Taboo topics are great for parents. Just great. Our kids don’t care whether they are a taboo topic or not, they are gonna ask their question anyway. They also don’t care if it’s in private or out in public – where everyone gets to watch us squirm. And so, unlike in polite adult company, we can’t avoid these taboo topics with our kids. The 2 major taboos in our Aussie society are death and different beliefs. But there are also some other things we need to add to the Christian family taboo list. Sex, alcohol, marriage breakdown and doubts for example. These are the kinds of topics that can railroad our kids’ faith if they get them wrong. What is important about these topics?
Over the last however many years, our society has tried to completely remove itself from the idea of death. Whether it is the obsession with health or the over-sanitisation of life, we are trying to keep our focus elsewhere. So much so, that now death is not something we talk about. We tell our kids that their pet has “gone to a farm” to live. Or their grandparents are now ‘out of their misery and in a better place’. We have removed death from our context, so we buy meat in plastic packaging, and never have to think about the animal it once was – or the procedure to get it into the state it now is in! But is this good for our kids? How does it help them consider life after death when death isn’t a thing? How does it help them process the death of Christ? How does it help them understand the second death found in Revelation (2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8)? How does it help them think about the concept of dying to themselves, without which they will not gain life?
It would seem that it is social suicide to hold different beliefs to other people in Australia now. If you claim someone else is wrong, you are committing the greatest crime of all – intolerance. Or discrimination. Or using hate speech. This accusation tends to be directed most of all at Christians, partly I think, because we still think belief matters. But just look at Israel Folau. Margaret Court. Q&A. Regardless of how tactful (or tactless) people may be in how they state their difference of belief, Aussies haven’t got time for it. How dare you force your beliefs on me! To say nothing of the intolerance of this position, the fact that Christians suggest alternate beliefs to others is evil, narrow-minded, unloving bigotry. Can’t we just be like Jesus who was super loving? (Check out Matthew 23:13-15). How do we raise our kids in this environment?
Although this topic is no longer taboo in our society at large, it tends to be a very tricky one in our Christian homes. Partly because we maintain strong sexual ethics in contrast to the society around us, and partly because we are still embarrassed about the topic. But something that is proving to be obvious, is that putting our heads in the sand when it comes to sex and our kids doesn’t help them out by any stretch of the imagination. Do we want them to learn about sex from the world or from us? From TV or from the Bible? Unfortunately they will encounter the topic out there well before you are ready. So we need to be particularly proactive on this one.
Ok, this is maybe less taboo and just more of a difficult issue. Aussie culture is a drinking culture. Here’s to old mate he’s true blue… We don’t want our kids to go down that path, but does it mean we need to be teetotallers? Maybe. But maybe not. How do we think about this? Whatever the case, we need to talk to our kids about it. But we also need to model to them what to do. Otherwise they will end up super confused, and that will be just as they are heading off to uni/tafe/work. Being newly allowed to drink and stepping into uni or work culture at the same time is a dangerous combo. Let’s equip our kids for that time.
Ooft. This is a doozy of a topic isn’t it? And throughout time Christians have often done a great job of royally messing it up. We definitely want to uphold the sanctity of marriage and its intended longevity. But we equally want to love people who can very easily be broken by things we say to them in one of the most emotional issues they will have to deal with. So how do we talk to our kids about marriage, and particularly when marriage doesn’t play out the way we thought it would? How do we talk to kids when it is our home that is breaking up? How do we empower them to be a generation that is better equipped to deal with this issue than their predecessors (us)? Marriage is an incredibly important institution for everyone in society (whether married or not). Therefore everything that relates to marriage and its breakdown is of importance. This is a big topic, and I haven’t even dropped the gay marriage bomb yet…
Few things will drive a dagger of fear into the hearts of Christian parents as well as their kid voicing doubt about the faith. Whether it is simple questions about things, or more cynical poking around the truth claims, it can be a scary thing. The doubts will be more simple and easily dealt with when the kids are younger. But doubts teenagers are having (and they almost definitely will be having some form of doubt) can be distressing and alarming to parents. What do we do in these moments? Sadly an all too common response is to dismiss the doubts and ignore them. But I’m not sure there is anything worse we could do than to write our kids’ doubts off. I want to suggest that if you hear your kids’ doubts, that is an incredibly positive thing. There is much to be gained from doubts when they are dealt with well.
So what do we do?
There is a lot of stuff here to wrestle with. And I haven’t actually given you much help yet. I’ve just raised a hundred issues for you. Thanks very much! Now, I do plan to address each topic in time. But for now, the key advice I want to give you is to talk to your kids. Don’t shy away from any topic. Proactively raise these issues with your kids. Talk to them about these things, so they get to hear them from a Christian perspective. And do it sooner than later. (Yes that goes for sex too). We need to equip our kids for the wild world of life they have stepped into. Sticking our (and their) heads in the sand will help no-one, but it will be particularly unhelpful for our kids and their eternities. So let’s get talking.