Middle school kids are seeing more and learning more about human sexuality than we ever did when we were their age. Because they will be bombarded with a worldview from so many different directions, parents cannot afford to sit by and then play catch up later. We have to set the pace and deal with issues long before our kids face them.
In our ministry of equipping parents to help their kids make wise choices about sex and relationships, we like to use the concept of “navigating.” Just as a rafting guide helps people to navigate the hazards that are always part of a whitewater adventure, a parent’s job is to help their kids to successfully get through the many relational and sexual challenges that every person will encounter.
Helping parents to do that job right is the reason that I wrote The Talks. Many kids are well into their adolescent years before their parents communicate anything substantive about their sexuality and the struggles they might face. Plenty more parents avoid these talks altogether.
When it comes to these issues, parents of middle school kids should see their role as one of “trainer.” You want to equip your kids with the skills they will need get through the coming years when their sexuality becomes a more pronounced part of their lives. To stay with the whitewater rafting illustration, a guide has to train his rafters on how to get down the river without getting seriously hurt. If they are going to enjoy the journey, it is up to the guide to equip them with what they will need.
With that in mind, this list should probably be titled something a little more broad, such as “What Every Middle Schooler Needs to Know About Their Bodies, Their Sexuality, and the Opposite Sex.”
Note that this list and this blog presume that God created sex and that He gives us parameters to enjoy it to the fullest. This includes saving it for marriage. That said, if you assume that our kids are going to have sex as teens and that parents should prepare them for that realty, then you are probably reading the wrong blog. Your list will probably look different than mine. Yes, many kids WILL have sex before marriage. And yes, I am thankful that God’s grace is the remedy for all of our shortcomings. But for parents who want to help their kids to navigate the rapids with as few bumps and bruises as possible, we should look to God’s standard and diligently strive to help them prepare for a life of sexual purity.
This is not an exhaustive list. And it shouldn’t serve as a legalistic checklist. But by the time he or she finishes the 8th grade, your child should be able to have some awareness of the following:
2. I am learning to interact with the opposite sex in ways that are honoring to them. I can tell that I have a tendency to be selfish in my relationships, so I am striving to put others first.
3. While I may not be dating yet, my parents have trained me to look for what I like and value in members of the opposite sex. I’m learning to look for qualities that I might one day value in a spouse.
4. Marriage is a commitment for life. I am learning that our culturally accepted practice of cohabitation has the power to undermine long-term relationships.
5. Boys: My parents have briefed me on what a wet dream is and why it happens. I know that it is perfectly normal and that it happens to every single boy on the planet.
6. Girls: As my body develops physically, I am learning to dress in a way that doesn’t advertise it to others. I value my beauty, but I want boys to know and appreciate me for more than just what I look like.
7. Instead of trying to find the right person to “like” me, I know it is more important for me to become the right person. As I grow in maturity, I will be better able to recognize the person that I need to be with.
8. I know that looking at pornography has significant power to mess me up. It is addictive, harms real intimacy with others, and trains me to have a selfish view of sex. My parents are diligently monitoring my technology and reminding me to make wise choices to make sure that I do not get ensnared by it.
9. If and when I start using social media, my parents will set some limits on its use, making sure that I don’t give too much of my heart away emotionally with the opposite sex.
10. If someone wants to “date” me, my parents should be involved in the process. They care about me enough to know who I am interested in.
11. My parents will occasionally lock the door to their bedroom and tell me to go away. What could that mean? I don’t want to think about it.
What else would you add to this list? Feel free to comment below.
*Pick any topic related to sex and dating: if you faced it in high school growing up, your kids are probably facing it in middle school. That's why we wrote The Talk(s): A Parent's Guide to Critical Conversations About Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables. It will walk you step by step through some of the topics that your kids wish you would bring up. It is on sale at Amazon at a discounted price.
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