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Protect and Heal Children
How To Teach Your Kids About Healthy Sexuality

Sheri Christensen breaks down the importance of, and how to, talk to your children about healthy sexuality - and offers even more information in her book.

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Protect and Heal Children

“It’s my belief that schools and governments and other institutions can do really wonderful things to prevent this crisis, and to help children, but I see parents and families as the place where the rubber hits the road. Parents just have this really unique responsibility and opportunity to educate their children on what healthy sexuality is, and what it looks like.”

Sherie Adams Christensen, author of My Body is a Gift from God: Introducing Conversations to Safeguard Children

Betrayal victims often wonder how to equip their children with the tools to understand their bodies in a healthy way.

Talking about healthy sexuality may feel overwhelming for women who have been victims of marital rape, sexual coercion, or sexual betrayal (whether physical or virtual).

On The BTR.ORG Podcast, Sherie Adams Christensen, author and presenter, shares how to have healthy conversations with children about sexuality. 

Teaching Healthy Sexuality Includes a Strong Value System: Your Value System

When teaching children about healthy sexuality, parents must not only teach the basic truths of sex and sexuality, but delve deeper into personal and family morals and values.

“A lot of books about healthy sexuality that are out there are written from the author’s point of view, their own beliefs. I happen to think my beliefs are pretty awesome, but they’re not your beliefs, as a parent. Some of them might be, but they’re not yours.

It’s so important for parents to be giving their own values to their children.”

Sherie Adams Christensen, author

As children and teens understand both the blueprints of healthy sexuality and the moral and values-driven components of intimacy, respect, compassion, and safety, they will be better equipped to protect themselves and treat others in healthy ways.

Creating a Safe Environment For Children and Teens to Talk Openly is Key

Encouraging children and teens to talk, ask questions, and openly discuss sexuality, pornography, their own bodies, and anything else that may be sensitive or embarrassing, is essential to teaching healthy sexuality.

Anne shares the following story about her son’s openness:

“My son, who’s eight, came home and said, “Mom, one of my friends told me that he was able to search for naked women on YouTube, and then he told me not to tell anyone.” He said, “I know that that is a signal that I need to tell someone, so here I am telling you, and I feel really uncomfortable around him now.”

It was just awesome for him to be able to have that conversation, he knew what words to use, because we’d talked about pornography. He knew that looking up naked pictures meant pornography.

The depth of his understanding, and the way that he could talk about it, was only due to the fact that we talk about it all the time. He wouldn’t have had all those words or that ability to express his feelings about what had happened, if it were not a layered, and ongoing conversation in our home.”

Anne Blythe, founder of BTR.ORG

BTR.ORG Is Here For You

At BTR, we know how difficult it is to even get out of bed some mornings, let alone educate your children and teens on healthy sexuality. This topic alone can be very triggering for women who have been abused and betrayed.

Consider attending a BTR.ORG Group Session to receive the support you deserve today. 

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:01):
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. 

Sheri Adams Christensen is with us today. We’re going to talk about how to protect our children. You told me a little bit about your book and then you sent it to me and I have actually used it with my children. Can you tell our audience what the book is called, what it’s about, and what prompted you to write your book?

Sheri (01:43):
So the book is called My Body is a Gift From God, introducing Conversations to Safeguard Children. The book is about teaching your children about healthy sexuality from very young ages to help protect them and sort of preempt the barrage of unhealthy sexual messages they’re going to get throughout their lives. As you mentioned in the introduction, I’ve worked with sex addicts and especially their spouses and loved ones for over a decade. I love that work so much, but it’s also really heartbreaking to see all the damage that’s caused by sexual addiction.

Then you couple that with the alarming rise of sexual addiction in general and the lowering age of exposure to sexual materials, and we have what is now being referred to as a public health crisis. It’s my belief that schools and governments and other institutions can do really wonderful things to prevent this crisis and to help children, but I see parents and families as the place where the rubber hits the road.

