Providing a Catholic framework on the truth and meaning of sexuality, love, and family

How Does a Parent Deal with Differing Family Values?

(Family Honor Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment in a series on how parents might consider addressing various challenging questions and topics with their kids.  These responses were developed by a cooperative effort of several of our program presenters – incorporating both male and female perspectives.  Ultimately, the important thing is to respond in an honest, age-appropriate way that includes a balance of Truth and compassion.  We as parents must be perceived as askable, credible, warm, and caring for our children to want to seek us out for answers to such questions.  For a much more comprehensive way of approaching these types of issues, please consider attending a full “Leading & Loving” program in your area.  See our program schedule here, or contact us about how to bring a program to your area.)

What would you do in a situation where your child is exposed to family values that differ from your own?

8-year-old Michael comes home from an overnight with a friend and excitedly tells you about an action movie they watched which you know had scenes with unmarried couples naked in bed together having sexual relations. 

(For starters, avoid letting your child go to anyone’s home unless you are convinced there is no chance of this happening.)

First, you must determine whether or not he even saw the offensive scenes.  Perhaps he was going to the bathroom, getting a snack, or the parent actually fast-forwarded these parts.  You might ask, “Oh you watched ——————–.  Did you watch the whole thing?”  Unless he says that his friend’s mom made us turn our heads a few times, you’ll have to probe deeper.  “I’ve actually heard of that movie.  I know it has some exciting action scenes in it, but it also has some really bad stuff, too.  Dad and I are concerned that what you watch is something fun and exciting but always shows respect for the people in the story.  Do you think there were parts of this movie we would not think were good?  Did you notice any bad words or people being immodest or anything like that?  It’s not your fault and you’re not in trouble, but if you saw anything that you didn’t understand I just want to be able to talk to you about it.”  If you can’t find anything out, chances are he missed it, or just didn’t notice it somehow.  At that age, he might just be thinking “Ah, stupid kissing.  Let’s just get a snack and wait for the superheroes to come back.”

If he does indicate he saw something, probe gently and calmly letting him tell you what he saw so that you don’t go any further than needed.  If you determine that he actually saw a sex scene, tell him I’m very sorry you had to see that.  “It’s important to know that these people were doing something they shouldn’t be doing – something outside of God’s plan for us.  Those people were not married and they committed adultery.”  (Even small children can understand that adultery is acting like you’re married to someone you are not married to, so this explanation should work for most families.)  “And even married people should follow God’s laws and dress and act modestly on TV, because when we follow God’s plan, everything works out better!”

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