Talking About Things That Matter: Having “The Talk” With Your Kids in the#MeToo Era

Talking About Things That Matter: Having “The Talk” With Your Kids in the#MeToo Era

What were you doing on October 5, 2017?
Honestly, I have no idea what I was up to. I had a 5-month old at the time, so I was somewhere on the scale of sleep-deprivation (not much has changed!), just trying to adjust to a new normal.
I do vaguely remember scrolling through social media feeds & stumbling across stories on the now famous Harvey Weinstein scandal. Famous women were lobbing accusations of sexual harassment and assault against the entertainment giant.
In the weeks that followed, accusations against Weinstein and other famous men began to pile up. And then – just a few days later – came actress Alyssa Milano’s infamous tweet:

If you’ve been sexually harrassed or assaulted, write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.

With that, the #metoo movement began. While activist Tarana Burke started the movement back in 2006, it was in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and celebrity backing that #metoo truly caught fire.
Since the fall of 2017, sexual assault and harrassment have been in the spotlight.

The Time’s Up! movement began to rally support and legal aid for sexual harrassment and assault victims – empowering them to take their cases public and pursue justice. Many of us will remember Oprah’s speech at the 2018 Golden Globes that brought people across the building (and the globe) to their feet.

According to a Vox article, more than 250 powerful and public figures have been accused of sexual misconduct, harassment or assault since the #metoo movement began. These accusations – many of them warranted – have left no sphere untouched. As a pastor, I am saddened at the amount of these accusations that have been lobbied against churches and pastors – enough, in fact, to start a #churchtoo movement amongst many as well.

While sexual harrassment and assault are nothing new, the spotlight that has been shone on them is. Women and men alike are saying “no” to a culture that has allowed these kinds of horrific behaviours to go unnoticed. Admittedly, I have followed this movement and the developments closely. As someone who has been an outspoken advocate of women’s empowerment, I believe this movement is important & has brought much darkness into the light.

Since becoming a mom though, my perspective has started to turn from out there to within the walls of my own home.
How do I parent my precious boy in this #metoo era? How do we talk about such big topics as sexual harrassment, assault and create a healthy, God-honouring view of sex in this messy culture which we live?

In conversations I’ve had with many other parents, the fears are the same. How do we protect our children? How do we talk to them about this? What is age-appropriate and what is not? How do we explain when someone WE “know” – whether personally or through a screen – is accused of sexual misconduct, harrassment or assault? What do these conversations look like in our world?

There are no easy answers. I believe the conversation about sex, safety and #metoo is one of the hardest but most important conversations we need to be having with our kids. While I’m far from an expert on this topic, let me share some thoughts on how to start this tough conversation.

Start the conversation early.

While in decades and years gone by, parents waited to have “the talk” with their kids until they were nearing puberty, I believe those days are long gone. Age-appropriate conversations need to start with our youngest children. While, of course, kids don’t need all the details that an older child or teen may require, even toddlers can be engaged in this conversation. Here are some important points I believe need to be covered:

  • Good touch/bad touch” – Help your kids understand that some parts of their body shouldn’t be touched by other people. This can start with toddlers, and get more detailed as kids grow older.
  • “It’s okay to say no!” – Some of you may remember a parenting expert drew all kinds of controversy last year when she said you should ask your child for consent before you change their diaper. While I do think this example is a bit extreme, I do think helping kids understand consent is important – especially in today’s world. Allowing your kids to say “no” to giving someone a hug, kiss, being tickled or sitting in someone’s lap – even as toddlers – helps them to understand that their body is THEIRS and they can say no to touch that makes them uncomfortable.
  • Understand your body!” – Helping your kids understand the proper names of their body parts, the difference in boys & girls, and privacy can start when they are very young. Avoiding shame and confusion about these parts of their body and ensuring your kids have true, accurate information is important.
  • You can tell me anything!” – Apart from sex, establish with your kids – as early as you can – that you are a safe person to talk to. They don’t need to hide things from you – even if it is something “wrong” or “bad.” Establishing a line of open communication with your kids on a regular basis means they will feel comfortable coming to you with questions, inappropriate behaviour, or (God forbid) if sexual misconduct ever happens to them.

Change the tone of the cultural conversation.

For a long time, we have lived in a world where sex has become a god. As #metoo conversations have escalated, conversations have also started happening about the hook-up culture, pornography and the objectification of women. Surely these things have contributed to the place we now are in culture – where sexual harassment and assault are commonplace. Think about it: 88% of scenes in popular pornography films portray verbal and physical aggression – typically towards a woman. Surely the rise of these kinds of images in our culture have some sort of role to play.

I’ll be the first to say – this kind of conversation is not as common when it comes to talking about #metoo. Many people would say that talking about pornography, the kinds of media we consume, hook-up culture and other ways sex are portrayed in our culture are completely unrelated. It’s seen as prudish and old-fashioned to connect the two.

I am convinced though, that if we truly want to tackle #metoo, we must change the conversation about sex at large in our culture. When we talk to our kids, we can’t just talk about sexual harrassment, but all the other things too. Our boys need to hear us talking about pornography and why it harms them, women, and intimacy. Our girls need to hear they are valuable and important – and they should never be objectified.

While these conversations are awkward and uncomfortable, we must have them. We can’t steer away. While it may be unpopular to take a stand against the way sex is portrayed and talked about in our culture, we need to do it.

So, become familiar with your own convictions. Do reading, spend time in prayer and dig deep into what you believe about pornography, the portrayal of sex in music, TV and movies, sex outside of marriage, and other topics. Know what you believe – and why. Frame the conversation with these beliefs – even if they are in conflict with what others may hold.

Use the Gospel as a framework.

I believe that the Gospel actually provides a beautiful framework for talking about sex in the #metoo world. As horrific as sexual harrassment and assault are, as Christians, we shouldn’t be surprised at the brokenness of our world. We are all broken people, infected by sin – and we do more broken things than we could ever imagine.

Having this framework for brokenness and sin gives us a framework to explain why things like sexual harrassment, rape and assault happen in our world. It doesn’t excuse them – but indeed, it does explain them.

Thankfully, the Gospel also gives us a bigger, beautiful story. Weaving the hope of Jesus through the conversations we have with our kids – even about sex – reminds us that there is nothing too horrible in our world that Jesus cannot redeem or restore it. It gives us a framework for the way things should be – the way the Bible outlines for us. It gives us a hope for the future – the brokenness, abuse and misconduct amidst other things – will one day all fade away in the presence of Jesus.

I think we do ourselves – and our kids – a disservice – when we leave the Gospel out of conversations like these. Allowing the Gospel to seep into every conversation we have and every parenting decision we make, helps us – and our kids – to understand why we view things the way we do.

There is so much more that could be said about this conversation, but I hope these points provide a starting point. This is one of the truly tough conversations, but I believe it is so important. Let’s not shy away from the things that are hard – but with prayer and preparation, dive in with our kids! They are too valuable and this topic is too important to shy away.

There is no way I could cover everything about  this topic in one post. Here are some of my favourite resources:

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