Our twin daughters turned 5 last fall, and they will soon be starting school. The last few months they’ve practiced using the bathroom independently, tying shoes, and recognizing basic sight words.
We’ve also been discussing what good touches and bad touches are, why it’s important to keep their private parts private, and how to talk to an adult if something or someone is making them uncomfortable.
And just this morning, we introduced a new word into their vocabulary: pornography.
When Do You Start Talking Porn?
Some may think 5 is too young to teach about pornography, but research shows that 11 is the average age—not the earliest, but the average—for pornography exposure. According to a different British study, “Children under 10 now account for 22 percent of online porn consumption under 18.” I’ve sat across from many dear friends as they’ve tried to figure out how to deal with unwanted pornography exposure or unwanted sexual advances on their shockingly young children. These godly parents are devastated by the sin and brokenness of this world.
We may like to believe this issue exists only outside our churches, but if we’re learning anything from the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements, it’s clear that Christian culture is susceptible, too.
It’s time we stop being reactionary and instead become proactive. Just as we prepare children to wash their hands and tie their shoes, we must prepare even our young children to live in a tech-saturated world where porn is only a click away.
Books as Tools
Because most of us feel ill-equipped to address these topics, I want to share four books my husband and I have used this past year with our young children. Each fosters healthy, age-appropriate conversations about bodies, sex, secrets, and pornography.
God Made All of Me by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
This is an excellent book that teaches young children how to talk about their bodies and differentiate between touches that are safe and touches that make them uncomfortable. I love this book because it models language for children to use, and it empowers them to be confident that they are in charge of their bodies. If you haven’t had this conversation with your young child yet, this book is a great place to start.
God’s Design for Sex series by Stan and Brenna Jones
This is a four-book series that discusses sex and the human body at age-appropriate levels. The first book is designed for ages 3 to 5; the second for ages 5 to 8. These books discuss how babies are made and teach important body parts. One note: the books have potential triggers for single parents, foster families, or adoptive families. They explain the biology of procreation from the perspective of a biological two-parent family, and although they do reference adoption, more explanation will be necessary for families that fall outside that framework. We have used them with our biological twins, but we will have to edit them for our adopted children.
Do You Have A Secret? by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos
From the time our kids started talking, we asked our families to help us by not encouraging “secret-telling.” Young children have a hard time distinguishing good secrets and bad secrets. Also, we wanted them to know they could tell us anything. Now that we’ve read this book, our girls understand that we only keep good secrets (like surprise gifts) that bring joy to others.
Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. by Kristen Jenson
Although we can’t fully control what our kids are exposed to at church, school, and other safe places, we can equip them with the language to talk about pornography and give them strategies for what to do when they see “bad pictures.” This excellent book is designed for children ages 3 to 6.
How to Read ‘Body Books’ with Your Kids
1. Always Pre-Read
This way you’re in control of your child’s learning. Pre-reading allows you to skip or reword sections if there’s anything you’d like to avoid or topics you’d rather wait to discuss. It also gives you the chance to think through potential questions your child might have.
2. Be Prepared for Random Associations
When reading Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr., we asked our girls to give an example of a bad picture. Their responses: someone fighting and an ambulance on fire. Their framework for “bad” was being mean and something on fire. We laughed and were thankful for their naïveté, but we had to ensure they understood that the bad pictures we were discussing didn’t honor their bodies or the bodies of others. Be ready to take what your kids already associate with “bad” or “unsafe” and build a foundation to more fully discuss pornography or unsafe touches.
As simple as it sounds, praying for our kids is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. We can’t keep them from the brokenness of this world, but we can teach them that the good news of Jesus is big enough to redeem any wound they receive this side of glory. Pray for protection, pray for courage, pray over these hard conversations, but above all pray for your child’s heart to be softened toward the gospel message.
4. Keep Talking
We haven’t had just one conversation with our kids; we’ve had a series. These conversations are hard and messy—don’t get discouraged if you hit some road bumps or if it’s a bit awkward at first. The books aren’t meant to be read once and then checked off the list; rather, they’re meant to serve as catalysts for an ongoing conversation and important resources for a lifetime.