Parents—Safeguard Your Children!
IN A Nigerian secondary school, a girl who was notorious for sexual immorality was fond of lecturing fellow female students on matters of sex. One of her prescriptions for abortion was stout beer heavily drugged with a tobacco substance. Her stories, which she culled from pornographic literature, enthralled many of her fellow students. Some began to experiment with sex, and one of them became pregnant. To induce an abortion, she drank the stout/tobacco concoction. Within a few hours, she began to vomit blood. A few days later, she died in the hospital.
In today’s world, many youths speak unceasingly about sex, bringing ruin to credulous listeners. To whom should youngsters turn to find accurate knowledge that will safeguard them? How fine it is when they can look to their godly parents, who have the responsibility to raise them in “the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”—Ephesians 6:4.
African Attitudes Toward Sex Education
Throughout the world, many parents find it difficult to discuss with their children matters of sex. This is particularly true in Africa. Observed Donald, a father in Sierra Leone: “It’s almost never done. It’s not a part of African culture to do so.” A Nigerian woman named Confident agrees: “My parents see sex as something never to be mentioned openly; it’s culturally taboo.”
In some African cultures, it is considered obscene to mention such sex-related words as penis, semen, or menstruation. One Christian mother even forbade her daughter to use the word “sex,” though she said the daughter could use the word “fornication.” In contrast, God’s Word the Bible speaks with frankness about sex and the sexual organs. (Genesis 17:11; 18:11; 30:16, 17; Leviticus 15:2) The purpose of this is not to shock or excite but to protect and instruct God’s people.—2 Timothy 3:16.
Aside from cultural taboos, another reason why some parents hold back was expressed by a Nigerian father: “If I discuss sex with my children, it could stimulate them to commit sexual immorality.” But does dignified, Bible-based information about sex encourage children to rush out and experiment? No, it does not. In fact, it may well be that the less knowledge youngsters have, the more likely they are to get into trouble. “Wisdom [based on accurate knowledge] is for a protection,” states the Bible.—Ecclesiastes 7:12.
In Jesus’ illustration, a discreet man, foreseeing the possibility of future storms, built his house on a rock mass while a foolish man built on sand and suffered disaster. (Matthew 7:24-27) Similarly, discreet Christian parents, knowing that their children will face stormlike pressures to conform to the world’s loose sexual standards, fortify their children with the accurate knowledge and understanding that will help them to remain firm.
An additional reason why many parents do not discuss sex with their children was stated by an African woman: “When I was a youth, my Witness parents did not discuss sex matters with me, so it hasn’t come to my mind to discuss these things with my children.” However, the pressures are greater on today’s young people than they were on young people 10 or 20 years ago. This is not surprising. God’s Word foretold that “in the last days . . . , wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse, misleading and being misled.”—2 Timothy 3:1, 13.
Adding to the problem is the fact that many children are reluctant or unable to confide in their parents. Two-way communication often is poor on even trivial matters. Lamented a 19-year-old youth: “I do not discuss things with my parents. There is not good communication between me and my father. He does not pay attention.”
Youngsters may also fear that inquiries about sexual matters will bring bad consequences. A 16-year-old girl said: “I do not discuss sex problems with my parents because of the way they react to such things. Some time ago my senior sister asked Mum some questions relating to sex. Instead of Mum helping her with her problem, she became suspicious of her intentions. Often Mum would call me and inquire about my sister, at times making insinuations about her morals. I don’t want to risk losing Mum’s love for me, so I keep my problems away from her.”
Instructing our children to an adequate extent in sexual matters is not merely the right thing to do but the kind thing to do. If parents do not teach their children about sex, others will—usually sooner than parents anticipate and almost never in accord with godly principles. A 13-year-old girl committed fornication because she was told by a schoolmate that if she did not lose her virginity, she would suffer terrible pain in the future. “They will cut your hymen with scissors,” she was told. When asked later why she did not tell her Christian mother what she had heard, the girl replied that such matters were never discussed with adults.
Said a Nigerian girl: “My school friends tried to convince me that sex was something that all normal human beings must take part in. They told me that if I did not take part in sex now, when I reached 21 years of age, I would start to experience a sickness that would have a disastrous impact on my womanhood. Hence, in order to avert such terrible danger, they said, it was good to experience sexual relations before marriage.”
