As Christian Parents, Why We Need to Talk to Our Kids About Sex

Untitled designIt happened at dinner the other day.

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.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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The Thing That Surprised Me the Most About Having Children

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (3)

Having kids proved to me that God has a sense of humor.

I had always suspected that He did (after all, He gave us the ability to laugh, and we’re made in His image), but having children confirmed it for me.

Here’s how: nearly every expectation or preconceived notion I had about having children was irrevocably wrong.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was convinced that I was having a boy. Convinced because I thought I wanted a boy. I told my husband that I didn’t even need to go to the ultrasound — I was 100 percent sure I was having a boy. My husband was convinced of the opposite, and he was right.

I was having a girl. And when plans of my “Keegan” boy name and the sports nursery I had already planned in my head were turned upside down with one matter-of-fact announcement from the ultrasound technician, I was horribly upset. But after I got over the shock, I went out and bought the pinkest, frilliest nursery set I could find and embraced the girl thing with open arms.

And you know what? I love having a girl and a first-born girl at that. She is my number-one helper around the house. She is so responsible and pleasant and hilarious. I can’t imagine her not being my child.

Similarly, I had other expectations when I was pregnant with my son. I did think I was having a boy (and was accurate the second time around), but when I got the boy I couldn’t wait to have, I was surprised by just how much of a boy he was. I didn’t anticipate that he would enjoy hanging off the blinds like a trapeze artist (until all of the supports snapped in half), or bring all of the rough-and-tumble and grime of the outdoors in my house. All the time.

And yet — I love my son dearly, and I have learned to let go of my cherished possessions and take it in stride when a lamp (or two or three) breaks.

And I feel pretty sure God laughs. Not in a malicious way, but just at how silly I must appear with my plans and ideas that I am so sure of. Then He unveils His plans and ideas, and they are nothing like mine!

A few other things I have found surprising:

1. My children have pieces of me.

I know this probably seems like an extremely narcissistic way to start this conversation, but I am most amazed by the fact that my children have some of me in them. Sure, I assumed they would somewhat look like me and perhaps display some of my traits, but I didn’t really think about what this would look like in reality.

My daughter has the same taste in movies as me. We love to watch Disney Princess Diaries together, and I have already introduced her to some of my other Disney favorites when I was a child: Parent Trap, Pollyanna, etc. She loves to write stories, and she took off with reading three months into her kindergarten year. Now, as a first grader, she has stacks of chapter books on her nightstand, and I catch her reading every free second she has.

I assumed that my love of all things reading wouldn’t transfer to my son. He didn’t speak in full sentences until he was three, so I thought that he might be slightly delayed with reading or not have an interest in it at all. But I was wrong. He pesters me all day about how to spell words (Mom, how do you spell?) and reads small words on signs and on book covers at the age of four.

Each night he won’t let me leave the room unless the light is on and he has at least 20 children’s tales littering the bottom half of his bed. As I go downstairs to clean the kitchen and tidy up the family room, I hear him reading out loud to himself in his childish voice.

I am reminded of all the nights I read late into the night as a young person, and I am astounded by this love for words that my children share with me. It makes me proud! I bet God looks down and smiles when we display traits of His — and feels that same parental pride.

2. How different my children are from me.

Not only did it surprise me that my children would have some of the same interests as me, I was equally surprised by their uniqueness as individuals. Even though I suspected that they would be different than me, I sometimes feel that these differences are shocking. Sometimes I am not sure if I am dealing with my own children or aliens.

The fact that they have opinions and want their own thing — A LOT — makes it hard for me to always relate to them. My daughter, for instance, is very caring and loves animals. I have never been much of an animal lover, so when she cuddles up to some of the smelly goats and calves at the petting zoo or talks to me about the traits of a particular four-legged friend, I have to feign interest.

It’s a stretch for me when she gets in caring animal mode. It’s just not something I relate to. However, I don’t want to take that away from her because I know how important animals are to her. So we go to farms and zoos and buy kitty fact books and collect stuffed animals from the Five and Below store. I definitely want to be her biggest support, but I have to work at it when that includes orchestrating activities that take me out of my comfort zone.

3. That my children would bring me pain.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I envisioned rosy moments of cradling an infant in my arms — and yes, I had those — but I didn’t realize that infant would also bring me hurt at times. All of those corny things you hear about your children being your hearts walking around are completely true. I feel the hurts that my children feel.