A “Unique Responsibility and Opportunity” 

(02:52):
Parents just have this really unique responsibility and opportunity to educate their children on what healthy is and what it looks like. But when I started presenting 10 years ago, there was almost nothing available to really help parents and everywhere I was presenting, parents were literally asking if they could record what I was saying because it sounded possible.

Sometimes we get in these mindsets that healthy sexuality is a difficult topic, a scary topic to talk about. We don’t know how to do it in age appropriate ways. It just feels scary. They said, I just want to record your voice. I could do that. I just thought, well, I think we need a book. We need to get information out there to people so that they can do it themselves.

Anne (03:38):
Yeah, it is a very big concern for our audience because they know the effects of sexual addiction and they really want to help their children avoid it. So what makes your book different than the other books available?

An “Invitation to Further Conversations” 

Sheri (03:53):
This book’s about teaching healthy sexuality in general. It is not about teaching your child about pornography or sexual abuse or body image. It covers all of that. The title says it’s about introducing conversations to safeguard your children. So each page is literally an invitation to further conversations either initiated by the parent or the child. You can have thousands of conversations based off the contents of this book.

That’s very intentional. It’s written to be general and to open the door for all these kinds of conversations to get that process started because that’s what we need to do. We just need to be talking all the time. This book is written to open that door to have conversations about what’s going on in the child’s life, what the parent is noticing.

Anne (04:48):
The old school way was like, okay, plan this special date. Take your child to a special place and then tell them how beautiful sex is and don’t really talk about pornography. If they understand how beautiful sex is, then they’ll just avoid it naturally, or I don’t know. It was just this weird way of doing it rather than being like, we talk about sex anytime, right? We talk about our bodies or how we’re feeling at any time while we’re going to school, while we are at dinner. There’s not this overriding feeling at our home that we can only talk about certain subjects at certain times.

A Complete Shift

Sheri (05:29):
Absolutely. Or not talk about them at all. Right. I think very few parents even got the Let’s go to a special place and only talk about it one time ever. It’s definitely a complete shift and the reason why is because we have a complete shift in the way that our society has access to and views these kinds of things.

Anne (05:53):
That being said, I think if people would’ve talked about sex often and in layered and ongoing ways, we wouldn’t have a generation of porn addicts now, even though people say we have to talk about it all the time now because teenagers have porn in their pocket on their cell phones. I still think it would’ve been beneficial for people to be talking about sexuality in the fifties, healthy sexuality, or even in the 18 hundreds.

It would’ve been healthy from the beginning of time for people to be able to talk about healthy sexuality, but I bet in 4,000 BC they didn’t even really know what healthy sexuality was. It was like you Jane me horny. Right. That was maybe about the healthy sexuality they got, but it would’ve been good in any time period is what I’m trying to say.

A Spiritual Perspective 

Sheri (06:39):
Absolutely. It’s just one of those topics that has just sort of been ignored. You just kind of push it under the rug, and I think people were able to get away with it a little bit more. You just can’t do that now. Or you’re just asking for issues with your children. They’re most likely going to have issues anyway.

Anne (07:00):
Why did you choose to talk about God in your book when talking about healthy sexuality?

Monotheistic, Non-Denominational 

Sheri (07:06):
So this book is monotheistic non-denominational, which means if you believe in God, in a God that loves you and wants you to be healthy and care for yourself, then this book is for you. So I just want to point that out first. I feel like it’s really important for parents to talk about God when they are talking about healthy sexuality because every layer of truth that we put into a topic gives it more breadth and more depth.

Our children need as much truth around this as possible. You can make it very sterile and talk about body parts and how they fit together and how they work, and that’s fine. That is one layer of truth. It’s your sex ed, but there are so many other layers of truth that give really essential meaning and breadth and depth to an understanding of healthy sexuality, and that is going to be different for each parent in each family, but it’s needed.

