Hang-ups about our bodies
Raising children in today’s environment can be fraught for parents. There is no shortage of experts to tell you what you should be considering, avoiding or including in your child’s upbringing. Then there is the sometimes toxic culture and our own natural anxiety and self-doubt.
The worry can be felt even more keenly when it comes to our children’s sexual development. We can all suspect ourselves at times of being a little hung up. And who wants to pass hang-ups on to our children? At the same time, we feel a natural protectiveness towards our kids, sensing that sexual identity and development are somehow core to who they are as people.
My advice to parents in the area of sexual identity, especially with very young children, is to keep things simple. Children need to know they are fundamentally good (even if they struggle to behave sometimes), that we find them delightful and that we love them. They need to know that who they are is a wonderful, unfolding mystery and neither we nor they know exactly who they are destined to be.
We also need to normalise ambiguity. All of us struggle at times with thoughts about whether we are acceptable as human beings, whether we like ourselves and whether others like us. Insecurity is normal. And our relationship to our own bodies and our gender changes over time. I am much more comfortable and confident in my identity as a 50-something woman than I was at 15 or 25.
We are not in control of everything about our own identity. Learning to love and accept ourselves is a lifelong journey. Let’s not rush into simplistic ‘solutions’ to the deep questions which plague us all from time to time simply because we are human.
Lara Kirk is a mother of five teenage and young adult children. She manages the Marriage Family and Relationships team of the Archbishop’s Office which assists with sexuality education.