How to Talk to Your Kids about Essena O’Neil

EssenaOneilYou’ve likely heard by now of Essena O’Neill and her recent transition to post more honest content on her social media accounts. The GOV team has been speaking to a lot of youth in Singapore lately, and we have even started including some pieces of Essena’s story in our sessions about social media. If you’re a parent wondering if this would be a good story to share with your tween or teen, here are a few thoughts to help you form a conversation:

1. Even social media can be staged – Often we expect advertisers to use things like photoshop, perfect lighting, etc. to make their models look stunning. We realize this and we’re prepared for it. But it’s harder to wrap our minds around social media that’s been altered. Think about it – when you take a selfie, do you adjust the angle at which you’re holding your phone so you look better? We all do. But we don’t always stop and think that maybe our friend has 11 other shots on her camera roll that are not as flattering as the one she just posted. We often scroll quickly through our feeds, see how great everyone looks, and never stop to wonder why we all of the sudden feel so fat and ugly. What I appreciate about Essena O’Neill is she explains some of the tricks she used to get the images she posted, thereby exposing the fact that social media is not always as spontaneous and natural as we assume it is.

2. There’s no such thing as a free meal – This is a true statement, even in social media. If you look at a picture of a celebrity/friend and think more about the clothing he or she is wearing, the thing being eaten, the makeup used, etc., that person might have been paid to take that picture. In Essena’s opinion, this is fine in and of itself, as long as the person tells you he or she is advertising something. I think this is good food for thought when you talk to your kids. No one wants to be deceived, and kids especially need to know when their emotions are being manipulated to make someone else money. That’s only fair.

3. You are responsible for the content you post and share – One thing I appreciate about Essena is that she realizes she is responsible for the effect her posts have on other people. And because she realizes this, she wants to start posting honest things. Kids need to know that even if they are just sharing something created by another person, they are still responsible (at least on a small scale) for the effect that post will have on their friends. Which gives them incentive to share positive things instead of negative things. I am friends with a lot of people who are younger than me on my social media networks (the consequence of speaking to so many youth over several years!). I’m really careful about what I post because I don’t want them to see something I share and get the wrong impression. Here’s a practical example: I live in Colorado. The sheer amount of funny memes that have circulated over the past few years about legalizing marijuana are enough to choke an elephant. I think some of them are really funny, but I don’t think smoking marijuana is a good idea. Hence, I haven’t shared any of the marijuana memes. I just don’t want to risk it being taken the wrong way.

The bottom line when guiding your tweens and teens toward healthy social media use is to communicate that social media is what we make it. We can be honest in the things we post, we can consider others before we post, and we can choose what to view. There are several advantages to social media. However, if we don’t discern the messages coming at us (whether they be from a friend or acquaintance or even an advertisement), we are in danger of allowing social media to have more control over us than we do it.

One guideline we like to share when speaking to youth about social media is T.H.I.N.K. before you post. Ask yourself: “Is what I’m about to post
T rue
H elpful
I nspiring
N ecessary
K ind
?”

It’s a good rule of thumb for anyone – adults included!

– Megan Briggs

Megan joined the Generations of Virtue team to become the Product Manager, a position which keeps her busy researching, reading resources, managing inventory and speaking to young people.

The Supreme Court Ruling: 3 Ways Parents Can Respond

KeepCalm-1If you’ve seen any of the articles online about the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, you’ve probably sensed the issue is emotionally charged. People are so happy. And others are so mad. This is a critical time for the church and for Christian parents. What should we do in light of this ruling? Things are getting confusing. We’ve put our heads together at Generations of Virtue to give 3 ways parents can respond and help their children navigate this confusing time.

