Most parents consider human sexuality to be one of the most difficult (if not the most difficult) subjects to talk about with their children. The mere thought of having to discuss the facts of life and love with one’s children seems terrifying because the stakes are so high. What is said, or not said, directly impacts their children’s future relationships and marriages.
Over the past 40 years, many parents have been lulled into believing that their children are learning the facts of life and how to make good relationship decisions at school. They have become content – and a bit relieved – that the “experts” in health and science classes have done this job for them. Unfortunately, many parents soon realize that essential information about what is truly right and good has not been taught. They become painfully aware that the value neutral approach used by the school was too complex and lacked any moral direction.
This is the reason why the Catholic Church has tirelessly taught that parents are the primary educators for their children in matters of love and life. She understands that human sexuality education involves much more than one discussion about body parts. She knows that youth approach the responsibilities attached with puberty (hygiene, sexual attraction and self control) based on what they learn in their homes. She recognizes that a proper understanding of human sexuality can only happen when moms and dads take the lead in this education. But, how can parents meet this expectation when they have no idea how to begin?
Even though human sexuality education appears complex, there is an approach that will make the task much easier. It is called the KISS principle. The KISS principle was coined by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson who was a leading engineer for the Lockheed Corporation in the 1940s. At that time, Lockheed designed the most sophisticated planes and jets the world had ever known. As the chief engineer, Johnson had to find ways to explain the complexity of these jet engines to every mechanic in the field who would have to fix one. He challenged his fellow engineers to come up with step by step directions that explained each aircraft. Breaking down each engine’s design into small, straightforward parts made it possible for Lockheed to advance aerodynamics throughout the world.
Explaining human sexuality can also be simplified when it is broken into manageable parts. A sound understanding begins with an explanation of and respect for the human body that God created in two genders; male and female. It expands with information about God’s plan for growth and development; that males and females grow from infants into adults. It continues with an appreciation of fertility as a gift from God. And it culminates in a detailed explanation of and reverence for the unique and profound way that God physically unites a husband and wife to make a baby.
Parents need not fear educating their children in God’s wonderful plan for the creation of life through the love of a husband and a wife. The necessary information can be clearly provided with great dignity at the appropriate time when a simple, three step approach is followed. The first step includes the development of respect for one’s body. The second step is the understanding of the physical and emotional changes that occur when a child becomes an adult. And the final step is the appreciation for the gift of fertility and its holy expression within marriage. Let’s take a more detailed look at these three steps.
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