Having the Conversation…With Your Kids:

We’ve written before about the impact pornography is having on our culture, and as a result, marriage. Due to this impact, we wrote about how important it is to “have the conversation with yourself”.  Those who struggle with porn, need to not only acknowledge the impact it’s having on their life, but take the necessary steps to change.  We also wrote about “Having the Conversation With Your Spouse.”  Today, we want to discuss the importance of having the conversation with your kids.

Statistics show that children today see porn for the very first time at age 11.  You may have just done a double-take and thought, “Did I read that correctly?”  Yes.  Yes you did.  11 years old.  Eleven.  On a personal note, I (Justin) was 11 years old 24 years ago.  And that’s the year I first saw porn for the very first time.

It was at that age I had the opportunity to travel with a group of fellow students from my school district to Washington D.C.  A select group of students was chosen for the trip, and I was one of the lucky ones.  It was a first for me.  A long bus trip to our nations capital.  The opportunity to see the White House, Washington Monument and so much more.  And most importantly (for a 6th grader), no chaperone’s staying in the hotel room.  That’s right, 4 young boys in a hotel with no adults, a remote control, and all the channels hotels are known for.  As we sat in our room innocently flicking through the channels, we suddenly saw naked women.  8 eyeballs lit up, and we sat there kind of mesmerized by the experience.  The next morning we discovered we weren’t the only ones.  90% of the other kids on the trip had glazed over eyes the next morning, all being up too late watching the same porn.

At the time of this experience, I wasn’t a Christian.  My family went to church.  I understood who God was.  But I wasn’t a Christian.  That came later.  After I made that decision, however, I quickly began to understand how devastating the porn industry can be.  I remember going on another school trip when I was 15 or 16 years old.  Another long bus ride.  Another city to explore.  Another hotel room with 4 teenage boys and no supervision.  More porn.  Lots more.  But this time I sat uninterested.  I sat in the room innocently playing through some video games instead.

If these experiences taught me anything, it’s that having the conversation with your kids about the porn industry is extremely important.  Nobody ever had this talk with me.  I was on my own.  And being “on your own” when it comes to human sexuality in your teenage years is not a pleasant experience.  It’s unpleasant because as you grow and mature you discover that you’ve learned some lessons the hard way.  When it comes to porn and other sex-related conversations, you don’t want your kids to grow and mature and discover that they, too have learned things the hard way.

Instead, it’s best to start a conversation with them early.  As Andy Stanley once said in a message, “I didn’t have ‘the talk’ with my kids.  Instead, I sat them down and said, ‘Today, we’re going to begin a lengthy conversation…and this conversation will be an ongoing conversation.”  This is a great example of we all should converse with our kids.  It has to begin early (much earlier than age 11) and it has to be an ongoing conversation.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when deciding the when and how to talk to your kids about porn:

1.Root out the problem in your own life.  You really must have the conversation with yourself before you can begin the conversation with your children.  As a parent, you must be on your way to dealing with and recovering from your own porn habits or addictions.  A parent’s role isn’t to be the “do as I say but not as I do” person.  We have to set the example.  And when it comes to marriage, sex, and porn, we have to set the example as to what’s appropriate.

2. Develop strong convictions about the dangers of porn.  Having a strong foundational understanding about the dangers of porn, especially as it relates to a young developing mind is integral to having this kind of conversation with your child.  Talk to some professional counselors who have experience in this area.  Get informed.  Do some research on how much porn impacts a child and then arm yourself with ideas about how to prevent porn from entering your home.

One of the most popular ideas for porn prevention is some type of internet filter.  While there are a few out there, we must say at this time that we haven’t heard very good reviews from some of them.  Due to this, we’re not going to recommend any specific ones at this time.  However, if anybody has any good suggestions/experiences with any internet blocking software, feel free to drop a line in the comments below.

