Q: I'm usually a pretty confident dad — but the thought of having the "birds and bees" talk with my preteen son has me sweating bullets. Help?!
Jim: I understand. When the time came for me to talk with my oldest son, Trent, about sex, I was pretty nervous. Human reproduction can be difficult for two adults to talk about openly. It's an even more delicate conversation with a child. Nevertheless, I was ready to push forward.
After explaining the sacredness of human sexuality, I carefully described, in simple and age-appropriate terms, the basic mechanics of sex. When I finished, Trent was awfully quiet. He finally looked up at me and said, "That is weird! That is really weird!" I couldn't help but chuckle — the innocence of youth!
But that's exactly what made his reaction such a beautiful moment. My son's introduction to this life-changing issue wasn't from kids at school, television or music lyrics. It was from me, his father.
Most of us guys appreciate that a tough job is easier with the right tools at hand. With that in mind, I'd highlight that our organization offers plenty of resources to help dads and moms walk through these challenging conversations — including a new web-video-based kit titled Launch Into the Teen Years. Visit FocusOnTheFamily.com/parenting and look for the "Sex Education" topic category.
"The talk" can be awkward — for the child and for you. But I encourage you to take a deep breath and go for it! It very well could be one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child at the onset of their teen years.
Q: As a married person, is it OK to chat online or send private social media messages to members of the opposite sex?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: There's no simple answer to this question. Everything depends on who these "members of the opposite sex" are, the context of your communication with them, the background of your relationships with them and your reasons and motives for wanting to stay in touch. Are you talking about old friends of the family? Relatives? Coworkers? Members of a professional network? Or is this a question of renewing acquaintances with an "old flame" or two? For obvious reasons, it makes a huge difference.
From a certain perspective, maintaining a healthy marriage while wisely managing relationships with members of the opposite sex is no different in cyberspace than it is in the "real" world — for example, at a party, at a high school reunion or while out to dinner with other couples at a restaurant. Sometimes it's just a matter of establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries. On other occasions, it can be a fine art that requires wisdom, discernment and maturity.
Before you were married you may have had lots of friends of the opposite sex. But once you've said, "I do," your bond with your spouse must take priority over every other relationship. Most affairs begin as an innocent connection between two people. Time spent together, whether face-to-face, by phone or via computer, can lead to the sharing of intimate secrets — which can then progress toward betrayal and infidelity.
In every circumstance, your love for your spouse and your commitment to your marriage should be your guiding principles. That love and that commitment represent the "bottom line" that determines all your thoughts, choices and actions with reference to individuals of the opposite sex. If you value your marriage and genuinely desire to protect it, you need to be on your guard against unforeseen threats.
So, I'd summarize it this way: If your chats or private messages venture into territory that you'd feel uncomfortable letting your spouse read — it's time to stop.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.