How to Talk to Kids about Sex
It was time for “The Talk.” Our six-year-old son was coming up with some astute observations. Like folding clothes for the pregnancy center: “You’re joking, Mom! Girls can’t have babies if they don’t have husbands!” Hmm. Well … And he was certainly noticing some things that I think I’ll avoid putting on the ol’ blog.
He’s also one of those ravenous readers: reading grocery bags, cereal boxes, magazines at the checkout, billboards. Hmm.
But honestly, my husband and I weren’t interested in hiding anything. After working in youth ministry and being kids ourselves, we knew that we wanted to be able to be ones to form our kids’ first impressions about sex and make sure those represented a healthy, age-appropriate complete understanding of such an incredible gift from the Creator of sex. After all, a book pointed out, the Hebrews lived in an agricultural society. It wasn’t like their kids didn’t see animal sexuality on a regular basis and know how babies were made.
Plus, it gives my husband and I an opportunity to continue to instill God’s ideas about sex as different situations arise throughout their childhood! Basically, as weird as it sounds, we want to construct a biblical sexual worldview — and that takes time and repeated interactions.
Because of that, we wanted our kids to feel like they could talk to us about questions they had. We’d witnessed that the way parents talked about sex really influenced how kids perceived the topic throughout life. As a child, a friend I knew asked her mom about some birth control pills she saw, and her mom told her that “every woman had a little door inside of her.” Well, my friend knew she hadn’t personally seen a door anywhere (and sensed her mom’s awkwardness), so she decided that:
a) this woman didn’t know what she was talking about and
b) that it was obviously an uncomfortable subject, so
c) she certainly wouldn’t be asking her mom about anything else around this topic!
So after seeking some counsel, here are some tips that ended up guiding “The Talk.” We use a fantastic (appropriately) illustrated series called God’s Design for Sex, which has a different book to use with each age group, starting at age three (how boys and girls are different, etc.).
Examine our own attitudes about sex. My mom always said, “Assume your children are smarter than you think they are.” They’ll pick up on the subtleties of how you talk with them: attitudes toward men or women and toward sex, including embarrassment, frustration, fear, or lack of compassion for those who don’t obey God’s laws for such a powerful force (What if my kid messes up or is tempted? Do I want them to feel like they can’t talk to me?). I try to keep Hebrews 13:4a in mind: “Let marriage be held in honor among all. …” It’s an opportunity to convey how cool it is that God gave this gift to married men and women, keeping them one flesh in every way.
Teach them basic safety. This article on protecting your child from a sexual predator may offer some practical ideas about communicating with your kids about sex, too. Safety conversations can happen whether a child knows about sex or not!
When possible, have the same-gender parent talk with them. As my kids’ bodies develop, so will their questions. Things are going to get a little more personal and a little more embarrassing for them. Opening up the lines of communication from the get-go for my boys with my husband sets a pattern: You can talk to me about anything. You can feel secure. I’ll take you seriously. And I’ll tell you the truth.
Use proper names for anatomy and sexual actions. This helps your child to avoid embarrassment and to speak accurately and confidently — especially if they’re in danger of a predator. It also communicates respect for their bodies.
Pray about it. God knows when and how to talk to each of your kids about this awesome gift! Ask Him for wisdom, and then go for it with courageous faith that He’ll meet you there.
He certainly did with us!