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Mum and Dad

Disagree with sex before marriage? Elizabeth Smart has something to say about that


Sara McGinnis

posted in Parenting

Elizabeth Smart knows firsthand what it’s like to be abducted as a child, and now that she’s a parent herself she has sound words of advice on what we should all be teaching our children.

The 30-year-old activist, who was taken from her Salt Lake City home at the age of 14 and rescued nine long months later, recently participated in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). Along with admitting she doesn’t always love life in the spotlight, the mother of 2-year-old Chloe answered questions from around the world.


A look at three of Elizabeth Smart’s not-to-be-missed replies on tough topics…

Imperative points we need to teach our children:

“Make sure your child knows that they are loved unconditionally, and make sure your child knows what unconditionally means.

“Make sure that your child understands that no one has the right to hurt them or scare them in any way. It doesn’t matter what that person may be: family, friend, religious leader, community leader, it doesn’t matter.

“Should anyone hurt your child or threaten them in any way, they need to tell you.”

Her most useful anti-abduction tips:

“Practice screaming, encourage your kids to fight back, there is a place and a time when it’s not only acceptable it’s encouraged. An organization that I work closely with is Rad Kids it’s all about prevention education and you can learn more about them at”

On religions that teach from a young age sex before marriage is wrong, including going so far as to say someone who isn’t a virgin is “used gum” no one will want:

“I think it’s fine if it’s your belief to teach to wait to have sex until marriage; however I think it is imperative that no analogy like ‘chewed up gum’ be used, because no matter what your sexual orientation, preference, or when to have it is, it will not detract from your worth as a human being. So, yes, change needs to happen in the way it is taught.”


As a parent whose child nearly got kicked out of preschool for biting years ago, I’ve likely said, “No biting!” hundreds of times. But of course what I really meant is, “No biting unless it’s a dire situation,” because a little kid’s chompers can be powerful.

These days my advice to my kids is “Bite, scream, yell, punch, fight, run,” when we talk about the possibility of someone taking or hurting them. For as often as I’ve told them not to do all those things I fervently hope they’d unleash fury in the right scenario.

As for the last part about sex before marriage, I couldn’t agree more. Having been raised in a religious family I’m glad I didn’t hear anything as harsh as the chewing gum comparison, but there also was no mention of no matter what comes to pass it would be okay. In my teen years this put a huge block on any communication my parents and I might have been able to have — since nothing was safe to admit I said nothing.

Of course I want my own kids to make smart decisions and I’m not eager for them to be sexually active, but I do plan to do things differently than how I was raised. For us that means starting with going out of our way to make sure out kids know that no matter what happens they are worthy and loved.

How have you approached teaching your children about these tough subjects?

Images by David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

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