3. Remember that it’s an ongoing conversation.  Don’t just have ‘the talk’ and think that one short conversation is enough.  And please, don’t just allow the public education system to have the final say on this subject with YOUR children.  It’s this system that has very grey definitions as to what’s appropriate and what’s not.  This system nearly encourages kids to be sexually active during their teenage years.  Instead of allowing others to educate your children as to what’s appropriate, talk to them regularly to make sure they know what’s appropriate and what’s not.

4. Pray.  At the end of the day, your children are going to make their own decisions.  And they are going to be the ones that have to live with the results of those decisions.  While having an ongoing conversation is extremely important, praying for your kids regularly is just as important.  As a young teenage boy, nobody ever had ‘the talk’ of any kind with me.  But I’m quite certain my mother prayed for me on a regular basis.  Her prayers, I believe, were answered.

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Have any additional tips about “Having the Conversation With Your Kids”?  If so, feel free to drop us a line in the comments below.

Give and Take: “If We Didn’t have kids, then…”

There’s a lot to learn about each other during the early years of a marriage.  You’re learning how to live with a member of the opposite sex.  You’re learning more and more about what each other likes to eat, sleeping habits, who’s paying the bills, who responsible for oil changes, and much more.  But as difficult a time as this may seem, marriage before children is kind of like an extended honeymoon.  There’s plenty of time for dating and getting to know other couples.  And as for sex, well, there’s plenty of time and opportunity for that as well.  But whether it happens one year or five years into marriage, once the first child enters the picture, this is when marriage becomes much more of a challenge.

Once a child or children enter the picture, you discover that your time becomes much more precious.  As they grow up, they become involved in all kinds of activities.  Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, basketball, football, cheerleading, band, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, or any other number of extra-curricular activities are all vying for your child’s attention.  Not only that, but on the evenings they’re not involved in these activities, they’ve asked about being out with another friend.  All in all, from birth through age 16, 18, or even 23, your children consume the vast majority of your time and energy.  Because of this, it’s very easy for any marriage to fall into the “Give and Take” trap of:  “If we didn’t have children, then we would would have more time to work on our marriage.”

This is a trap that’s very, very easy to fall into.  Children need and deserve our attention and need us to lead and guide them.  As our time and energy goes into them, less and less goes into our spouse and into the marriage.  It takes very purposeful decisions to ensure that the marriage unit stays strong and is able to weather the storm.  A few suggestions we have learned in this regard include:

1) Be sure to talk with each other every day

This sounds like a no-brainer, but when you’re spending so much time and energy with your children, it’s easy to allow all conversation to degrade to, “Do you need anything at Wal-Mart?” instead of, “Is there anything I can do to make you feel loved today?”  One friend of mine (Justin) who wouldn’t appreciate me putting her age here (but she has many grandchildren), has been married to a pilot for around 40 years.  He’s on the road most days of the week, yet their marriage has survived through thick and thin.  If ever asked what one thing they did to keep their marriage strong, without hesitating she would say, “He called me every evening and was sure to talk to me for a full 15 minutes.”  Not 3.  Not 5.  But 15 minutes of full conversation, every single day.  It doesn’t sound like much, but she will tell you that his determination to talk with her – not at her – for 15 minutes every single day was key in their marriage.

Another couple we know put a similar 15 minute principle in place as their children began growing up.  When dad came home from work every day, the kids were vying for his attention.  In time, they initiated a 15 minute rule, where dad got to talk with mom for 15 minutes before he was available for the kids to climb on.  That 15 minutes continues to be crucial in their marriage.

For the record, we’re not saying you should only talk with your spouse 15 minutes a day; not by any stretch of the imagination!  We’re just saying that actual time to talk with one another is extremely important in a marriage.

2) Schedule date nights to focus on the marriage:

If your marriage is anything like ours, date nights are pretty hard to come-by.  The expense of a dinner out plus child care is too much to be a regular.  Therefore, when we do have date nights, we opt for free child care (family or friends) and we plan the evening to be as simple as possible.  Those times together, as simple as they may be, are life-giving to our marriage.  We remember why each other is our best-friend and we have more than the typical 15 minutes to open up and share about what’s happening in our lives.

