The other night I attended a very interesting and highly informative class given by and old friend and teacher Dr. Yocheved Debow.
Dr. Debow has tackled an essential issue in the Orthodox community: Talking To Your Child About Intimacy: Guiding Orthodox Parents.
The most cogent point of the talk was this: If we are silent and do not talk to our children about this topic, we are doing them a great disservice. In our society where children walk down the street and are bombarded by sexuality and sexual imagery, we need to be vocal about our traditional Jewish values. We need to provide them with a counter message.
But we hesitate and are uncomfortable. We are not sure how to start a conversation on this subject. We know Judaism has a lot to say on the sexuality and intimacy–we all took classes in taharat hamishpacha (family purity)–but how do we convey this information to our children and teens? Even those of us who have degrees in the health fields may still find ourselves at a loss on how we can meld our secular knowledge with our Jewish values.
Dr. Debow’s talk was frank and candid and armed me with simple and practical ways to have this tough conversation with my kids. My husband and I have had the birds and the bees conversation with each of our children but we were always uncertain as to whether we were doing it right. Now we have some excellent guidelines and suggestions, making this difficult conversation just a bit easier.
To help us parents have the talk with our kids Dr. Debow suggests the following:
- Instead of starting from scratch, find out what your already child knows and thinks. Children usually have their own ideas about most subjects; this is no different. You can ask, “What do you know about how babies are made? Where do you think babies come from?”
- Try to correct any misinformation that they have and give them true facts. (Babies grow inside Mommy’s body, in a place called her uterus, not her tummy.)
- Use this time to share Jewish values with your child. (Large families can be fun and full of love. Babies are wonderful, each child is like getting a gift from Hashem.)
- Check to make sure that you have answered their questions (“Was that helpful? Do you have any other questions?”)
Judaism has a positive view of sexuality and intimacy. It’s important for Jewish parents to impart this to our children and teens in a very real and practical way. To do that, we need to talk.
Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs parentingsimply.com.