The sex talk with my kids. I expected it to go differently.
My 7-year-old daughter posed a question about babies, and somehow the stage was set for me to explain what Mommy and Daddy do to get a baby in Mommy’s tummy.
After the blurting out of key body parts and necessary actions, I felt my stomach do a near back-flip and the color leave my face, but I felt proud of myself. I had conquered the Mt. Everest of parental duty: I had explained the birds-and-the-bees to my offspring.
I had even accomplished this feat in a fairly timely, age-appropriate manner. Granted, my 4-year-old was listening in on the conversation, and I hadn’t exactly intended for him to be part of the audience, but overall, I felt it went pretty well.
After my explanation, I waited for screams of shock, my daughter fainting from the trauma of hearing me speak of, gasp, sex. But no such moment happened. My daughter wrinkled her nose and said, “Ewww!” with a giggle. My son chimed in an enthusiastic comment which doesn’t seem appropriate to repeat here and then finished up his plate. A minute later, both kids pushed back their chairs, got up from the table, and noisily requested permission to play the Wii.
I shrugged. Well, OK. That wasn’t so bad. Is it possible that as a Christian parent I might be able to navigate the topic with grace and ease? I had assumed otherwise.
The Decision to Talk Openly About Sex With My Kids as a Christian Parent
A few years ago, I decided that I needed to be open with my children in discussing sex and body parts. I myself was a child of the 80s, and sex wasn’t talked about openly in my household. In fact, my first introduction to the topic was on the bus ride home from school one day. I was in second grade and a much older boy threw out the details to me, though I didn’t ask. I was thoroughly horrified by his description, and after that initial introduction, I pieced together what I knew from anatomy illustrations in books, romantic scenes in movies, and finally, the information they gave us in the public school sex education program.
Because of my own rude introduction to the topic, I knew that I needed to initiate the conversation with my own kids and make myself available when the questions came — because if I didn’t, they were going to find the answers elsewhere. It was only a matter of time before they heard about sex on the bus or saw a raunchy image in a magazine or noticed an ad pop up on the computer.
However, navigating the discussion of sex as a Christian parent is not without its challenges. We may not know how to approach the subject. Therefore, we may just avoid it altogether or bumble our way through it in a way that is awkward for ourselves and our kids. However, kids need to have honest discussions with their parents about sex. Therefore, even though I am learning as I go, here are a few things I plan to do with my own kids when it comes to talking about sex:
1. Make it an ongoing conversation.
Obviously, I described a big moment at the dinner table where I explained sex to my kids using correct anatomical terms. However, I had decided before that point that I would make sex and growing up an ongoing conversation with my kids. Rather than white-knuckle my way through one big uncomfortable conversation (or avoid it completely) well past the time my kids had heard it from someone else, I decided I would answer my kids’ questions when they came up and give the information that was age-appropriate as they progressed.
Therefore, even though we did have a conversation that was big at the table in terms of me revealing with honesty what happens to get a baby in Mommy’s tummy, there were several small conversations before that point where I told them a fraction about sex and baby development that contributed to the dinner conversation. As my kids grow, I want to continue to provide them with information and materials that will help them to know what is happening to their changing bodies, as well as God’s plan for sex. Although not every parent needs to have the exact same approach, I believe that it’s far more effective to have a series of small conversations about sex and the body as our children grow rather than one enormous conversation that we never touch on again (or no conversation at all).
2. Take shame out of the equation.
Because I didn’t hear many adults in my life (other than the educational figures at school) talk about sex when I was growing up, sex had an air of secrecy to it. I got the impression that sex was bad. It was too bad to talk about. There must be something dirty about it. It wasn’t until I watched a Song of Songs series as an adult that I realized that it’s OK to talk about sex in the appropriate context. God talks about sex, and it’s not shameful to mention certain body parts or acknowledge that they exist. God spends a lot of time talking about His design for intimate relationships and sex in His Word. We should follow His model and not make our kids feel bad or ashamed when they come across a word that they are curious about or have a question about sex or their bodies. Answering their questions and engaging their concerns without shutting them down or looking at them in horror when they bring up a query helps our kids to have a healthy view of sex and takes shame out of the equation.
3. Discuss sex in terms beyond just “Don’t do it.”
As Christian parents, our discussion of sex needs to be in the context of “Here’s God’s Framework for Sex and Why,” rather than just “Don’t!” Unfortunately, for many of us who grew up in the church, the main message we got was just that: “Don’t do it!” I received this particular message of “Don’t” in a myriad of ways: through talks at youth groups, the encouragement to sign a purity contract at church, articles I read in Christian teen magazines, etc. Although the message of purity needs to be one that is given to young people, it is far more effective to tell our young people why, not just don’t. If we take time to explain to our kids that God has created boundaries for relationships and sex to protect us from forming unhealthy soul ties and hurting ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually, kids might be more inclined to get on board with God’s plan for sex, instead of hurting themselves by engaging in promiscuous behavior.
Breaking the Silence: Talking About Sex With Your Kids
Not being open about the topic of sex with kids can cause them to receive confusing or misleading messages about sex and God’s plan for intimacy. Never telling your child about sex in the hopes that he or she won’t do it isn’t realistic. Similarly, acting embarrassed or alarmed when your child asks questions about sex may cause them to view sex as shameful.
As parents, we need to teach our kids what God’s Word says about sex, but also prepare them for the reality that the boundaries for sex and marriage given to us by God will be challenged by the culture. If we create a safe place for our kids to talk with us about sex when they are young and continue the conversation with them with age-appropriate information as they grow, they will be less likely to find out their information from erroneous sources that do not have their best interests in mind — and develop a healthy view of sex they will carry into adulthood.