Teaching our Children about Healthy Intimacy

Teaching our Children about Healthy Intimacy

Parents play an integral part in establishing healthy
attachment and developing balanced intimacy for our children. According to
Walker, Busby, Lovett and Carol, Experts on human intimacy, balanced intimacy
is comprised of three dimensions.  The
first dimension is the Physical Dimension that includes the physiological
process that influence satisfaction, pleasure, and health. The second is the
Emotional Dimension which includes love, attachment, and unity. And, the third
dimension is Spiritual which includes a deep sense of relational meaning,
purpose, and progression.  The
development of healthy intimacy is natural and formed over time in different
stages from the time we are infants and touch everything to the time we become
adults and experience higher levels of intimacy.

Curiously, while we are comfortable allowing
our children to explore their environment, try new things, fall and scrape
their knees, we tend to be less comfortable with the idea of our children
having similar curiosity about their body, intimacy and feelings as they learn
to direct their maturing bodies and feelings in the proper path. We sometimes
try to protect our children from absolutely every thought, feeling, and
potential mistake and in doing so, we hinder their ability to grow and become
self-sufficient in their development. Because of our own discomfort regarding intimacy,
we often fail to establish the needed lifelong openness with our children
around the topic of intimacy and we make an already challenging situation much
harder. Imagine how much more difficult it would be for our babies to learn to
walk if they did not have their parents nearby to give them that helping hand
as they start to teeter or to pick them up after they fall and scrape their
knees. When we avoid open communication about intimacy with our children, we
are essentially making them learn to walk on their own.  Here are three guidelines to help you and
your children develop healthy attachment through ongoing communication and
learning experience with human intimacy:

1: Create a warm and supportive emotional
climate with your children. If we are generally supportive and loving parents
who also have reasonable but high expectations for our children, then our
parenting style will enable us to help that much more with their sense of self
and the development of intimacy. Assess yourself by answering these questions:
Do I generally support and love my child while also maintaining reasonable
expectations for them? Do my children seem to feel controlled and dominated,
afraid that whatever they say will result in a punishment? Or Do they feel like
I am a trusted, safe person they can talk and joke with about anything and at
the same time know that I have appropriate expectations for their behavior?

2: Be a proactive parent. Consistent,
proactive communication is much more effective than sheltering children against
every possible encounter with intimacy. Proactive parenting is the anticipation
of problems that children might face and the ability to act before the behavior
has become a serious problem. In contrast, reactive
parenting would be our reaction to a child’s’ behavior – for example a reaction
to finding out that your child has been viewing and reacting to inappropriate
pictures.

3: Open communication is more effective than
having “the talk”.  While many parents
have “the talk” with their children at one point or another, we need to have
many, many, many talks about intimacy – one big talk is not enough.  We need to swing open the door by openly
discussing intimacy so that our children feel comfortable asking us the
questions that they will have.  Instead
of covering up the television screen as I remember my parents doing (and
recently caught myself doing) – use this as an opportunity to talk about the
physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of healthy intimacy.  Providing a safe and comfortable environment
in which to have these talks eliminates
shame and can also ease the discomfort that may exist with these
discussions.  Talking in the car, while
doing yard work, or playing toss can take the emphasis off the topic and allow
open communication to occur.