Sexuality and Paganism - Part 3: Sex Education and Children

Okay, when it comes to Children and sex, we all have our own way of doing things. And Pagans are no different... I want to first mention here that there is really no "Pagan Way" when it comes to teaching sex and sexuality to your kids. But I find this subject to be one of great, and I do mean GREAT importance. Over the last year or so sex education has become quite the hot topic among parents in general, both Pagan and Non-Pagan alike. It is because of this fact that I feel this subject needs to be addressed in this series.

As was stated in a previous "Pagan Sexuality" post most Pagans grew up in sexually restrictive environments, and due to this bring with them at least some religiously conservative ideas about sex and sexuality. However, as a rule Pagans strive to be accepting and tolerant of others and strive to pass this on to their children as well.

The largest issue confronting Pagan parents trying to balance the underlying sexuality in their traditions, beliefs and myths without teaching promiscuity or other potentially dangerous activities... In most Pagan traditions both natural healthy sexuality as well as fertility are both celebrated and embraced. And this can create a tricky situation for parents. If parents participate in, or permit their children to participate in skyclad rituals, teaching children that there is a time & place for nudity can become an issue, but one that needs to be addressed none the less!

As with any sensitive issue and children each parent needs to decide what their feelings on the major issues are and when they wish for their children to learn both the basics and the more "advanced" issues. After discussing this issue with a number of other Pagan moms, I have come to the conclusion that the general feeling among Pagans is that it's less important what and when you teach and more important that you simply teach rather than allowing your children to learn their "facts" from other children or the popular media.

As stated I can not, and will not, try to tell you how and what to teach your children about sexuality. However, I am going to do my best to at the very lseast give you some basics and "guidelines" that will hopefully give you some ideas and maybe open a line of communication. As with any subject of this delicasy it's generally best to be open and honest over creative and figurative. Way to many women throughout history have gone in to their wedding night not knowing that the stork doesn't bring babies... Which as I originally stated is as much a non-Pagan parenting issue as it is a Pagan Parenting issue, but either way the truth is that these things simply need to be taught - Pagan or not!

Only you can decide what your children need to hear and when, but I'm a firm believer that it's better to teach early and keep the lines of communication open than to wait and risk your your children learn any number of the common myths or secular opinions...

Some general information which I highly recommend covering with your children early is basic terminology. While many parents shy away from terms such as Vulva or Penis in favor of slang or "kiddy words" for these body parts, many others feel it's highly important for the proper terms to be taught from the start. I have heard from many a mom whose children learned these proper terms from other kids way before they did from the parents. Teaching the basic terminology not only aids in the basic anatomy education your child receives but it also helps them to identify with their own body and will help to establish a comfort within their own skin. Studies have shown that children who's parents discouraged the proper terms are more likely to feel uncomfortable when talking about their bodies or sexual issues later in life - even with their own teachers, parents or doctors.

other issues which need to be covered at an early age are what we used to call "Red Flag & Green Flag" touches when I was a kid. Teaching your child that his body is his body alone and that only he, a parent or doctor should ever touch his body is a HUGE thing in this day & age. More and more children are being exposed to unhealthy sexual relationships from both adults and other children, and it's important to stess to your children what is and isn't okay touching and from whom. It's also very important at the same time to stress the importance of having an open and honest relationship with you when it comes to issues about their body.

WHEN and HOW you choose to teach the mechanics of sex is completely up to you. However, again I stress the importance of teaching it before they are exposed to it by friends or their school health class. Some points you may wish to cover beyond the basic mechanics of sex are masturbation, the dangers of promiscuity, the importance of being ready both physically and mentally, the risks involved including STDs and Pregnancy, Birth control & Abortion (including your views of both and the dangers of both) and more than anything what YOU expect from your child when it comes to issues such as dating and sex. You should also make sure you personally understand the sexual fads of the day as well as the common teachings of both schools and society groups. And it's also a good idea to make sure to cover your feelings and beliefs surrounding alternative sexualities, marriage and issues such as pornography and the like. Again, it's most important that you explore your own beliefs and feelings about these issues prior to trying to cover them with your children.

For some parents it's easier to start this education early on and make it a part of day to day rather than wait until issues arise. For others it's important to allow the children to lead the conversation and ask questions. However you choose to address issues and sex education, it's important that you are able to do so in accordance with your own beliefs and your paths traditions as well as your comfort levels and theirs. Chances are teaching a 6 year old about sex toys and pornography isn't quite necessary or worthy of your stress. However covering STDs with a teen BEFORE they have their fist sexual experience is generally a good idea. In either case, I can NOT stress how important honesty is or how important it is to stress that good or bad, you are your child's best source of information and that they should always feel free to come to you without fear.

For myself and my children, I have learned it's best to teach sexuality as I do anything else. My husband and I make a point never to hide our physical attraction for one another, nor do we try to suppress our children's natural curiosity about their bodies. We have always made a point to simply teach openly and we refuse to sensor sexuality beyond anything which is overly inappropriate... For us, it's simply how we live our lives and we are raising our boys and our daughter to have a love for themselves and to understand that nature is sexual. As a Pagan I strive to teach that there is nothing dirty or shameful about the human body, that nudity and sexuality are completely natural and of course we stress an understanding and tolerance for even those things they may not agree with or understand. While this style of sex ed tends to place us in the "Alternative Parenting" category, so does having an interfaith family, so I tend not to allow it to bother me. For me it is more important to know that I am doing what is best for my family and my children over teaching what others feel I should.

As I stated in the beginning I can not, and will not tell you how to raise your children. However I hope that this has at least given you some things to ponder and discuss with your partner and possibly your children. There are plenty of resources available for parents who wish to teach these issues to their children and I stress that you seek them out and get to know them prior to hitting a point where you need to use them.

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