This is part 4 of our Mormon Channel blog series, Family Conversations, where we discuss the content in that video series about how to teach your children about healthy sexual intimacy and gender identity. The videos are hosted by licensed marriage and family therapists Dr. Ben Erwin, Dr. Jill Manning, and Dr. Jason Carroll.
Teaching Them Young
Teaching children about sexual intimacy is something that should be started early on in their lives. Dr. Jill Manning says that it is best to tailor the information that we give children to their age and level of understanding. She suggests that when children are as young as two, parents should have conversations with them about physical boundaries and what appropriate and inappropriate bodily touch is, as well as who is allowed to touch their bodies so that they can be aware of and prevent abuse. When children get a few years older, Dr. Manning recommends that parents teach their children more complex topics, such as the difference between boys and girls and why their gender matters so much.
Teaching Them Often
Dr. Carroll goes on to recommend that talking about sexuality and our bodies is a continual series of conversations we need to have with our children as they are growing up. This is so important, Dr. Carroll says, because our gender and sexual intimacy in marriage is so intertwined with the purposes of the gospel and is part of our divine identity as children of God. He suggests that in order to foster trust when talking about these issues, parents need to get away from the “big talk” mindset. These conversations don’t need to be formal or dramatic, but casual and comfortable in an informal setting.
Preparing for the Future
All of these conversations will help better prepare your children to have healthy sexual intimacy in marriage. Dr. Manning suggests that when children understand that satisfying intimacy comes from truly knowing, understanding, and loving your partner, they will be more likely to seek that out for themselves. Young single adults often need help developing their social and conversational skills. Good communication and problem-solving skills are often key to healthy sexual intimacy and marriage. One way of acquiring and honing these skills is through premarital social interactions with family and friends. Dr. Manning also says that it can be easy to get caught up in all of the things you can’t do physically while you are dating, but it is important to focus on what you can do to get to know and trust the person you are dating, within the context of the gospel standards.
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