Anash Chinuch/Written by Rabbi Levi Kaplan
People have deeply rooted beliefs about what issues should or shouldn’t be discussed with their children, from their upbringings and beyond. Regardless of our upbringing, nowadays people are more open and discuss sensitive and delicate issues more freely.
A consideration is how they come to learn about it, almost always they learn the information with goyishe views. Even if children are taught the right values, they are often influenced subconsciously with a hashkafa that is diametrically opposed to Yiddishket and Chassidishkeit. This is one of the reasons why it is important for parents to speak to children at a fairly young age (and most parents do not realize that children nowadays are much more aware at far earlier ages than before, so it is always preferable to talk to children before they are exploring then once they are experiencing and engaging). Parents should present the proper way to approach tznius and intimacy, without shame, fear, or ambiguity.
Children should learn about the kedusha of these matters and not come to think about intimacy as a goyish thing. It is preferable that these matters be broached over many years little by little instead of all at once, and the children must feel empowered and proud of the Yiddishe/Chassidishe view which will ensure that instead of envying the goyim, c”v, they will feel secure and grateful to follow the way of the Torah.
It is important to emphasize that just as mothers speak to their daughters about the changes in their bodies, fathers, too, should talk to their sons as they enter puberty. If you aren’t sure what to say, ask someone for oisios, don’t ask them whether you should discuss it, ask them for the right words. It is easier in the present not to speak to your children, it is infinitely more valuable to speak to them sooner.
If for some reason the parents cannot do this, they must ensure mashpiim or rabbanim to do so in their stead. In addition, mashpiim, rabbanim, and teachers should also try to speak with each student, recognizing that parents often shy away from broaching these subject and the child is shy to ask or thinks they already know everything.
Ignoring the topic nowadays, should not be considered an option, and parents and teachers should not be afraid of this conversation. The Rebbe clearly writes that things such as tznius need to be spoken about. The Rebbe explained that nowadays there is hefkeiros and peritzus in this area with medical professionals publicly advocating for a lifestyle that is against the Torah. If we refuse to address these issues, they will not magically disappear on their own as children get older. On the contrary, they will tend to increase and affect more problematic behaviors and choices.
Parents have the achrayus to talk to their children about all the aspects of tznius and intimacy in an age-appropriate manner, and clearly explain what is permissible and forbidden in regards to ourselves, what is permissible and forbidden regarding other people. Nevertheless, it is important not to scare them by quoting a maamar Chazal about what will be if they do something wrong.
The fear of introducing foreign concepts to a naïve child is remote, and in all likelihood, the children are already aware of these matters. Of course, some children are more exposed than others; however, children are masters of concealment, and, at times, the less of an indication parents see on their children, the more of a likelihood that they are off to the races in their own heads.
Even if a child would be brought up on an island, without any outside influence, they would experience desires that are hepech haTorah. The Rebbe says that the main purpose for which the Alter Rebbe wrote Iggeres HaTeshuva, is for the Chet HaYoduah. This subject is very important to speak about to pre-teens and teenagers, especially boys, as for many these issues occupy a lot of their time and brain space, and they need to be taught what the Torah has to say about it and the big picture of life in general, and the importance of all other areas of their life, beyond these issues as well.
We owe it to our children to stop circumventing and ignoring these topics so that we can provide teens with tools and methods that will allow them to spend their yeshiva years focusing on the truly important matters of learning Torah, doing mitzvos, and growing in their Yiddishkeit as they approach adulthood.