While these two suggestions are pretty simplistic, it takes a great deal of determination to do them consistently.  It’s very, very easy for parenting to take precedence in our lives, and we have to be sure that no matter what is happening, our children see marriage as the most important relationship in life.  If they see us having a complete and strong marriage, then they’re much more likely to have a strong marriage as well.

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Have another tip on how the marriage unit can stay strong in the midst of parenting?  Feel free to drop a line in the comments below.

Q & A: Sex After Kids

Many times over, married couples are looking for advice on sex after kids.  The reason these questions are asked many times over is because the vast majority of couples plan for children, but none of them know exactly what they’re getting into.  The truth is, marriage before children can seem like nothing more than an extended marital date.  Very few distractions and lots of time for continuing to get to know one another.  Nine months of mental preparation still isn’t enough time to plan for what comes after children.  And sex after kids…well…everything changes.  But does it have to?

A couple of years ago we had this conversation with some friends of ours.  With their children now being in their teenage years, they had some very practical advice that we believe all couples can immediately implement.  While you may already be implementing some of these principles, you may find others extremely beneficial.

Principle #1) Have a lock on your bedroom door!

This seems simple enough doesn’t it?  But you’d be surprised how many homes do not have a lock on the master bedroom door.  It may be because the children don’t have a lock on their door and you want to be an “open” family with no secrets. Please, take this suggestion seriously.  We’ve come to know many people who have told us, “I first learned about sex at around age 5…when I walked in on my parents and asked them what they were doing.”  Do you really want to have that conversation with your child?  We know we don’t.  Lock the door.

Principle #2) Have ALL serious conversations in the bedroom.

This is the main piece of advice we received and we plan to use as our children grow older.  Do you need to talk about one of the kids’ report card?  Talk about it in the bedroom.  Do you need to have a serious conversation about finances?  Talk about it in the bedroom.  Do you need to have a serious conversation about one of the kids’ behavior?  Talk about it in the bedroom.  If you build a tradition of talking about all serious conversations in the bedroom, your children will adapt and will soon understand that “Mom and dad needed to talk about something, so they’re in their bedroom again.”  Once this tradition is in place, you’re free to pop in to the bedroom for a nice romp without the kids having any clue what’s going on.

Principle #3) Keep it simple…and quiet.

Some couples have asked, “What about the noise?  What if we wake up the kids after they’re in bed?”  Well, if you’re enjoying your time together that much – good for you!  Nevertheless, you should know that you can enjoy each other intimately without waking up the kids. Sex doesn’t always need to be loud.  Nevertheless, a few sub-tips on this point are:

a) Have music playing in the kids’ bedrooms.  A little bit of radio noise on their end will make them a little less likely to wake up if you would happen to have a spirited burst of vocal excitement.

b) Have music playing your room. If the children would happen to wake up, apologize for having your music up a little too loud.

c) Go to an area of the house that’s well insulated.  If you’re concerned about being a little too vocal, there is probably a part of your home where sound doesn’t travel nearly as well.  Feel free to schedule special times together outside of your bedroom and down in the basement.  Who knows, it may just become a new form of excitement for you.

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Have any other tips on sex after children?  Feel free to let us know in the comments below!

Note: We’ll finish up our series on “Sex Drives” tomorrow.

Sex After Kids: Practical Advice for Women

Today we will continue with our ideas about how to keep sex a priority after kids enter our lives.

Women:  As a wife and mother I (Megan) have a rather constant preoccupation towards the needs of my family; feeding them, clothing them, who needs to be where and when, emotional and spiritual development, etc.  Life is busy and often leaves me completely exhausted.  When the end of the day comes I am looking for a break, a time to relax, rest, unplug and dare I say sleep!  It is very easy for sex to be the last thing on my mind.  So….I have to think about it throughout the day.