Having had good communication with her parents, she immediately recognized a conflict with what she had learned at home. “As usual, I went back home and told my mother what they had told me at school.” Her mother was able to counter the false information.—Compare Proverbs 14:15.
By imparting the knowledge needed to help children attain godly wisdom in matters of sex, parents equip them to discern dangerous situations and to recognize people who wish to exploit them. It helps to protect them against the heartache of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. It contributes to their self-respect and the respect they earn from others. It frees them from misconceptions and anxiety. It fosters a healthy, positive attitude toward proper sex, contributing to happiness if they later marry. It can help them to maintain an approved standing with God. And as children see the loving concern shown to them, it can move them to respect and love their parents all the more.
In order for parents to tailor counsel to the needs of their children, there must be two-way communication. Unless parents know what is in their children’s minds and hearts, even sound counsel may be of little benefit, much as if a doctor tried to prescribe medicine without knowing the nature of the patient’s illness. To be effective counselors, parents must know what their children really think and feel. They need to understand the pressures and problems their children are facing and the questions that are troubling them. It is important to listen carefully to children, to be “swift about hearing, slow about speaking.”—James 1:19; Proverbs 12:18; Ecclesiastes 7:8.
It takes time, patience, and effort for parents to cultivate and maintain a close relationship with their children, a relationship in which children feel free to lay bare their innermost feelings. But how beautiful it is when this is achieved! Says a West African father of five: “I am both a father and a confidant. The children discuss freely with me all subjects, including sex. Even the girls confide in me. We take time to discuss their problems. They also share their joys with me.”
Bola, one of his daughters, says: “I do not keep any secret from my father. Father is considerate and empathetic. He doesn’t bully us or treat us harshly, even when we have done wrong. Instead of flaring up, he will analyze the matter and show us what we should do or what we should not have done. He often refers to the Youth book and the Family Happiness book.”*
When possible, it is good for parents to start talking to their children about sex when the children are quite young. This lays the basis for ongoing discussions through the often difficult teenage years. When discussions are not started early, it is sometimes awkward to introduce them later on, but it can be done. Said one mother of five: “I forced myself to talk about it until finally I was no longer uncomfortable, nor was the child.” With so much at stake, such efforts are surely worthwhile.
Protected and Happy
Children appreciate parents who lovingly equip them with the knowledge that will safeguard them. Consider the comments by some African Witnesses of Jehovah:
Said Mojisola at age 24: “I will always remain grateful to my mother. She gave me the needed education on sex at the right time. Though I felt embarrassed when she was discussing those matters long ago, now I see the good things my mother did for me.”
Added Iniobong: “I am always happy when I look back and think of what Mum has done for me by giving me adequate training on sex. It has been a very vital aid in piloting me into womanhood. I vow to do the same for my future children.”
Nineteen-year-old Kunle said: “My parents have helped me to withstand pressures from worldly women for free sex. If it wasn’t for the training they gave me, I would have fallen into sin. I will always appreciate what they did.”
Christiana said: “I derive lots of benefits from having a dialogue with my mother regarding sex. I have been protected from deadly diseases and unwanted pregnancy, and I have been able to set a good example for my younger brothers and sisters to follow. I have also gained respect from people, and my future husband will respect me too. More important, I have a good relationship with Jehovah God for keeping his commandment.”
Bola, mentioned earlier, said: “I had a classmate who said that sex is to be enjoyed without any commitment to marriage. To her, it was fun. However, she found it was no fun when she got pregnant and could not write the school certificate examination with us. If I did not have a good father to guide me, perhaps I could have been like her, learning the hard way.”
What a blessing when Christian parents help their children become “wise for salvation” in this sex-mad world! (2 Timothy 3:15) Their Bible-based instruction is like a precious necklace that adorns and beautifies children in the eyes of God. (Proverbs 1:8, 9) Children feel secure, and parents enjoy deep satisfaction. Said an African father who always strives to keep the lines of communication open with his youngsters: “We have peace of mind. We are confident that our children know what is pleasing to Jehovah; they cannot be misled by outsiders. We are confident that they will not do things that will bring pain to the family. I thank Jehovah that they have justified our confidence.”
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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Christian youths who receive Bible-based information from parents can reject distorted tales that other youths tell