For instance, when my daughter came home and reported a few incidents where a certain girl excluded her in kindergarten, I felt like I had been mortally wounded. I wanted to go and take care of it right then and there (I know, super mature), but I had to instead talk to Elsbeth about her worth and her value whether other people noticed it or not. When she tells me about a girl not being nice to her, I feel like a stake is piercing straight through me. There has been this lurking fear that she will turn out just like me. And I don’t want that for her.

And I have similar pains (for different reasons) when my son throws exhausting fits and makes me wonder if I am doing anything right. Recently, my son went into a phase when we put him into preschool — a hitting Mommy phase — where many afternoons after I picked him up he would throw large-scale tantrums when I didn’t give him the snack he wanted or told him to turn off the video game.

He would come up and give me a defiant punch in the arm or kick in the shin. I know little boys are supposed to be physical, but I figured that would be with other little boys rather than his own mother.

But this little boy whom I rocked to sleep through long nights of colic when he was first born; the same one who wanted only his mother for three straight years (much to the disappointment of his father); the one who bounced into his classroom the first day of preschool holding onto my hand, proud to be sporting a brand-new Mario backpack — yes, this same one also has a temper that rears up against me.

Though he is pulling out of the phase now, there have been moments when I have cringed as I have pulled up in the preschool carpool line — afraid that his teachers will lean in the car and report that my son had gone bezerk during school hours, and they couldn’t control him. But they usually just smile and tell me he was very quiet in school.

Apparently, he reserves this behavior just for me.

No one told me the ache I would feel — loving a child who has such adorable qualities but yet can be so challenging to manage on certain days.

4. That my children would teach me things.

I grew up in the 80s where parents were strict disciplinarians (the ones I observed, anyway). They laid down the law and children were just children. The parents I knew were busy making all of the rules and the kids’ job was to follow them.

Don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t believe kids should call the shots or make the rules in a household, but I have found since having children of my own that I really do learn valuable things from listening to them. They have, in many ways, helped me learn how to parent them and relate to them in more ways than I imagined.

Armed with parenting books when my daughter arrived, I was careful to follow the advice of the experts and psychologists. But I quickly learned that my daughter didn’t need all of the three-step plans for getting her sleeping through the night or weaning her from her pacifier. She was a very easy, compliant baby and needed very little coaxing to do the things we wanted her to.

She never tried to climb out of her crib or escape from her bed when we introduced her to a “big girl bed.” She helped me calm down as a mom, and I realized that she was more resilient than I thought she would be. She had to weather a few of my blunders — like when I washed her bottles for two straight weeks without realizing that I needed to separate the nipple parts to ensure their cleanliness, or tried a boot camp approach to potty-training.

However, she survived both of those mama fails and didn’t seem to notice or care when I finally figured out how to use the bottle dishwasher container I had received at my baby shower and got into a groove with potty-training.

5. That my children would reveal more of God to me.

Although I know and believe my children were made in God’s image, I wasn’t prepared for how much my children would heighten my awareness of who God is and His special plan for each of us — one conceived before we were even born.

With both of my children, I struggled to come up with names because my husband and I had such vastly different ideas concerning names, and nothing sounded right. So I prayed about what to name them, and God delivered.

I dreamed of my daughter’s name, and my son’s name just popped in my head one day when my husband and I were at an impasse as to what to call him. And these names fit both perfectly. I know and see that God knew my children before He formed them.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb … My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all of the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16).

Therefore, the most surprising thing of all, the thing that I wasn’t expecting is that my kids reveal more of God to me: they reveal how much He loves us, how much care He took to create us.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (4)

Though I laugh at how my children didn’t (and don’t) fit my own ideas of who they would be  — those silly ideas I had revealed how little I understood about what a mother does or who she is.

My job as a mother isn’t to put my children or myself on display through my children — though they share some of my traits. My job is to continually point my children to their Maker, understanding that as my children grow in their walks with Jesus and get to know Him better, the Person that will shine the brightest through them is Him.

That though I already see His creative fingerprints all over them, the noblest task of motherhood is this: to know that the greatest plan for my children is to reflect God’s glory. To encourage them to continue to become, as the writer of Ephesians says, God’s masterpiece or poema — not mine.

