As parents who believe in the sanctity of human life face challenges in their quest to raise pro-life children at a time when mainstream society is exposing kids to pro-abortion points of view, a parenting expert has shared tips on how pro-life parents can influence their kids from an early age.
As January marks Sanctity of Human Life Month, Dr. Joannie DeBrito, the director of parenting and youth at the Christian conservative organization Focus on the Family, spoke with The Christian Post on the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
DeBrito, who is a mother and grandmother with over 30 years of experience as a parent educator and family life educator, assured that parents have the “greatest influence on their children” from the time they are young.
She encouraged pro-life parents to begin to “instill a value of all life” in their children from an early age. Instilling a value of life in children, she said, should go beyond teaching them the importance of pre-born life but life at “all ages.”
This includes, she said, learning to value people who “might not be seen by some people as valuable” because they have disabilities or because of their old age.
“So, it’s really helpful from the time your children are very young to instill that value of all life, that all life comes from God and is created by God and is valued by God,” DeBrito said.
“And so we can do that by obviously allowing our kids to have exposure to a variety of people at different ages and people with disabilities and so forth, and modeling that we value them, and modeling that we recognize them as being valuable as well.”
DeBrito shared a personal anecdote about the impact a girl with disabilities, who could not walk or talk, had on her daughter when she was younger.
“It had such an amazing impact on my daughter to actually sit and talk with her and hold her hand. And this little girl would respond to my daughter. She’d come up, and she’d say hi … and say her name and stroke her,” she remembers. “And this little girl would be staring off and then all of a sudden, she’d make eye contact with my daughter and smile. And my daughter would sing to her.”
“My daughter from that point on … just really had that sense of … she is also a creation of the Lord and she is to be valued like everyone else,” DeBrito added.
The Focus on the Family director suggested that parents should plant a seed with their small children as an important first step. As kids watch the seed turn into a plant, they learn the value of life that may seem insignificant at first.
“Finally starting to see that little piece of green poke through the dirt and eventually develop into a plant or a flower, that’s a really great way to show that this teeny, tiny little seed that looked like it might be insignificant to the naked eye actually developed and blossomed into a beautiful plant or a beautiful flower,” she detailed.
“If you look under a microscope maybe at cells as conception and fertilization has occurred, it may appear to someone as if that isn’t life, it’s just a cluster of cells. But in fact, it’s the beginning of a beautiful life and of God’s creation of life. So, that’s a great thing that you can do with kids who are younger.”
DeBrito advised parents to also expose their children to other people “who might be struggling” by doing charitable activities such as serving at a soup kitchen.
“[T]hey begin to understand that even though people may be struggling, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t of value,” she expounded.
DeBrito maintains that when it comes to teaching older children about abortion, it is best to stay ahead of the curve and expose them to the topic before they get to high school, where they may experience friends dealing with an unplanned pregnancy by “talking them through the kinds of things that might happen to people when they are dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.”
One of those realities, she said, is that those faced with unplanned pregnancies will “choose abortion” or be “really encouraged to choose abortion.”
“That’s a great time to talk very openly with your children about abortion, what it is,” DeBrito, who formerly served as director of university counseling services at Colorado Christian University, said.
Additionally, DeBrito stressed the importance of making sure that children know the consequences of abortion.
”Many, many people, probably a majority of people who have been impacted by an abortion either as a … female who’s terminated a pregnancy or a man who has been part of that decision go on to regret that decision to feel a lot of shame, a lot of guilt,” she contends. ”Sometimes, people get depressed, etcetera. So, it’s not just the loss of that life, it’s the damage that tends to be done for people who are impacted by abortion as well.”
DeBrito warned that there can be physiological issues when it comes to abortion depending on what type of procedure is done.
“There are plenty of risks involved in abortions,” she said. “And those are the kinds of things that are good to present to kids, obviously, as age-appropriate.”
The exact age that a parent should introduce a child to the concept of abortion depends on “the maturity of the child,” according to DeBrito.
Generally speaking, the Focus on the Family director concluded that an “upper elementary age is where you can talk about it a little bit more.”
As a former director of counseling on a Christian college campus, DeBrito recounted arguments made by abortion advocacy groups that stuck with college students. One of the arguments was that the unborn child constituted nothing more than “a blob of tissue.”
She considered such an argument to be a fallacy and dismissed it by circling back to the example of how a seed becomes a plant even when embedded in dirt within a Dixie cup.
“It may look insignificant at the beginning but it grows into something beautiful. What if you had just looked at that and thrown that little seed in the trash?” she asked. “You would have never had what developed — the plant or the flower that blooms.”
Abortion advocates also teach college students “that your identity as a mother or a father involved in an unplanned pregnancy is more important than the identity and value of that unborn baby,” DeBrito alleged.
“If it’s not time for you to have a baby because you are working on a degree or you were working … toward a goal or something, that’s OK because your life is more valuable and the father’s life is more valuable than the life of that unborn baby.”
DeBrito acknowledged that even before children enter college, they can often be exposed to pro-abortion points of view in high school.
“There definitely are those occasions when young women will go in to talk with someone in the school in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy and abortion will be encouraged as opposed to presented as an option," she declared. "It may very well be encouraged.”
Despite the cultural pressure faced by American youth to support abortion rights, DeBrito told CP that “there’s evidence that there are more among the younger generation that are beginning to really embrace life and to be pro-life.”
She attributes the change in attitudes on abortion among young Americans to ultrasound technology.
“When people are actually able to see that womb and that life in the womb, it’s very hard to dismiss that that is a real life. And of course, ultrasounds are able to show that life at earlier and earlier stages.”
DeBrito contrasted ultrasound technology from when her children were born more than 30 years ago to when her grandchildren were born in recent years. Recalling ultrasounds of her children, she remarked how “it looked like clouds in the sky.”
But by the time her kids had children of their own, ultrasound technology had improved significantly.
“You could see details, now they have 3D and 4D images,” she stated. “Sometimes you’ll see babies making funny little movements. It’s very, very hard to deny that that’s a life when you see that or when you hear those heartbeats.”
In an article written for the Focus on the Family website, father of seven Rick Becker shares additional advice on how to “teach the sanctity of life” to children.
Becker began the article by recounting a speech his son Nick, who has Down syndrome, gave on his 17th birthday.
“‘I have a prepared speech for you,’ he said. ‘It’s my birthday and I want to say that I am thankful for my life and that I was born. I know a lot of kids like me don’t get to be born. I am glad that my parents decided to give me life — so that I could have a birthday,’” Becker quoted his son as saying.
Focus on the Family has a hotline for those who have either “had an abortion” or are “in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy.” The hotline number is 1-855-771-4357 (HELP) and is available free of charge Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. MST.
Those who call the hotline will have the opportunity to speak with licensed mental health providers employed by Focus on the Family.