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Growing Up In God's Image: A New Approach to the Facts of Life Talk Paperback – September 8, 2012
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I wish I had a copy of the new book by Carolyn J. Smith at my disposal when I faced that initial conversation. "Growing Up in God's Image: What to Say and How to Say It" includes all the information any Catholic parent will need to pass on a biologically informative, morally sound take on the changes of puberty and the beauty of sexual intercourse.
Smith has been married for forty-two years and is a mother of ten children and grandmother of fifteen. She created a Family Life curriculum at a private school in the Baltimore area and used Growing Up in God's Image as a tool in her own parish to help guide parents through the discussion of the facts of life with their children.
Smith divides the text into three main sections, all focused on love: Spousal Love Reflects the Love of the Trinity, Spousal Love Reflects the Love of Christ for Each One of Us in the Eucharist, and Spousal Love is Sacramental Love. The book is rooted in Scripture. the Catechism, and Blessed Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. She emphasizes the self-giving nature of love, and the importance of co-creating with God in the conception of children. She also discusses modesty and the importance of caring for one's body.
It includes all the necessary biological facts, including diagrams, as well as the very important spiritual aspects of marital relationships and intimacy. For older children, there is an additional section on "Thoughts to Consider" which delves into these topics on a deeper level. It also includes a subsection on dating, which offers much good advice, but which some modern parents might find a bit anachronistic. For example, Smith suggests that only on very rare occasions should a girl ever call a boy. Parents and teens can certainly make decisions together regarding dating rules, but this guide offers a good start for the conversation.
Smith fully admits that she presents the ideal of human sexuality in this book. Like the Theology of the Body itself, it is a goal that very few of us every perfectly achieve. As she states, "We give our children God's way, pure and untouched. Then, we teach our kids to strive to be their best, with God's help!"
"Growing Up in God's Image" should be in the parenting toolbox of every Catholic parent of tweens and teens to help guide those important and nerve-wracking conversations on human sexuality.
More than just a biology lesson about puberty with diagrams, Growing Up in God's Image: A New Approach to the Facts of Life Talk What to Say and How to Say It gives parents who are a bit skittish when it comes to discussing sex with their offspring gender specific scripts to go by when educating children on the faith-based version of the birds and the bees talk.
In essence this guide saves you the trouble of summarizing Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology Of The Body by Blessed Pope John Paul II so that your kids would understand it. (I recommend everyone read the previously mentioned work. Outside of the Bible itself, it's the book I've found has the most powerful of description God's love for us.) The basics of God's love for us as it's expressed in the Trinity and through husband and wife to their children are covered. There's a section specifically for moms talking with their daughters and one for fathers who are talking with their sons about the Christ-centered "facts of life."
I sincerely wish this had been the introduction I had to sexuality. Through no fault of my parents or my own, at a friend's house when I was still pretty young (probably 6 or 7), I came across what I thought based on the drawings on the cover was a children's book. As a lover of books, I opened it, did my best to read it, and looked at the drawings which really shocked me. I honestly can't remember if I said anything to my parents about having seen the book because I felt so surprised and embarrassed by what was in it. I still don't know why my friend's parents had that book laying out in their family room since their oldest child was a little younger than I was at the time.
Do your children and yourselves a favor, and put God in the center of the equation from the beginning and add age-appropriate details about the sanctity of sexuality as your kids grow older.
Carolyn's straight forward, practical, theologically sound, and excellently written book will give you the words you need to teach your child the beautiful truth of God's plan for sexuality. Carolyn writes from her perspective as a faithful wife, mother of ten, and devout Catholic who has a firm grasp of the Church's teaching. Every Catholic parent should have a copy of this book!