As we have discussed over the past few weeks, it is essential, especially in these times, that parents take an active role in teaching their children Torah ideas in regards to sexuality and modesty.
One of the reasons this is necessary is because of the invasive exposure they experience from secular sources and culture, and also because we can no longer afford to be naive about the existence of sexual predators in our midst. If children do not possess clear knowledge and age-appropriate understanding of the parts of their body and how they can be used or misused it is hard for them to protect themselves from those who seek to abuse them?
To quiet those who think it is forbidden to expose children and adolescents to sexual ideas, we referenced a halachic ruling from the Ezer Mekodesh (Shulchan Aruch, E.H. 23:3) where he states that it is permitted even for a young man to study parts of the Torah related to sexuality.
Sex Education with Older Children:
Obviously, the older a child gets, the more cognitive and emotional abilities he has. Furthermore, at a certain point children, particularly adolescents may be embarrassed to discuss sex with their parents. Yet, this is the time in their lives when guidance is needed. Therefore there may be times where it is appropriate for a parent to raise the topic of sexuality, and as the children get older, they must look for opportunities to segue into these discussions. Ironically, the media that we fear may be a corrupting influence on children can be actually helpful in giving us opportunities to “break the ice” with your adolescent about sex.
Keep in mind; sex education is about more than facts and biology, it’s about emotions and ethics. This is even truer from a halachic perspective, where parents are not only charged to educate their children about the facts but also to guide them about the morals and ethics. The issues addressed so often in the media – unwanted pregnancy, abortion, rape, sexual abuse, spousal abuse and the like are important to discuss with our adolescents.
Goals for Halachic Sex education:
To serve as a guide for parents who hopefully will talk to their children about sex on their own, a list of the cognitive, moral, and developmental goals of halachic sex education could be useful. A parent should help his child acquire:
An understanding of the mechanics of sexuality, which includes the sexual act as well as the process of conception and childbirth.
An understanding of the biological changes associated with the onset of puberty and the differences between males and females.
Halachic and moral responsibilities regarding modesty, pre-marital chastity and laws of family purity.
Comparison of secular values vs. religious values and how they relate to the modern world in areas such as sexually transmitted diseases, dangers of rape and molestation, teenage pregnancy and abortion. (Readers might be wondering why they would need to teach their children about this, assuming their children remain frum and on the derech. Unfortunately, anyone who believes there is no such thing as promiscuity and teenage pregnancy in the frum community, is mistaken. Experienced therapists tell a different story. In addition, such a belief is in contradiction to Chazal, who state explicitly that there always will be a minority in every community who are sexual immoral. See Bava Basra 165a, and the Rambam’s Mishne Torah, Isurrei Biah, 22:19.)
Develop an appreciation for the wonders of creation and the wisdom of the Creator by studying the fascinating aspects of the miracle of reproduction. (See the Rambam’s Mishne Torah, Yesode Hatorah, 2:2.)
Healthy attitudes toward the body, pleasure and abstention, and particularly how it is expressed in the Jewish halachic code.
Knowledge of what is good touch and bad touch, and who is allowed to be alone in a room with them and who is not. An awareness of the existence of sexual predators, how they groom victims by seducing them and then preying on their need for attention, and how they induce feelings of shame or fear that a child will get in trouble if he or she tells an adult.
Next week, the conclusion