How do parents

   - approach Teaching

   - Human Sexuality

   - to Teenagers

   - as Christians?

By Andrew Dumas

At school yesterday, we had a speaker come to discuss the ethics of sex and sexuality for couples. He engaged us through stories, firsthand accounts from people in his life, and a series of research and statistics. Some parts were funny, others serious. His main message was to wait until marriage to have sex. However, he reinforced the idea that one's value is not diminished by being sexually active outside of marriage. His argument was that life works better when we wait. I took about 8 pages of notes.

That night, at my family table with my three kids, I shared many of his ideas. I read the notes aloud and tried to explain what each part meant. As a parent, I felt it important to engage my children in a conversation about the ethics of sex and sexuality. However, I noticed one of my sons left the table very quickly. He disagreed with me sharing, especially with one of my younger sons present. Reflecting on what I had said, I realized it came across as too theoretical. Something was missing both from the talk and how I presented the information. It was as if I was telling my son what to think, not guiding him to form his own views. I realized the way I spoke, as a parent to my teenage son, did not work.

In our secular culture, there is often tension when addressing questions about human sexuality. Questions such as 'Should couples have sex before marriage?' or 'Should couples use contraception?' often arise. Secular culture typically prioritizes the individual and their decisions. Similarly, Christian ethics emphasize the primacy of conscience—the inner sense that helps us decide right from wrong. The individual is important, however, Christianity and most religions do not see wisdom as solely emanating from the individual.

When Jesus was frequently confronted with questions from various groups, such as the Pharisees or Sadducees, he often responded with a question. This method allowed the conversation to delve deeper. Thus, providing finite answers could limit the conversation, whereas posing questions helps individuals move beyond superficial responses by owning what is explored.

Before we address ethical or moral questions, Christians and people of other faiths face some ontological questions first. Ontological inquiries explore notions such as 'What is the nature of being human?' or 'What is the nature of existence?' They often involve discussions about the fundamental categories of being and their relationships. These questions are frequently used in philosophy, theology, and various academic discussions about existence and reality.

The ontological question that Jesus poses to Peter is 'Do you love me?' By asking Peter this question three times, Jesus is not only reaffirming Peter's commitment after his previous denials but also probing the core of Peter's identity and his relationship with God. This question forces Peter to confront and affirm who he is in relation to Jesus, which is a fundamental aspect of his being. Jesus' question also challenges Peter to reflect on his commitment and purpose. Love, in this context, is not merely an emotion but a defining existential choice that impacts Peter's actions and his future role as a leader in the early Christian community. The act of loving Jesus defines Peter’s existence and his path forward.

When parents and teachers approach teaching human sexuality, we should not start with what is right or wrong—the ethics. Instead, we need to delve deeper into the notion of love. Questions such as 'Do we love God?', 'Do we love our children?', 'Do we care about those in our care?', and 'Do we spend time getting to know the other?' require answers that are not merely superficial or black and white. They cannot be answered just with theory or intellect. They require us to give something of our own personal being as parents, teachers, or mentors. This love, which can form throughout our lives, opens us up to the possibility of faith. Faith seeks understanding, not by providing answers before questions are asked by children, but by enabling others to explore what it means to be a human person founded on love. Realize that this is not merely human love, but God’s love. We become instruments of God’s love. Instruments of God’s mercy. This realization creates a sense of hope that transforms how we see and view things.

Only after we have developed a sense of God’s love, and faith, can we begin to explore questions of human sexuality. At this point, it is no longer a secular view of the individual as the source and summit of life, but rather, we discover that the source and summit of Christian life is the love we have for God. This is exactly what the term 'Eucharist' means—'God’s Love.' “Do we allow God’s love into our hearts?” “Do we seek God’s love?” “Do we wish to taste the love of God?” “How do we taste the love of God?” “Do we seek God?”

Like Peter, Jesus asks us “Do you love me?” If the answer is “no”, we have other ontological questions to ask and explore first, before we can more fully explore questions of human sexuality second.

When children and students feel a sense of care and love from their parents, teachers or mentors, when they gain a sense of God’s love, they can then in a mature sense more fully explore questions around human sexuality. Why is this important? Because we are dealing with the most intimate part of what it means to be a human.

In conclusion, I think parents should play an active part in teaching their children about sex and sexuality. But, as a parent, we often feel uncomfortable about this and try to avoid the conversation. When we realize this topic is important, we bombard them with facts. But this can come across at a surface level or very shallow. Rather, it is very important we spend time with our children. This may put us out. We may feel like this is a waste of time. But spending time with our children in their space doing their things is critical. Only then can we develop a rapport that actively builds trust and relationship. Sex and sexuality is a very intimate topic. It requires connection and a level of care which provides a sense of love. Love which shapes their identity. This love which we share is not our love, but God’s love.

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23 May 2024

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Human Sexuality

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Parents Corner

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Andrew Dumas

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