7 Tips for Talking with Your Kids About Sex

I’m a parent.  And as a parent, I have primary responsibility for the formation of my children.  Whether it is spiritual, mental, emotional, relational, physical, or sexual development, as their parent, I am responsible to God to set the pace and to establish the curriculum.  While we each may have certain areas that are easier for us to talk about than the others, we must prioritize teaching our children about sexuality.

Open up your Bible and open up your life to teach your children regarding God’s design for gender, sex, and marriage.

Many children struggle with sexual sins more due to parental negligence.

I know that the most intentional parents can still have children who make poor choices, but many situations happen because parents are unwilling to have the awkward yet important conversations.  While what you talk about and how you talk about it will be different for every parent, I want to give you seven reminders as you talk with your children about sex.

7 Tips

  1. Sooner than later.  No parent is excited about talking to their children about sex, but the other influences in their lives have no problem bringing it up.  Culture, media, friends, literature, and even teachers will talk about it to them at times earlier than you expect or desire.  The goal is that your voice is the first voice they hear on the topic.
  2. Calm over awkward.  If you seem awkward about the topic, your children will look to continue the conversation with someone who seems at ease.  Sex is a beautiful gift that comes from God Himself, so talk about it in a natural, affirming way that celebrates such a wonderful idea.  Open the Bible together and study passages that highlight’s God design regarding sexuality.
  3. Honesty over reputation.  Regardless of how well or how poorly you maintained purity before marriage, you want to teach your children at an early age that your voice can be trusted.  To tell them one thing at one stage and reveal something at another time can cause them to distrust what you say in all areas of life.  You have the right to postpone an answer for their questions if they are too young.  You can be honest but spare the details.  Quite possibly, your honesty regarding your past may be what helps them avoid repeating your mistakes.
  4. Beauty instead of dirty.  If God made it, it is good.  Don’t talk about it as if it is something shameful and dirty.  It can cause your children to see their bodies or their desires as something dirty which is untrue.  Sex isn’t evil – our perversion of sex is what is evil.
  5. Graceful over shameful.  Your children will mess up.  They will fail.  They will struggle.  Regardless of how disappointed you may be, teach them that confession is better than coverup, honesty is better than hiding, repentance is better than regret, and forgiveness is better than fear.  Don’t give up if they mess up – God loved your children while they were sinners (Rom. 5:8) and knew about all their sins and still has the power to forgive them.  Learn from Him.
  6. Open versus closed.  As much as you can, teach your children that the door is always open to talk about their questions, concerns, or mistakes.  While it is awkward to talk with parents about something like this, work as hard as you can to teach them that with you should be the safest place to talk about it.  Affirm them.  Celebrate God’s gifts.  Prepare them to experience it in the best way possible.
  7. Progressive over instant.  Progress the conversation through the years rather than hitting them with it all at once.
    1. 0-3 – Let them see healthy affection between Dad and Mom.  Celebrate the uniqueness each child has as a boy or girl.  Introduce them to the idea of a private area which is private but not dirty.  Maintain healthy bonding with each parent when possible.
    2. 4-7 – Don’t be afraid to use real words for body parts.  If you make it seem comical now, it will seem awkward to switch to real terms later.  Teach them that their parents are always a safe place to talk about any questions they have but that no one outside of their parents needs to see or do anything with their private areas.  Reassure them that if that happens, that they should just tell parents so that you can take care of it.  At all cost, be careful who you let your children around, spend the night with (and don’t feel bad if you completely forbid that), and interact with.
    3. 8-12 – Prepare your children for the changes in puberty.  Details aren’t necessary now, but they need to understand that sex is something reserved for marriage.  Understand that they are hearing and seeing more than ever before, and you will need to start unpacking some vocabulary words and unexpected experiences for them.  Once again, you need to strive to be the first voice on the topics.  Guard media intake with your life.
    4. 13-18 – During this stage, they need to understand the wondrous design of sex within marriage and all the complexities of what happens with it outside of marriage.  You might even set a weekend retreat as a rite of passage to teach them and to begin to expect more of them at this stage in their lives.  Set clear boundaries in all areas and show them how you can imitate those in your own life as well.  All of the talk regarding “how far is too far” is important.  Relationships, friends, and media will overwhelm them with this topic now – don’t stop talking with them about it.  Affirm their desires but direct them towards the right time and right place to enjoy all the benefits of doing things God’s way.

Resources

With this post is limited in scope, here are some additional resources that might help you along the way:

  1. Passport to Purity – FamilyLife has developed Passport2Purity® (P2P) to assist you in building heart-to-heart communication with your preteen while laying a foundation of purity that will prepare them for the turbulent years ahead.
  2. The Talk – Focus on the Family has a healthy guide and a list of extra resources here.
  3. The Focus on the Family Guide to Talking with Your Kids About Sex – Sexual images saturate today’s culture–and children will learn about sex somewhere. But research shows that they want to learn from the parents they trust.

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.