I have talked to many women who believe that women don’t or shouldn’t  have much of a sex drive or that thinking about sex is what “other” women do.  Let me tell you, good girls can have crazy great sex.  I know that when I engage my mind, emotions and body into my physical relationship with Justin we both benefit. {grins}  It is a choice for me to bring something to the bedroom or not.  I made a decision early on in marriage and after having kids I would choose to bring something to the bedroom.

So how does this look for me?  I think about how great it feels to be wrapped in his arms, how great the moments of touch and warmth feel.  I tell him what feels good and what does not.  I ask for help when I feel overwhelmed with household tasks.  I consider if there are emotional roadblocks in our marriage or other relationships that are making it difficult for me to release myself to the moment of love making.  I prepare myself physically by pampering myself or by exercising my kegels.  (If you don’t do these exercises do yourself a favor and start. Now!)  Ladies, if we leave it entirely to our spouse to “get us in the mood” we are shortchanging ourselves and possibly cheating them out of a fantastic lover.

I believe that one of the reasons I am at complete peace and experience such great freedom in the sexual relationship in my marriage is because I have solid beliefs about the purposes for sex and enjoy the pleasures of a strong and trustworthy marriage.  We are far from perfect but the quickest way to lose interest in the bedroom is when our communication in other areas of life and marriage is off kilter.  Communication in all areas of our marriage is essential to having a good intimate relationship.  When I am not open and honest with Justin about the things that are going on in my personal life or the issues in our marriage I am less likely to be responsive in the bedroom.  Emotional intimacy is a key to great physical intimacy.

I will leave you with one final thought, one I am sure we will revisit another time: The more you have sex the more you want sex.  If you make time for sex in the busyness of raising children and living  life you may just find you become less busy so that you can enjoy sex more often.  Just saying!

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Do you have any additional tips you’d like to share?  Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Sex After Kids: Perspectives

We are so excited about the positive responses we are receiving concerning Do Not Disturb and have already had several conversations with people posing us questions.  One request we had was that we discuss our suggestions about sex after having kids.

One thing those of us who have children can all agree on is that our sex lives change after children enter the picture.  There is another human being who needs our attention, affection and energy.  Sadly, the needs of our children often seem more immediate than our need or desire for sex.  So, how do we reconcile the differences between our sexual desires and the pressing and immediate needs of our children.

1.  Recognize a strong marriage is very important to parenting well.  Having  a strong marital relationship is beneficial for your children’s  personal identity development and can help them foster positive relationships in the future.  Taking time to put your marriage first, including your sex life, will benefit your family as a whole.

2.  Take time to talk about your expectations and needs when it comes to sex now that you have family obligations.  There are few things worse than feeling like you are completely ignoring or disregarding your spouses needs. But with open communication it is so much easier to find out you may not actually be miles apart in your thinking.

3.  Take time to plan for sex and use all day long to prepare for it.  Set aside pretenses and notions that sex always has to be romantic and learn the art of the quickie.  Gone are the days of free time and spontaneity.  There is nothing wrong with putting on your calendars when you want to connect intimately.  The important thing is to follow through!  Prepare yourself all day by thinking about your planned intimate time and you won’t believe how much you are ready to go by the time the day is done.

4.  Evaluate things in your life that are causing distractions and prohibit you from having intimate time as a priority in your marriage.  If at the end of the day you have nothing left to give your spouse, evaluate what you are giving all your energy to and whether or not it’s worth it.  If you find that you are out of the house for activities every night or most nights of the week consider dropping something from your schedule to be home.  We really do believe that a strong marriage and family life is far better at producing a well rounded child than providing them with every lesson and sports activity available.

Tomorrow we will address further ideas about how we have managed to make our love lives a priority but we would love to hear from you.  How have kids cramped your style and what are you willing to do about it?
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Link: WLW