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Why I Trust God When Things Look Hopeless

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In our house, mornings are frequently fraught with difficulty as we strive to get out the door, but Sunday morning takes the prize for the most difficult morning of the week.

I have two strong-willed girls, ages eight and three. My eight-year-old, Beth, can be particularly difficult, and let me tell you, she was in rare form this past Sunday.

First, we battled over what she was to wear to church that morning. Next, we bickered about what Bible she was going to bring, as she wanted to take a preschool Bible that wasn’t really a Bible. Finally, we fought about her lying to me as she tried to sneak said Bible into her bag. I started yelling, and she rolled her eyes at me. The disrespect became unbearable, so in an effort to save her life and avoid jail time for me, I took off with my youngest daughter in my car and told my husband to bring Beth to church with him.

Mornings like these make me feel as if I’m the most incompetent mother in the world. Had I taught Beth nothing about respecting her elders? Doesn’t she know that lying is a sin? Where did I go wrong? When my children act this way, I begin to wonder if they are going to grow up to be godless heathens.

My parenting woes that sad Sunday morning raise a general question we all ask at least one point in our lives: What should we do when things look dark and hopeless?

There is one word that answers that question: trust.

First, I trust in God’s plans.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

God makes plans for us, and because His love is so great, they are plans for our good.

He gave me these children. It is a part of His master plan; this was no mistake. I can’t understand why, but He must want them with me for a particular reason. So when my children misbehave, like Beth did this past Sunday morning, and I react badly, the reality of God’s plans gives me hope. They will survive my parenting fails — and there have been many — and be the better for them. He can work all things for the good of those that love Him (Romans 8:28).

It brings me comfort when I put my trust and faith in His plans for my life.

Second, I trust in God’s sovereignty.

The Bible is clear about God’s complete control over all things: “In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

Jack Wellman, writer for the website Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith, offers a bit of insight into Proverbs 16:9 when he says, “What this verse is saying is that humans might think that their plans are of their own accord, but it is actually ‘the Lord [Who] establishes [their] steps.’ Even our bad choices are used for God’s purpose in His sovereignty.”

Trusting in God’s sovereignty brings me peace, especially when I know I’ve messed up with my children. Knowing that He is in control at all times and in all situations helps me live my life and not be paralyzed by fear.

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When everything around me seems to be in complete chaos and I feel as if I might be overcome with the hopelessness of a situation, I force myself to “be still, and know that [the Lord] is God” (Psalm 46:10).

Trusting in God’s sovereignty helps me release stressful situations into His hands. 

After arriving at church that contentious Sunday morning, I entered into worship and immediately began to pray for myself and my oldest daughter. I asked God to be glorified in our lives, and I thanked Him ahead of time for what I trusted He would ultimately accomplish in us. I thanked the Lord for His good and perfect plans for my life and Beth’s life. Then, I thanked God for who He is — all-powerful, ruler over the entire universe — and I placed my trust in His sovereignty, giving over my worries about my child and my poor parenting skills to the one who has supreme authority over all things.

I left that worship service having placed my complete trust for myself and for Beth’s — for my entire family’s — future in His hands.

Little did I know, God would answer my prayer for my daughter sooner rather than later. The very next hour, when she was in children’s worship, Beth prayed to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior. (Read “Beth’s Rebirth Day” for more details surrounding her decision.)

Trusting in His plans and His sovereignty is what I do when things look discouraging. Trusting in Jesus puts everything in His capable hands and out of my imperfect ones. When there is nothing else you can possibly do to help or to fix a situation, put your trust in Him. Are unfortunate circumstances (At work? With family? In life?) a heavy weight on your shoulders? Let me encourage you to put your faith in Jesus! For as the words of the great hymn say, “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.”

Jamie Wills

Jamie Wills

Jamie is a high school English teacher, wife and mom. She is a marathon runner and writes regularly in her spare time on miscarriage, running, spirituality and everyday life on her blog -- posting things that God shows her that she doesn't want to forget, or "forget-me-nots." Jamie holds a master's degree in education and sponsors speech and debate at the high school level. Jamie is the mother of three children -- two beautiful daughters, Beth and Hannah; as well as Angel, a baby she lost in August of 2010. She currently resides in Georgia with her family.

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