do we shelter our kids? You bet we do. Do we guide their interpretation of pop-culture and give them the tools they need to rightly judge the world around them? Also yes.
And that brings me to the related topic I wanted to tell you about today . . .
I am really honored to be the very first guest on the This Inspired Life Podcast, hosted by Kristin Sanders of the blog Healthy, Happy Home. Kristen is a great interviewer and asked some really thought provoking questions. I just listened to it all the way through, and despite being weirded out by listening to my own voice, I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.
We discuss what I was like as a kid, my personal faith journey, and how traveling in Europe and one big leap of faith I took with my husband have slowly pulled me along in the general direction of Heaven. THEN we get to the good stuff. Kristin and I talk about everything you’ve been too scared to ask about sex and kids. You get to hear how my method of naming body parts is inspired by Harry Potter. Yep. You read that right. And how we handle kids touching themselves. And when and how we have The Talk, and that we mostly try to make that not all that necessary.