Sara Diament’s Talking to Your Children About Intimacy: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Parents is a slim volume, hardly more than a booklet. The concise format makes this a particularly helpful book for busy and overwhelmed parents. There is no philosophy or methodology to absorb, just common-sense guidelines for nurturing dialogue.
This book offers specific scripts and parameters for conversations with children of different ages. The greatest strength of this content is the way it guides parents to convey precise and detailed information about sexuality within a framework of holiness and modesty. Readers will find here a particularly beautiful and age-appropriate explanation of taharat hamishpacha.
A chapter addressed directly to children includes detailed and explicit information about sexuality and conception. Diament suggests that parents might read this section together with their children, or, alternately, give it to their children to read following a discussion. Parents struggling to find their own language in discussing intimacy might find this particularly useful.
With approbations from Rav Hershel Schacter and Rav Mordechai Willig, Talking to Your Children About Intimacy is targeted to a Modern Orthodox audience. Diament assumes a certain degree of familiarity and engagement with secular culture and its attitudes toward sexuality. Her chapter on talking to teens addresses such scenarios as participation in coed groups and dating.
Overall, Diament’s guidance is straightforward, sensitive and practical. Parents will have to judge for themselves whether her recommended content for different ages is appropriate for their children. I was personally surprised that she suggests initiating a discussion about inappropriate touch with a six-year-old; my husband and I begin addressing this subject to some extent as soon as our children are in the care of other adults, which is often much younger than six.
This book is rich with tools for parents seeking to educate their children about sexuality in the context of an observant lifestyle. Its sensitivity, brevity and practical layout make it an excellent resource for a Jewish family.
Chaya Houpt is a mother of four living in Jerusalem. She writes about parenting and spiritual growth at www.allvictories.blogspot.com.