Raising Christian children in today's world is difficult. They are constantly bombarded with sexual images and language in just about any situation - whether it's commercials on television, songs on the radio or billboards while driving down the highway. And as our culture becomes even more sexualized, we find that younger aged children begin to emulate what they say. As a result, we see children speaking about sexual topics, looking at pornographic images and even engaging in sexual activities at a much younger age then in the past.
Speaking to our children about these topics, especially before their teenage years, can be very uncomfortable for parents. It wasn't easy when I had to approach the subject with my now 21 year old daughter, and she was about 14 when we had our discussion. Now, I find myself navigating those waters with my 13 year old boy and 12 year old girl, so I was especially interested when we were offered a review for Not If, But When from Christian Focus.
I should start this review with a bit of honesty. I was not originally scheduled to review this particular title. We had been selected to review a different book about Ole Testament prophecies that pointed toward the coming of Jesus. Often times, God has other plans and when my package arrived from the publisher, it contained Not If, But When instead. As it turns out, this book is probably exactly what I needed for my kids at this time.
Not If, But When is a conversation between a parent and their child written in two ways - one between a mother and her daughter, and then written again as a father conversing with his son. In both stories, the child has returned from a fun day at the waterpark with their friends but had a rather uncomfortable experience that included both inappropriate sexual remarks as well as seeing pornographic images on the friend's phone. During the conversation with the parent, topics such as lust, pornography, objectifying people, and how people can become enslaved to sin when sex is taken out of the context of marriage.
This book is written by author John Perritt, the Director of Resources for Reformed Youth Ministries, and is beautifully illustrated by Alice Masteropaolo. The hardcover book is 59 pages long and has a read to age of 7-12 years of age. The book is written to be read by the parent to the child as opposed to the child reading it independently, mostly due to the nature of the book.
Each of the two story options contains 8 chapters followed by a conclusion. The chapters each contain one page of text with an illustration on the opposing page (one chapter does have two pages of text). Each chapter also contains a box that offers a scripture reading, brings the attention to the main point of the passage, and offers questions to ask the child to help guide them into a discussion.
How Our Family Used This Book
This is not the type of book you just say "Hey, come on kids, we're going to read a story!" The topics in this book can be quite uncomfortable for a preteen to discuss with their parents. With this in mind, I decided to approach this book over a period of days, one on one with each kid. I would have each kid follow me to my bedroom, close the door and over the course of the week, we read the book together - first with Ashleigh and then again with Garrett.
For each kid, I had them start by reading the Bible verse for the chapter and then I would read the chapter to them. The only rule was they could not interrupt or be disrespectful, even if they were uncomfortable with the topic we were discussing.
Ashleigh is at a stage where anything remotely intimate between two people grosses her out. Luckily, this book doesn't discuss biological functions and while it does discuss sex, it assumes that the child already knows how babies are made and instead focuses on sex being a gift from God between two married people. This made the discussion a bit more bearable for her. We did talk more about the topic of pornography and how these types of pictures (and requests for these types of pictures) is disrespectful to her and would not be respecting her but only objectifying her body. With Garrett, I approached our discussions a bit differently. Our discussions were more about why objectifying a woman is wrong and why looking at pornographic images is wrong.
Both kids were given ample opportunity to ask questions, regardless of the topic, whether it be about sex, pornography, relationships, sin, or their relationship with God and they were made aware that if they ever had questions, they could come to either myself or their father to find answers as well as why it would be better for them to come with us and get accurate answers then to get information from their friends.
Overall, I found Not If, But When to be a really great stepping stone for approaching these types of discussions with the kids. My only slight complaint is that the illustrations seem to feature small children rather than older kids. My daughter noticed this during and pointed out that "there was no way a girl that little is going to know things like that".
Not If, But When and the other books published by Christian Focus , be sure to visit their website. You can also find them on the following social media sites:
Members of the Crew were offered their choice out of three books for different age groups to share with their families. Click the banner below and read their reviews for all three.