“Another layer of truth” 

(08:09):
In the book, it’ll talk about how amazing our bodies are and that each of us is made differently and that is incredible, and it makes us each unique, and when you say those things, you can feel that that’s another layer of truth that helps them in their view of healthy sexuality. So when they come across pornography or other unhealthy sexual messages, they’ve got that extra layer of truth and there’s so many other layers of truth that you can talk about with God based on your own specific belief systems.

That’s actually one of the other unique things about this book. It’s written for parents to put their own values in the studies show that is what children want. They want to know what their parents’ values are. A lot of books about healthy sexuality that are out there are written from the author’s point of view, their own beliefs.

(09:04):
I happen to think my beliefs are pretty awesome, but they’re not your beliefs as a parent. Some of them might be, but they’re not yours. So every page of the book is written so that you as a parent, put your own belief systems into it. This is our family’s beliefs about these things. These are our values around this, and you work together, which also gives that child ownership of those beliefs, of those value systems. That’s a really unique thing about the book that you really don’t see a lot of other places, but it’s so important for parents to be giving their own values to their children.

“The discussion of chastity can be so much deeper and more involved” 

Anne (09:45):
I also think it’s important to talk about in the context of religion, because in the religious experience, you get the chastity talk, you get all of the stuff that everyone’s gotten for years, but they haven’t received the healthy sexuality portion of that. Why really? Why do you not want to have sex before you’re married?

The discussion of chastity can be so much deeper and more involved and actually answer these why questions that the traditional chastity talk doesn’t answer. It’s just that it’s bad, and then you’re like, well, if it’s bad, then why do we do it when we’re married, blah, blah, blah. There’s just all that confusion going on. It really helps kids connect those two dots between healthy sexuality and the things that they are learning in church.

Sheri (10:31):
Absolutely.

“I’ve been using it with my kids and they love it.” 

Anne (10:31):
Yeah. I’m really appreciative that you wrote this. I’ve been using it with my kids and they love it. They think it’s great. My kids talk a lot about sex and porn and it’s just so fun for our neighbors. I’m sure my son, who’s eight came home and said, mom, one of my friends told me that he was able to search for naked women on YouTube, and then he told me not to tell anyone, and he said, I know that that is a signal that I need to tell someone, so here I am telling you, and I feel really uncomfortable around him now.

It was just awesome for him to be able to have that conversation. He knew what words to use because we talked about pornography. He knew that looking up naked pictures meant pornography. The depth of his understanding and the way that he could talk about it was only due to the fact that we talk about it all the time. He wouldn’t have had all those words or the ability to express his feelings about what happened if it were not a layered and ongoing conversation in our home.

“Don’t let [shame] stop you from doing the right thing.” 

Sheri (11:27):
Yes, I love that, and that is one of the other things that we talk about in this book is it actually sets up preemptively this safe space for children to talk about exposure, which is so important, but literally goes through and says, this is what you are going to do when you get exposed to stuff or you hear things, you’re going to talk to your parents. This is how your parents are going to respond to you. So it’s teaching parents and children together how to create that safe environment and sets it up so that children know exactly what to expect and parents know exactly how to respond.

Anne (12:06):
We haven’t talked about this, but I’m kind of off the shame wagon and now I’m more like, I don’t really care about the shame. You work through it, so instead of trying to eliminate shame now with my kids, I’m trying to teach them, everybody feels shame. This is what it feels like. Don’t let that stop you from doing the right thing.

“If I’m feeling shame, then what does that mean, and what do I do with that?” 

Sheri (12:27):
I like that because – 

Anne (12:28):
I think the shame elimination thing that’s been happening lately in the anti pornography movement is kind of ridiculous. We can never eliminate all shame, and so it’s more like let’s normalize it rather than eliminate it.

Sheri (12:42):
I totally agree, and this is one of the things that there’s questions in the back of the book that help you to know where to go from here and on the website as well, and that’s one of the things that they talk about is a feeling is an indicator, and if I’m feeling shame, then what does that mean and what do I do with that healthy rather than being unhealthy?

“Do the right thing anyway.” 

