Sexuality involves the mind, body and relationship

Q: So many young people I know seem to have a skewed view of sex. How can I help my children begin to develop a healthy sexual foundation?

Danny Huerta, vice president, parenting and youth: Sexuality isn’t just about sex. It involves the mind, the body and relationship. For your kids to develop a healthy sexual foundation, you need to help them develop healthy character.

There are five foundational character ingredients to healthy sexuality:

• Empathy. Kids must learn that other children have their own thoughts and feelings, too. Help them try to understand what those thoughts and feelings might be. Generally speaking, this would be best to begin teaching at the age of 2 or 3.

• Self-control. Children also need to learn how to manage their own desires, thoughts and emotions. Help them notice how their thoughts impact how they feel and how their actions affect others.

• Love. Kids should be taught what it means to develop steadfast, faithful, loyal and persevering love for another. Many cultural messages teach kids how to be consumers of people, i.e., “How do you benefit me?” Real love combines security in oneself with the ability to give of oneself wholeheartedly and freely.

• Patience. Similar to self-control, patience is the ability to delay gratification rather than seek immediate pleasure. There are plenty of everyday teaching opportunities for parents to help kids learn patience, but the best thing you can do is model it.

• Connection. Studies indicate that teens who are actively involved in their faith and have a strong bond with their parents are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as premarital sex, pornography and substance abuse. Pause and enjoy your relationship with one another at home through meals together, laughter, board games or walks.

Help your kids focus on these five foundational components of healthy sexuality, and they will reap the benefits for years to come as they continue to work toward healthy sexual development.

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Jim Daly is an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program.