How To Help Little Ones Celebrate How God Made Their Bodies
I'm happy to welcome Francie Winslow back to the blog. You can learn more from Francie at her website.
I was cuddled up with my youngest son on the couch when the well-known cartoon “Blues Clues” popped up on the screen. Along with flashy colors came a classic tune, “Ants Go Marching One by One.” But instead of hearing the normal lyrics that I expected to match that familiar trumpeting song, I heard something much different. As the vibrant wave of colors and happy smiling faces filled the screen, I heard lyrics identifying a parade of families made up of trans-gender, ace, bi and pan sexual, non-binary, gay, and lesbian cartoon characters marching “one by one, hurrah, hurrah” across the screen.
It was a wake up call. How do I begin discipling my toddlers and preschoolers to honor and love others AND to honor and love their good, God-given bodies? How do I start building a healthy, biblical sexual worldview for them even in their youngest years? I realized that the time for sticking my head in the sand has long gone.
We all desire to give our kids a clear and beautiful view of sex and sexuality. But with the way things are changing so quickly in our culture, where do we start? And how young? And if we’re starting these “sex-talks” sooner, what exactly do we say to honor the truth of God’s Word along with our kids’ ages and development?
Things are much more socially complex than ever before, and it can feel overwhelming, almost paralyzing. However, I actually believe that the direction of our culture towards more sexual confusion can become a place of gospel clarity and discipleship opportunity—especially when it comes to talking to our kids about our bodies. Rather than being a book of silence and rules about sexuality, God’s Word is a source of abundant hope, beautiful freedom, and life-giving truth.
The most basic place we start in giving young children a solid foundation about sexuality is celebration. Clarity is the antidote to confusion. And when we celebrate something, we gain a fresh sense of joy, simplicity, and clarity around it. Celebration of the body as God’s good and meaningful gift is the first building block to disciple our kids in a healthy and integrated biblical sexuality, starting as young as preschool.
Here are a few tangible examples of how I celebrate God’s good gift with my very young children.
We celebrate that God calls us His masterpiece.
The philosophical worldview that is behind much of the confusion plaguing our children would have us believe that our bodies are meaningless matter, that we have evolved from an accidental bang, and that our bodies exist primarily for self-expression. This worldview demeans and devalues humanity on every level. However, we are invited to know a different reality. Christian theology holds to the belief that we were designed wonderfully and thoughtfully by a Designer who has good plans for our lives. Therefore, our bodies are meaningful masterpieces, meant not for self-expression, but for God-expression.
We have to take God at his word and trust that what He said is good is actually GOOD! God formed male and female in His image and called them GOOD! He was the first to celebrate gender, sexuality, and the body! As they get older, they will be able to understand in more concrete ways how gender and sex are meaningful and point us to a larger Gospel story. But for now, a consistent and joyful celebration lays a strong foundation for more complex conversation later in their development.
When I pick up my youngest son from his crib, when I comb my 7 year old daughter's hair, when I help tie my 5 year old son’s shoes, when I stop what I’m doing to hug my pre-teen daughter as she walks into the kitchen, and many other times throughout our week, I use intentional words to speak life and truth over them with phrases like this:
“God made you, and God loves you!” or
“You are a meaningful masterpiece!” or
“You are a boy, and it’s GOOD that you are a boy!”
“You are a girl, and it’s GOOD that you are a girl!”
We celebrate our bodies in order to solidify the truth that God purposefully, lovingly, and thoughtfully wove them together in the womb, and He sees them and knows them personally. We honor the fact that God calls them a masterpiece, His workmanship, which carries the Greek root meaning of poetry (Epheisians 2:10). All of us—mind, body, and heart—work together to display the rhythm, rhyme, beauty, and wonder of Heaven’s imagination and good purposes! Our children need us to celebrate the truth that they are not meaningless matter, but a meaningful masterpiece, made with love and intention (Psalm 139)!
We celebrate that our bodies reveal God.
We celebrate the fact that God not only made us good, but called us His image bearers. This image bearing gift includes the way we understand God’s love for us, but also how we share God’s love with others. Image bearing glory is not limited to adults. Image bearing is an everyday reality for children, in big and small ways, just as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 18:3.
