Best sex education described as starting at home In talks, minister urges audience to be 'askable parents' for children


The Rev. Scott Talley began with humor, then switched to the serious stuff.

The author of "Talking to Your Kids About the Birds and the Bees" related the story of a 10-year-old boy who watched a sex education film and worried about the onset of puberty.

"Isn't there something we could all take to avoid it?" the child plaintively asked his teacher.

Nearly all the 50 people gathered at Westminster Church of Christ laughed.

"You laugh," said Mr. Talley. "I know parents who would pay huge sums of money if their kids could just take something to make puberty go away."

With his audience relaxed, he moved into a discussion of raising children in the 1990s.

"Parents do a fairly good job preaching the evils of drugs and alcohol to their children," said Mr. Talley, "When it comes to teaching about sex, they are terrified."

Mr. Talley, 44, who serves as youth minister to a congregation of 800 in Waco, Texas, gives several talks a year on sex education.

"Puberty is the most dramatic period of life since birth, and kids haven't the foggiest idea of what is happening," he said. "Our primary role as parents is to prepare children thoroughly and adequately."

Last week, Mr. Talley brought his message to Carroll County. In a four-part series of talks at the Madison Street church, he advocated becoming "askable parents" from children's earliest questions to the "tough is sues of today."

"Our children are exposed to so much more than we were," he said. "Sexual pressure is far worse than when we were teens, but their lives do not have to be fraught with problems."

A siren blared from the street, and Mr. Talley earned more soft laughter when he asked, "Are they coming after me for talking about this?"

Citing a recent Gallup poll that found "a happy home" a top teen priority, he said, "Parents, we are the key to our children's happiness."

Mr. Talley focused his seminars on "a Christian wholistic perspective on sex education." He sprinkled folksy humor, personal narratives and candor into his 90-minute discussions, which ended with questions from the audience.

A youth minister for nearly 20 years and the father of two children, Mr. Talley said he tries to teach parents to "talk in a practical way" that blends Christian values and common sense into child-rearing.

Since the average age for the onset of puberty has dropped to about 12, the sooner the preparation begins, the easier it will be to dispel their fears, he said.

"Don't oversell and scare your children," he said. "This is a wonderful transitional time from child to adult. It also is a whole set of worries no child should have to go through without preparation."

He encourages parents to help children develop self-discipline and the ability to distinguish between temptation and sin.

"When the Bible talks about lust, it does not mean the fleeting sexual thought," he said.

Parents can ease puberty trauma by building children's self-esteem, he said.

Parents also should relate their own struggles with growing to adulthood, he said. "They see us as competent adults who have survived."

Early adolescence is the appropriate time to discuss dating "well before the dating process begins."

Since Mr. Talley can find "no way out of the dating ritual in our society," he has developed a practical list of guidelines.

"Ask for specific plans, set realistic guidelines and insist they avoid unchaperoned events," he said.

One vital part of being a parent is letting children go -- not just on a date but out into the world, he said.

"Take a deep breath and say, 'we did the best we could,' " he said.

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