1. Talk to your kids about homosexuality. If you haven’t explained homosexuality to your children and they are at an age where they are starting to key into all the hype in the media (and possibly among their peer groups), now is the time. This is your opportunity to communicate what God’s word says about homosexuality. Our kids need to hear the truth from God’s word about this lifestyle. Some key verses to start with include Leviticus 18:22, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:26-28. Another point you might consider making with your children is that even though the Supreme Court made the choice to legalize gay marriage, it does not mean that this was the right choice. It’s an unfortunate truth we have to share with our children, but governments and rulers don’t always make the right choices (shocking, I know). Finally, tell your children the truth about the differences between men and women and why God designed a family to be a man, a woman, and children. (I’ll list some resources below to help with this discussion). It helps children to know this truth from a young age given all the press in our media trying to convince them of the virtues of alternative lifestyles.

2. Show your children how to show the love of Christ to gay people. We should take a lot of comfort in the fact that it’s not our job to judge people. When I was in university, I took a job where my immediate superior was another student who identified himself as a homosexual. I asked the Lord how I should interact with my new boss. He told me to be his friend and to respect the authority of his position. I did that. I became his friend and we got along wonderfully. The truth was, he was really good at his job, and it was easy to follow his lead because he was doing a great job. I don’t think we should be afraid of befriending homosexuals or teaching our children how to befriend them in healthy and beneficial ways. It’s true that we need to approach friendships carefully (whether they be with homosexuals or heterosexuals) and who we allow to spend time (especially time alone) with our kids. This is a topic for spouses to discuss. But please don’t let fear steal a chance to show a homosexual Christ’s love. The truth is, homosexuals are hurting people who need the truth of the Gospel. They are living a lifestyle of sexual immorality – the consequences of which are devastating. At the same time, I know many heterosexual Christians who are living in a similar state of sexual immorality. And as the church we embrace them.

3. Don’t be intimidated. Like I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of emotional hype in the media right now concerning this decision. Don’t let it take you for a ride. Keep calm and parent on. The truth is, God is on His throne and He still calls the shots. A couple months ago I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Michael Brown speak in Singapore. He had a great insight about the LGBT agenda in the U.S. As a way of paraphrase, he said we shouldn’t fear the separation that will come between the people who interpret the scripture (about homosexuality) through the lens of culture and those who will follow God’s word in spirit and in truth. There is some separation happening in the church right now. Which side do you want your family to end up on? Finally, don’t let the enemy intimidate you by the Supreme Court’s decision. Instead of responding in fear, take this opportunity to ask the Lord how to respond. And finally, speak to your children. Help them to know the truth of God’s word and what He has to say about homosexuality. Let them know the truth and let the truth set them free from all the confusion encapsulating this issue. To quote Rick Warren, “truth, is still truth, no matter how many people doubt it. I may deny the law of gravity, but it doesn’t change gravity. And just because we break God’s laws, does not invalidate them.” Don’t be afraid to share the truth with your kids. Kingdoms will fall and rulings will be forgotten, but the word of God will stand.

One final thought: be prayerful as you address this issue with your children. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and answers. Ask Him how your family should respond to this ruling.

Below I’ve listed some articles and books I’ve found really helpful in discussing the issue of homosexuality in light of our current culture. I hope you find them helpful!

Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage by Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet
God’s Design for Sex Series by Stan and Brenna Jones (Book 3 – What’s the Big Deal – has a chapter specifically about homosexuality)
Focus on the Family’s How to Talk to Your Kids about Homosexuality
Interview with John Stonestreet webinar by Generations of Virtue
Short video with Dr. Michael Brown explaining the context of the Levitical scriptures

– Megan Briggs

Megan joined the Generations of Virtue team to become the Product Manager, a position which keeps her busy researching, reading resources, managing inventory and speaking to young people.

Jenner, Gender, and What Parents Can Do

JennerBlender

Parents – there is good news! Amidst the headlines, trending articles, controversy, and hashtags you have an opportunity to equip your kids for the very real issues they may have to face in culture. We don’t have to take Bruce’s advice and “just call me Caitlyn”. Let’s go a step further.

