Teaching Tomorrow’s Truths Today. Six Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Sex
My 12-year-old morphed into a driving expert this year. She doles out helpful advice and suggestions to me and other drivers on the road. Often, she informs me that I’m going the wrong way or missed a chance to go. She’s into this driving thing, making mental notes of the do’s and don’t’s each time we’re in the car.
There are times when I cringe and want her to just let me drive, but most of the time I think it’s great. She’s interested. She’s storing information she”ll need once she starts driving. Most of all, she’s listening to me and the advice I am giving her. Yes! We’re having discussions that don’t involve eye rolls and “I know that, Mom!” In a few years, as she grows more independent, she won’t be as impressed by what I have to say about driving because she and her friends will feel they “know all about that.”
Teaching truths early. From crossing the street to sex education…
In parenting, the best teaching moments often occur before a skill is needed—whether it’s teaching a toddler to look both ways to cross the street, or teaching a pre-teen about driving. Fire safety, social skills, and not touching hot things—these are lessons we teach repeatedly early on to help our children live in the world as they grow more independent of us.
Sex education is another big teaching opportunity when the kids are younger. A wise friend once said there should not be one singular “talk” given about sex with the hope that the subject will crawl under the covers and stay there. As parents, we should have an ongoing dialog with our kids about sexuality, adding more as the child matures. These conversations work best when they occur before the child actually needs to know it.
Sadly, our kids grow up way too fast. The subject of sex assaults them in books, TV, school, and … everywhere. And it seems to me once kids start learning from peers, they are less inclined to listen to their parents.
So, when and how do we start talking about sex? And what do we say?
Here are six tips I’ve learned:
- Answer questions truthfully as they arrive. Be matter of fact and do your best not to stammer and be embarrassed. In a parenting seminar, author and parenting expert Dr. Tim Kimmel said it’s never too early to start sex education. He mentioned kindergarten, maybe younger. I wanted to crawl under my seat when he said that. Seriously? That young? But he had a valid point. Don’t push the subject away for “when you’re older.” When they’re older, they’ll have learned it from peers.
- God isn’t shy about sex, so you don’t have to be either. Sex is all around us, and in many ways it has been warped and twisted with mixed messages, so it’s no wonder we don’t know what to tell our kids. But we don’t have to be embarrassed about it. God designed it to be beautiful. There’s an entire book of the Bible dedicated to sex—Song of Solomon. When asked questions, I often use statements that start with “God made it to be that way. That is part of God’s design.” I make it a positive subject and keep God in the center of the conversation.
- Answer the question they ask. Several years ago, I remember my daughter asking, “What’s sex?” It came out of nowhere, so I asked what brought that up. It turned out she’d filled out a form in school asking for “sex,” as in male or female. When I explained they wanted to know whether she was a boy or a girl, she nodded and skipped on her way.
- Simple, factual statements work well. A mentor of mine told me her 3-year-old daughter saw two bunnies procreating in their yard and asked what they were doing. Mom answered honestly, “They’re making babies.” The daughter nodded. “Did you and Daddy do that?” Mom answered, “It’s a bit different, but yes.” And that was it for several years. Just a short, quick conversation, but it left the dialog open.
- Answer according to their age level. As kids mature, they can smell condescension from three miles away and they resent it. They hear things at school and elsewhere, so we have to be honest and transparent with them or else they’ll take their questions elsewhere. There are some great sources to help answer questions listed at the bottom of this post.
- Discuss sexual boundaries and why God put them there. God cares about us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. He placed boundaries around sex for our protection, not to deprive us.
For more information on teaching and understanding God’s design for sexuality:
The Bare Facts: 39 Questions Your Parents Hope You Never Ask About Sex, by Josh McDowell.