Not only are our bodies marked with God’s own loving image, they are filled with God’s powerful Spirit! The Bible tells us that our bodies are temples, or dwelling places of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)! In this way, we can be sure that God wants to live in us and move through us in everyday moments with His powerful love.
If they’re old enough to enjoy a white board moment or a chat at the table with a paper napkin, an easy way to break this down is to draw a stick figure of a person. Put a big crown and heart in the chest space, reminding us that Jesus’ love lives in us. Then, talk through each part of the body and how our bodies are meant to show God’s love to the world!
For example, I might say things like this:
“Our whole bodies were meant to know God’s love and show God’s love!
Our eyes can know God’s love as we notice a beautiful sunset and see God’s awesome creativity.
Our eyes can show God’s love as we look with soft eyes of compassion at a hurting friend.
Our mouths can know God’s love as we read Bible stories!
Our mouths can show God’s love as we share encouraging words with our friends.
Our hands can know God’s love as we hold our parent’s hand and feel safety and comfort.
Our hands can show God’s love as we bake cookies and deliver them to our neighbor.
Our arms can know God’s love as we wave them and dance in joy and worship.
Our arms can show God’s love as we hug our brother after an argument.
You can know God’s love, and show God’s love, with your body! You are a powerful image bearer, head to toe!“
The possibilities are endless as we continue to discuss all the ways our bodies can be a part of experiencing God’s love and sharing God’s love. It can even be a fun discovery as a family to notice and discuss at dinner about how you are learning this at school, at work, and at home.
We celebrate God’s handiwork in nature.
Romans 1:20 says that we know what God is like by noticing the things He created. This includes our bodies! But it also includes the beauty and glory of nature right outside our back doors. When we’re outside, I specifically look for parts of nature that reveal God’s glorious, fruitful ways, and we celebrate those wonders. We can see God’s fruitful handiwork in the changing seasons. We can see God’s mighty power in the tall mountains. We are amazed at the way that salmon, whales, monarch butterflies, sea turtles, and other animals base their migration cycles on reproduction. We see right in our back yard that God designed reproductive sexuality to be a beautiful part of flowers multiplying and spreading beauty. We take note of how the transfer of pollen (male) from the anther of a flower to a stigma (female) brings about fertilization, which then produces seeds and fruit. God loves reproduction, sexuality, fruitfulness, and growth!
These lessons can grow and adapt with their ages, but examples of God’s magnificent, divine designs are all around us! A simple way to start with the youngest family members is simply: “Wow! Look at God’s wonderful, fruitful world! He’s an amazing Creator!”
We celebrate the ways Jesus lived and loved, in His body.
Jesus came in a body, and through his life showed us how to live and love in our bodies (Colossians 2:9). Jesus modeled perfect love in all the ways he received love and gave love in everyday moments and through great sacrifice. With His words He spoke hope. With His tears He showed compassion. With His hands, He washed His friends’ feet. He even gave His own body for us on the cross, the ultimate act of love so that we could know God’s love personally. Just like Jesus, our bodies have meaning and power to communicate love and life and hope. That’s worth celebrating!
As you read Bible stories with your kids, point out how practical and embodied Jesus' love often was. It wasn’t a wishful, illusive sort of love. It was a love lived out through family, community, relationships, and time spent together with those whose lives intersected His. It was a tangible and expressive love, as God lived in Jesus and moved through Jesus to literally change the world!
Celebrating our good and meaningful bodies is a key to help build a solid foundation of sexual discipleship for our kids. As they encounter cultural messages from TV, entertainment, media, and education implying that their gender is meaningless, their body is a mistake, or their sexuality is only about “self expression,” they will have a better understanding of freedom-bringing Truth to stand on. They will begin to realize that human beings, boys and girls, are the crown of God’s creation. And through this posture of wonder, honor, and celebration, our children will be able to celebrate that they and their peers are indeed a marvelous, meaningful masterpiece. That they are image bearers, divinely designed for holy, powerful God-expression in and through their bodies.
Learn how to give your kids a biblical view of sexuality by joining other moms in an online book study through Mama Bear Apologetics Guide to Sexuality. New groups begin in June 2022!
Hear from the book's author Hillary Morgan Ferrer in Java #404: How to Help Your Kids Talk About Sex from a Christian Worldview