It is evident by so many headlines in our culture today that merely looking good on the outside will not keep sin at bay. Going to church or having 19 kids will not guarantee healthy families. But before we get off-topic, let’s take a look at 3 ways you can use the Bruce Jenner situation to your advantage.

1. Define

The power of a word lies in its definition.

With all the various opinions being expressed, sometimes we are all at risk of losing sight of the original definition of male or female. Words like “gender” get thrown around so much we begin to assume you can choose it like you choose a necklace. That your “sexual orientation” is merely a matter of choice and the results of that choice are no more than a label on a bathroom door.

It says in the beginning that God created man and woman and it was good. Contrary to Facebook, there are not 58 genders to choose from. And actually – gender isn’t a matter of choice. We are created, knit together as either a male or female and God says “It is good.” Use this opportunity to explain words like gender to your young children. Address the classic questions like “Why are boys and girls different?” by giving clear definitions and age-appropriate explanations. A great resource for this is the God’s Design For Sex series which has different books to help you discuss this at various ages. (Bonus: Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book explains how gender is not just a matter of genitalia. Males and females actually have different brain functions. Check it out here.)

2. Affirm
As adults we are well aware of the crazy amount of messages just in advertising telling you “you’re not right”. It is safe to assume that anything that gets this much press and media coverage has multiple agendas backing it up. One of those agendas is to create confusion in our children’s identity. Confusion and lack of self-esteem can be a breeding ground for suicide, drugs, and other high risk behaviors.

During a recent informal survey our team conducted, we found the top lie believed by youth was either “I’m too _______” or “I’m not _______ enough”. When a wave comes through our culture offering true happiness by changing the very fabric of our created being, it is time to get back to truth.

Affirming the gender of our children is such an important part of building their self-esteem. According to Psychology Today, self-esteem will actually drop at various ages throughout our child’s life. However, there is good news:

[Self-esteem’s] existence and utility is inferred through actions and expressions considered evidence of its presence.

Which means you can practically build your child’s self-esteem! As someone who sees your child on a regular basis, use your opportunity to build self-esteem into his/her life. The value your child places in their male or femaleness is one of the contributing factors in them growing into a strong man or woman of God.

This doesn’t have to be awkward or obvious. When you see your sons doing something to be considered “manly”, affirm that. When you find your daughter doing something considered “feminine”, affirm that. These affirmations can be as simple as “You’re such a gentleman!” when you son holds the door for someone else, or “You look beautiful” to your daughter when she’s all dressed and ready for school. For more practical ideas on helping our children survive the gender blender check out Secure Daughters, Confident Sons.

3. Educate
The gender identity crisis is not going away. In fact, just last month the headlines also included this gem: “NHS to give sex change drugs to nine-year-olds”. As parents, your job is not just to bring up your children and protect them from dangerous lies of the enemy, but also to equip them to stand strong for the truth. This education has to go deeper than “because I said so” or “you’ll understand when you’re older”. Now is the time, whether your child is 2 or 12, to step up to the plate. Commit to learn for both of your sakes.

Here are some more excellent resources for parents:

Secure Daughters, Confident Sons
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage
Why Boys and Girls Are Different
Who Switched Off Your Brain? Solving the Mystery of He Said/She Said

Lastly, the challenge I would leave you with is to help your kids love. People who have identified themselves as transgender (or any other alternative gender) are no less God’s children. Teach your children to be ambassadors of God’s love. Keeping in mind that loving someone does not mean blindly accepting them or having them be alone with your children. But don’t treat them as “less than” just because they are different than you. We all need grace.

-Courtney Alberson

Courtney is Generation of Virtue’s lead solutions specialist. Which is a fancy way of saying she handles the team’s many IT needs and spends a lot of time in Photoshop. When she’s not finding solutions to problems, Courtney enjoys communicating God’s truth about love and relationships to teenagers and…drinking coffee.