A Catholic Parent’s Back to School Guide for Sexual Education in the Home
There are not as many parents jumping for joy this year as they get their children ready for going back to school. The new Ontario Sex Ed Program has done a lot to put a damper on things for Canadian parents. Some will decide to put their children in private schools where they can be assured of the teachings their children will receive, some will home school, some will decide to have their children removed from the sexual education part of the curriculum, and some will let things happen as the government wants it to happen. But no matter what poor parents decide, they are still the primary educator of their children and they must use this time of the year to reflect on that responsibility.
The Pontifical Council on the Family makes it clear that parents should be the “original and primary, irreplaceable and inalienable, educators of the children…as it is parents who have given life to their children, on them lies the gravest obligation of educating their family. They must therefore be recognized as being primarily and principally responsible for their education…The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute” (Second Vatican Council on Christian Education, Gravissimum educationis)
But we also know that the school is important too. “The task of imparting education belongs primarily to the family, but it requires the help of society as a whole….Among the various organs of education the school is of outstanding importance. (Gravissimum educationis, n. 3, 4)
And Pope John Paul II reminded us that “It is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not help the young to accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection.” (Evangelium Vitae)
We have our children with us for many years, at the very least 18. Thankfully we are not like the birds that push their children out of the nest in a few weeks. Even adult children still rely on their parents for guidance and care. We get to know our children very well in these years. The family is a privileged place for learning to love, so it is in the family where the sexual education needs to take place. Each child needs to be taught individually in this area as they are all ready for it at different ages.
We have no reason to fear the world’s teachings if we are doing our job as primary educators to teach our children all they need to know about sexuality. If they learn it from us first they will not be influenced by the wrong teachings around them and they will be able to think more critically when making a choice. But we need to be authoritative, as Jesus was, and loving in our teaching, so they will believe us and buy in to what we are teaching. We also have to be sensitive to when each child is ready to receive these teachings. The sexual education of our children is best done one on one by the parents who know the child best.
So where to start for this new school year? I am going to share with you some of the resources I have found that I have used to continue my learning and growth in this area.
To begin with if you were unable to attend Dr. Miriam Grossman’s talk last Tuesday night in Mississauga, here are some links that someone has posted online where you can watch most of it and get the main ideas. Dr. Grossman does a good job outlining the areas where we need to be concerned. (Part 1. Part 2. Part 3)
Also Wendy Shalit, author of “A Return to Modesty” lives in Toronto where she and her husband raise their children. She did a good interview on the Sex Ed program for Ontario relating it to teaching our children about modesty. You can hear it here.
Now that the kids are in school you can start training in the Theology of the Body program for Middle School and High School children. A free series is available online for parents to train in how to teach this program to your children. The Middle School Leadership training program is here.
Watch them online or download them to listen to on your way to work. The High School Leadership Training Program is here.
The Theology of the Body for Middle School and High School programs are great programs but can be a bit pricey for a family to buy. Join with other families and get them or ask your pastor to buy them for the parish. These programs can be bought here.
There are many resources that are available online for free to help you gather the knowledge you need to do a good job teaching your children.
The following documents from the Vatican can be found online for free at www.vatican.va: The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family, Deus Caritas Est, Familiaris Consortio, Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae, Gaudium et Spes, Letter to Families, and many more documents that can help you as parents.
The complete texts of all of Pope John Paul II’s talks on the Theology of the Body are available here for free. These are well worth using for your time of prayer, to meditate on, one at a time. These talks are very profound and include everything we need to know about sex and marriage, but at a very deep level.
A great place to study and learn from the experts about The Theology of the Body is the International Symposia on the Theology of the Body which is held every few years. It can be found here.
The Humanum Series is also available free on the Internet, from the Vatican, that will give you videos that explain what marriage is. These videos were released after the Humanum Conference took place last year at the Vatican. They were filmed around the world and contain interviews with people like Fr. Robert Barron, Dr. Peter Kreeft and N.T. Wright.
All parents need to watch Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s address to the Humanum Conference which is found here. It is so imperative these days that we are able to explain to our children what marriage is so they will want to carry on in our tradition. This talk is fabulous at helping us come up with a clever way of explaining marriage. You can also find the complete text of this talk here. so that you can study it and learn it to include in your talks with your children.
There are many good chastity speakers talks that are available online. Just Google their names and look for their videos. Jason Evert has many here.
Also the CanVox program is available online for free with good videos and readings for adults to help study marriage. They can be found here.
There is no excuse these days to not understand the issues involved with the sexual education of our children since there is more than enough information available to help us. The biggest problem is that we need to take the time to do it. We need to be creative in where and when to do it. We found when raising our children that when we had a child one on one in the car, going to some fun event, that that was a good place to have some of the discussions as they could hear us easily enough and they did not have to make eye contact if they were embarrassed by the discussion. These discussions involve very intimate details that many are uncomfortable with. We also found that on camping trips of the boys with dad or the girls with mom gave a great place to discuss intimate matters.
But we also need to be very comfortable discussing the topics so the kids will really listen. That is the reason I have shared all this material above. We need to study hard as parents and truly understand what our children need to know to prepare them for life. We are no longer in a Judeo-Christian Society where most people believe the same thing about marriage so it is up to us to pass on this part of the faith in a clear manner so our children can pass it on to their children.
Take to heart the words of John Paul II when he began his pontificate “Be not afraid”. Family life is the primary training ground for Catholics. With the concept of family rapidly changing in our society (redefinition of marriage in law, same sex marriage, cohabitation, casual sex, easy no-fault divorce), along with individualism, secularism, materialism, agnosticism, hedonism, rationalism and relativism, parents have their work cut out for them. Abortion, reproductive technologies and manipulation, euthanasia, destruction of human life for scientific advancement, rampant pornography and gratuitous violence, all make it seem like we have lost the battle to raise our children Catholic. We need to remember our past and learn from our history and remember our faith will survive as long as parents do their part.
Remember how Catholicism survived in Japan. In the 1540’s St. Francis Xavier and the Jesuits were missionaries in Nagasaki Japan and were responsible for over 100,000 converts. But by 1587 Christianity was repressed in Japan as a threat to national unity and ceased to exist publicy and had to go underground much like in China and Vietnam for example today.
By 1610, 1 out of 6 Japanese were Catholic. But in 1611 and 1613 the priests were expelled and thousands of Catholics were put to death. When the priests left Japan though they told the people to keep the faith and pass it on to your children, and eventually they would return.
After 250 years, ten generations, when Japan was open up to the west again, the priests did return. The priests would walk through the streets, dressed very conspicuously with the hope of finding some remaining Catholics. Eventually a group of the faithful approached the priests and asked them some questions their parents had taught them on how to know a priest. They had to figure out if they were celibate, if they loved the mother of God and if they loved the Holy Man in Rome.
The priests soon discovered that there were 30,000 Catholics remaining in Japan after the 250 years. With only two sacraments, Baptism and Marriage, and in spite of great persecution, the parents had been able to pass on the faith to their children and keep the Church alive in Japan. The Church survived because of the parents.
The New Sexual Education program in Ontario and throughout Canada truly is a major threat to our faith but we have to hold firm and teach our children the truth in a confident way that they will understand and be willing to live. We need to keep reminding ourselves that God has already won the battle for us by giving us His Son Our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us all. We just need to hold firm and do our part to help all our children and their children arrive with us in Heaven. That is our job as parents, the primary educators of our children.