I was recently asked to provide tips for teaching the Theology of the Body to a nine-year-old on Paving the Path to Purity’s Facebook page.
As I humbly take on this request, I admit that I am still learning like many of you. I have many days when I feel as if I know nothing about being a parent, let alone how to form my children in one of the most important areas of their lives.
But I hope that I can simply take you with me on my parenting journey. I hope that my experience as a natural family planning and Theology of the Body for Teens teacher will allow me to provide some insights to you as I strive to convey the principles of these two topics to my children.
So here are some tips that seem to be bearing good fruit in our family so far:
Knowledge is power.
How much do you, as an adult Catholic and parent, know about the Theology of the Body and the Church’s teachings on sexuality? Have you avoided learning about certain aspects of this part of our faith for fear of what you might find out?
In the words of Saint John Paul II, “Be not afraid!” The truth will, indeed, set you free.
Look up “Sexuality”, “Contraception”, and “Chastity” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Read the encyclical, Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html
Read the book Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West.
Check out these websites:
You can also read my take on TOB here:
There are numerous resources available on the subject of the Theology of the Body. Take one at a time and gradually fill your well of knowledge.
Teach by example.
Are you truly living the TOB message in your marriage and family life? Do you and your spouse practice natural family planning? If you happen to be a single parent, are you living chastely?
A holy, loving, and chaste marriage is one of the best examples of the TOB message that we can give our children. My children often hear my husband and I conversing about our family size in ways that would only happen within a marriage being lived according to Church teaching. They see books on the subject lying around our house. They see chastity as a normal way of life in our household. Live the Theology of the Body with joy, and your children will want to do the same!
Pray for your children’s purity daily. Surrender your relationship with them to Christ and His Mother. Trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you as you strive to teach and form your children according to God’s will. Check out Paving the Path to Purity’s patron saints and a prayer for their intercession here:
Be not afraid!
Listen to your instincts, and don’t be afraid to speak up and address issues as they arise. Associate your conversations with related principles from the Theology of the Body.
I once discovered a six-year-old making a chalk drawing of a topless woman on our driveway in front of my three-year-old. I had a conversation with both of them right then and there about being respectful of our bodies, how special they are, and that we keep them covered (even if they are just a chalk drawing).
Another day, I heard my nine- and seven-year-old talking about how a neighbor boy said a girl had kissed him. This was a perfect opportunity to talk about how the body speaks a language, and that certain “languages of the body” are only meant to be spoken between two people who are truly in love, or two people who are married.
My children and I have also had more structured learning times during which we have discussed what real love is (while coloring pictures of crucifixes), what language of the body means (while playing charades), and even what vocation God might be calling them to (while listing skills they are “good” at).
These more structured learning times have been very fruitful, as certain TOB terms and concepts are then already familiar when related “real life” situations arise.
The most important thing is to start the conversation. The Theology of the Body is a big topic that continues to unveil new revelations as we grow and change. Starting the conversation with our children now helps them to realize the Theology of the Body’s significance–that these things are important and a big deal in a world where “casual sex” is all too common.
A well-trained will.
As parents, we’ve all come face to face with the will of a stubborn child. We can give them knowledge, we can take them to Church, but ultimately it is their own will that must lead them to holiness.
This is where prayer comes in for both us and our children. A strong relationship with Jesus Christ will bend anyone’s will in the direction of His love. But we can also help our children strengthen their will to do good. Self-mastery is a big discussion point in the Theology of the Body. Saint John Paul II emphasizes that this mastery over our very selves, over the sinful tendencies of our flesh, must be cultivated to live the message of the Theology of the Body. Making little sacrifices, performing works of mercy, and talking often about this concept can all help our children strengthen their resolve to do God’s will.
I am planning to do a Beatitudes project with my children this summer as we explore ways to overcome our sinful tendencies and live with the goal of doing God’s will at all times. I’ll keep you posted on our activities and the fruit they bear as our summer unfolds.
So how do you “teach” the Theology of the Body to a nine-year-old? Gain knowledge, live the message, pray, be fearless, and train the will. These are all points that have borne good fruit in our family so far. I hope they will do the same for you, and that we can all help each other with more ideas as we continue to Pave the Path to Purity!