Let’s Talk About Sex: Educating Parents to Educate Children, a breakout session by Dr. Monique Ruberu at the Pro-Life Women’s Conference, got my attention. As the mother of three teenagers, I have a responsibility to talk about this topic with my kids and give them the Catholic teachings. We’ve largely followed advice to answer the question that is asked in language the child will understand. This does sometimes result in surprising responses, such as when I explained the female menstrual cycle to my son and his eyes-wide, shocked response was, “When did this last happen to you?” I did try to not laugh but the genuineness of his flabbergasted reply reminded me that what is normal to an adult can be a bit alarming to a child.
So I trotted off to Dr. Ruberu’s session to learn some more about navigating these murky waters with people who need to know about it but really don’t want to hear it from their parents. A mother of three children herself and a practicing OB/GYN, Dr. Ruberu speaks from experience when it comes to talking about sex with our kids. Here’s what I learned.
Kids today are learning that it is okay to do what feels good and not worry about the consequences. If something “bad” happens, there are pills and procedures available. The message that Dr. Ruberu tries to convey and that as parents we need to convey, is that this isn’t truth. Real, honest, healthy love is based on more than being used or using someone else. It is based on an intimacy deeper than sexual intimacy.
In our society we have somehow fallen for the lie that we don’t need to parent our teens. It’s good and okay to actively parent our children when they are little, but once they get older we subtly give the parenting job to friends, schools, and the sex-ed teacher because “they aren’t listening to us anyway. Why are we trying?” This is false. They don’t appear to be listening, but they are. Factor in the angsty demeanor of many kids and it becomes even harder.
We need to protect our children. It is a sacred duty. We need to teach them that despite what they are hearing all around them, there is another way.
Dr. Ruberu works to help young girls protect their hearts and their minds. She wants them to believe they are perfectly made and irreplaceable, they are precious and loved. And they need to to want to protect and love themselves.
She explains that sex isn’t bad. It is a gift from God that allows us to participate with Him in the creation of a child. The Catholic Church teaches that sex is reserved for marriage where we can give 100% of ourselves and be open to this creation of new life. This is an important message to teach our children early.
True love is helpful, kind, and sacrificial. We can model this in our own marriage. We can demonstrate that we prioritize God, our spouse, our children, and then everyone else, in that order. We can talk to our kids about the consequences of choices and empower them to make good decisions. We can let them know how valued and special they are and that the world needs them. We can instill in them a sense of their own worth and a desire to be treated respectfully and lovingly.
When Dr. Ruberu hears a patient admit she is sexually active, she talks about the reality of pregnancy. As an obstetrician, Dr. Ruberu has delivered condom, IUD, and birth-control-pill babies. She encourages the girl to talk to her boyfriend about what will happen if she becomes pregnant and what the consequences are.
She also invites girls to respect themselves and set the bar high for the boys they date. Expect the boy to be caring, kind, generous and self sacrificial. If girls accept that “all the guys are doing it” or “that’s how boys are,” then that is what they will get.
They deserve better.
Dr. Ruberu reminded us that fear does not work. Teens are convinced they are invincible. Instead, teach them the truth about how precious sex is. Teach them that when they become physically intimate with a boy they put on “relationship protection goggles” which can prevent them from seeing the warning signs that the relationship may not be healthy. They are compelled to keep the relationship going because they have invested so much of their self.
We date to find a person to share our life with. Dating is not the end result but the path to the end result. Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. If a couple waits until marriage for sexual intercourse, the success rate leaps to ninety-seven percent.
But how do we handle our own mistakes? How do we respond if we didn’t practice what we are now preaching? First we have to get over it and then we have to own our path. We can explain that we made bad decisions and what we learned from them. We can use our situation to let our kids know that they don’t have to suffer as we may have.
Woven throughout her session was how valuable it is for us to remind our children that they are cherished and worthwhile. The message we need to convey is, “I believe in you. I trust you. I am praying for you. You are capable of making the right choice. I will help you.”
Dr. Monique Ruberu is a pro-life OB/GYN in Philadelphia. Her world was rocked four years ago when the Lord came crashing in and healed her marriage sending her on a path to a more God-centered life.
Copyright 2018 Merridith Frediani