Giving real love to your child
To protect one’s family, as Pope Francis urged, parents have to teach that sex is for total self-giving love. The outline below is based on the Vatican’s Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family.
WHY DO I HAVE TO TEACH THIS?
(1) Your child’s happiness depends on it. If training a child to read and write prepares for a good life, how much more training to love in a family! The great five-word conclusion of Harvard’s longest study is: Happiness is love. Full stop. (2) Your child is threatened by diabolical falsehoods. Porn access and a sex-crazed media promote seeing sex as a trivial toy and bodies as things to be used for selfish ends. (3) Porn is as addicting as heroin. Its use lowers academic performance. (4) Eternal life is at stake. Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 warned: More souls go to hell for sins of the flesh than for any other sin. (5) It’s your grave and joyful duty. No one else but you are ultimately accountable for your child’s education. So overcome your discomfort for the sake of your child. Only truth sets free!
WHAT DO I HAVE TO TEACH?
1. Sex is a sacred gift that enables us to make a gift of ourselves. God is self-giving love. With infinite love, he made us in his image. And so we are called to love. The purpose of our life is to love God in return with all our heart and to love others for him. The greatest commandments are the secret of the greatest happiness. Our model of love is Jesus who died for us and was glorified. True love means: (1) willing the good of the other. Not fleeting feelings. Not doing evil; (2) self-giving, a free choice to sacrifice for another. Not infantile selfishness. Not animal instincts. Humans are incarnate spirits. So we express love not just through our souls, but also through our bodies, and sexuality.
2. Chastity is joyful self-mastery that frees us for self-giving love, for we cannot give what we do not have. Chastity is emotional intelligence. Our sexual urges have to be channeled intelligently for real love, in the same way as we discipline our appetite intelligently for health and protection from illness.
Important: It is unintelligent to look at human bodies with lust. Instead recognize the truth: human bodies are persons (children, images and temples of God) to be reverenced, served and saved, not objects to be used for selfish ends. “He who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28). As an intelligent joyful discipline, chastity demands good habits, striving to put our heart in God, asking for help in prayer and sacraments, fleeing to Mary when tempted.
3. God calls us to be holy: to make a total gift of ourselves in marriage or in apostolic celibacy. God meant sex to express total self-giving within marriage with two inseparable meanings. (1) Giving one’s bodily fertility to cooperate with God in generating a child: A new immortal spirit is an inestimable gift to the spouse (baby-making or procreative meaning of sex); (2) Giving one’s whole life until death (bonding or unitive meaning). Only the sacred covenant of the sacrament of marriage provides for the good of children (growth and education in a stable family), and the good of the spouses (total committed love). Thus, these are sins against God and self-destructive evils:
1) masturbation – selfish self-seeking, not self-giving, 2) fornication – no total, committed, life-long self-giving union, 3) contraception – a lie in the sexual language of total self-giving (willfully withholds fertility); anti-procreative (= anti-good) while natural family planning is non-procreative and moral.
Since sex means self-giving love, the greater vocation is celibacy. It gives up the great good of marriage for total self-giving union with God, Love Himself. Like Mary, it gives birth to a multitude of spiritual children. Parents are to support this calling with joy.
HOW AND WHEN DO I TEACH?
(1) Teach gradually and repeatedly. Use moments like pregnancy and birth. (2) Have one-on-one friendly chats: dad with son, mom with daughter. (3) Be ahead of the need and the bad influence of peers. (4) Emphasize moral aspect. Build a home environment of growth in real love. (5) Train in the critical use of media. Protect from falsehoods. Check moral content of shows and movies (e.g., free IMDb Parents Guide). Use computer filters (e.g. K9 Filter is free).
Innocence (5 years old to age of puberty): Your child is at ease with the body, not interested in sex. (1) Protect their innocence. Give indirect formation on chastity, unless needed. Correct wrong information and bad habits. Teach modesty. (2) Develop virtues: teamwork, obedience, generosity, self-denial, reflection to control instincts (habit of reading); (3) For girls: Show the Virgin Mary as model of motherhood (4) For boys: Develop friendship with dad. Teach that masculinity means service and responsibility. Train in self-control over aggressiveness. No to chauvinism.
Puberty: Your child discovers his inner world (deep questions, feelings of love, intense joys) and experiences sexual changes. More vulnerable to emotional influences. (1) Be more attentive. (2) Give detailed information ahead of peers about characteristics of both sexes and on sexual changes. (3) Key moment to teach the value and the great joy of chastity, the dignity of marriage, and the liberating power of the moral law. (4) For boys: Help them avoid erotic fantasies by teaching respect for women and the sacredness of procreation.
Adolescence: thinking of future plans; more sexual problems emerge. (1) Teach them to follow Christ above all within His vocation and plan for each. (2) Foster ideals of service. Exercise tough love: Say no to wrong acts. (3) Explain morals positively.