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Review: Not If, But When

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Posted by Robin Barfield, 12 Nov 2020

Robin Barfield reviews John Perritt's "Not If, But When: Preparing Our Children For Worldly Images".

The responsibility of talking to our children about sex is a great one and a difficult one, even more so talking to them about pornography. When pornography is prevalent in our society and younger children are being exposed to it, having a resource which gives parents helpful words to share is of high value. John Perritt attempts to do just this. The book is aimed at 7–12 year olds, and while this may seem young, most children will have seen some form of pornographic image by the age of 11 and this book seeks to protect and prepare.

The book is split into two parts: the first to read with girls and the second with boys. This seems immediately sensible as the way we would want to relate these issues to each will differ. I read through the second half, slowly with my sons to road test it. Perritt has set the information in the form of a conversation between a mother and a daughter over the advances of a boy at a waterpark and between a father and his son over the viewing of a pornographic image. The conversations develop around Biblical passages and ideas, as questions are asked and wisdom is shared.

The strengths of this book are many: firstly, simply that it exists. To have something to put into the hands of parents to read with their children is a great thing. Secondly, the structure and setting are very helpful in giving an example of how to talk with children as well as giving the content. Thirdly, the wisdom given is pastorally sensitive, full of grace and open enough to enable further conversations when the need arises. Whilst the conversations can feel a little clunky, the nature of the topic makes that less noticeable.

The layout of the book is a weakness. Each story is in dense, Times New Roman font on one page with an illustration on the next. It is not immediately appealing for either parent or child. This is a real shame. The illustrations are attractive but they do seem on the young side, containing children who look more like aged 5 or 6 than 7 plus. Perhaps this is to offset the expectation of parents to leave the conversation for a later stage. But they do seem incongruous.

All said and done, this is still a resource which I will be putting into parents’ hands. It is unique and helpful and utterly necessary. Where many parents will be frightened of talking to our children about pornography this will give a place to begin and often that is all a child will need to feel able to continue the conversation when needed.

Robin Barfield is Associate Minister for Children and Families at Christ Church, Wharton and also lectures in youth and children's ministry at Oak Hill College and Union School of Theology.

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