Anne (13:06):
You might feel like you want to lie and you can acknowledge that, but then do the right thing anyway. Yeah,

Sheri (13:13):
I like that. I like that a lot.

Anne (13:15):
Their feelings don’t have to dictate their actions and they can make conscious choices about how they feel that are healthy and good choices to help them resolve negative feelings rather than make those feelings worse.

Sheri (13:28):
Right? Yeah, absolutely. I absolutely agree. Feelings do matter, but we oftentimes just have a feeling and then react instead of figuring out what does that mean for me? And then how does that fit into this whole situation and what is the right thing to do in this situation and how does that feeling fit into that space –

On “Mutant Feelings”

Anne (13:53):
And helping them with that, so you might feel ashamed, and that’s okay, and that’s normal, and everybody feels that, and just because you feel that feeling and the feeling might say avoids telling someone avoid saying something doesn’t mean that that is what you do. Right, exactly. You might feel that way because you’re embarrassed, and the way to get out of it is to tell the truth. That’s the only way out.

There’s no other way out because if you hide, you’re just going to feel it worse. The thing I worry about with that one, and this, I’ll just leave you with this and you can think about it, is because addicts have, I’ll call them mutant feelings. They feel like they hate their wife, for example, or they feel like they’re being insulted when they’re not actually being insulted.

Having an addict focus on their feelings usually only makes their narcissism worse, whereas having them think about their thought processes helps them to realize how abusive their thought processes are. That’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is that if you have an addict focus on his erroneous feelings, he’ll never be able to get out of his erroneous thought processes that cause his erroneous feelings. 

“That’s why I think we teach our children about feelings.” 

Sheri (15:04):
Do you know what I’m saying? Yeah, and that’s why I think we teach our children about feelings. Again, it’s the same issue as teaching them healthy sexuality. You teach them, then they’re going to be able to process those feelings and use them

Anne (15:19):
In healthy ways –

Sheri (15:20):
Instead of getting stuck in these patterns.

Anne (15:23):
I think this whole feeling thing’s really interesting. I’m still kind of navigating it, but you accidentally triggered my soapbox and you didn’t know that.

Sheri (15:31):
That’s fine.

My Body is a Gift From God 

Anne (15:32):
Very sorry. That’s funny. Well, especially as I talk with more and more professionals in this field, I’m forming all these opinions all the time, and then my poor podcast listeners, they get to sort through it all as I just think out loud half the time. Anyway. You are awesome. Tell me about the other projects you’re working on right now.

Sheri (15:52):
So I’m working on a sequel to the book. My Body is a Gift From God. It’s I guess a sequel of sorts because this second book is just for parents and it goes into a lot more detail of all the different aspects of healthy sexuality for older children because this book covers all the aspects of healthy sexuality for children that are very young, like two to six or seven, but this other book will cover a lot of the other details when you start talking about how sex works and masturbation and all these different issues that come up and things that you will want to talk to your children about.

So it’s written just to parents and has a lot of role play like this is how I would say this, so that parents can have that going in. They can kind of read it ahead of time and know how they want to approach situations with their children.

“I had to go and learn that, figure it out.” 

Anne (16:49):
Frankly, girls’ parts are really tough for me. I didn’t know what a cervix was until I was like eight months pregnant. They’re all up in there and we can’t see them. I’ve never really known that much about my own parts. 

Sheri (17:02):
Nobody does because a lot of women don’t even ever touch it. They’re taught you got to wash yourself with a rag and whatever, so you never actually touch yourself. But then guys are constantly coming in contact with their sexual organs. They know exactly how it works right there, and they’re getting feedback. Yeah, that’s always such a huge issue for women, and I know for me, when I became sexually active, it was a big deal. I didn’t know how all of that worked because I never saw it. And I don’t know what happens inside me when I get sexually aroused. I had to go and learn that, figure it out.

Anne (17:42):
I never talked to anyone about my parts, maybe my friends, and they gave me the wrong information. 

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