How to Talk to Your Children About Sex
Do you remember how or by whom you were taught sex education?
I don’t really. I mean I don’t remember ever having a sit down conversation with my mom about sex. It may have happened but I don’t remember it.
I do remember in fifth grade we had a puberty talk at school. The boys and girls got separated into different classes. The girls were shown images of the female reproductive system and we were handed a brown-paper bag with a feminine product and mini-deodorant. I’m still not sure what was in the boy’s bag.
The know the school bus provided me a wealth of knowledge about sex. The kids who lived on a farm had a lot of information to share! Most of it was vulgar and looking back, wasn’t very accurate.
I definitely remember getting my period for the first time while I was spending the night alone at my grandparent’s house. That was an adventure! My grandma didn’t drive, so all of us had to go to the grocery store to buy “supplies”. Then my grandpa thought we should have liver and onions for dinner since I was losing iron. Ah memories…
I don’t know where to start
As a therapist I have been asked by many parents about how to have the “the talk” with their children.
My office has been used to facilitate this conversation between parents and children many times. With some I have just sat and listened. (Unless parents give me the deer-in-a-headlight look and then I’ve jumped in.)
Other times the parents have wanted me to give the talk but have them be present, too.
And some parents have even had me have the sex education conversation with their children alone.
In each of the scenarios the parents have come to me because they have felt too uncomfortable to have the sex talk themselves or without support. Most of the time the reason stated by the parent is, “I don’t want to embarrass them.” and “I don’t know where to start.”
Another question I often receive is “When? Aren’t they too young?”
Every child and maturity level is different but I have found between 8-10 is a good time to discuss sex education. I know that may seem young but if they don’t get the information from you now, they are going to get the information somewhere else. And it may not be the information you want them to hear.
Also, girls are getting their periods younger and younger. On average, girls are having their first menstruation between the ages 9-11.
So, where to start.
We’ll go through the process in a back and forth manner talking about what, then why, what again and then finishing with why.
What – Anatomy: Puberty
I have found the best way to start the conversation is by telling your children about the factual body changes that are going to take place during puberty.
This process is completely natural and happens to everyone.
Don’t shy away from using the appropriate terminology. The little girl from the movie, Kindergarten Cop had it right, “Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina.” These are the body parts that God created. Practice saying the names if you have to so that you don’t hesitate or get embarrassed yourself.
If you present as uncomfortable, your children are going to get the impression that they should be uncomfortable with the topic, too.
Start with a progression of physical changes to lead into the next focus of conversation.
- hair growth
- body odor
- voice changes for boys
- period for girls
- nocturnal emissions (wet dreams)
Why – Biblical
Usually by this time the kids are starting to ask ‘why’ these body changes are going to happen. I then turn to the bible to explain the gift that God gave us.
Start with Genesis and read the whole story of creation. In doing so I highlight a few verses:
Genesis 2:18 (NIV) The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Genesis 2:23-25 (NIV) The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Genesis 1:28 (NIV) God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
These three verses describe God’s design for sex within a marriage. To be a union emotionally, spiritually, and physically. And to procreate.
God could have designed procreation in any way that He wanted but He chose for our most physically vulnerable body parts to fit together. I believe that is a beautiful symbol of a husband and wife sharing all of their vulnerabilities with each other.
What – Anatomy: Sex
At this point you can go back to anatomy and have the physical sex education talk. Again, this is factual material so there is no cause for embarrassment.
Go through the importance of both male and female parts and how the two together create a baby. Find print material that you are comfortable with to illustrate both reproductive systems, the process of sperm and egg connecting, and the progression of baby development in the womb.
When you focus on the awe and wonder of God’s beautiful design, the conversation can be centered more on Him than discomfort.
Why – Biblical
This brings us to our last point in the sex education talk – when should you have sex.
As Christians we know that sexual intimacy was created for marriage. But why?
Marriage is the most intimate relationship we are supposed to have outside of our relationship with God. This relationship is supposed to mimic Jesus’s relationship with the church (us).
Ephesians 5:22-25 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Sex is also the most intimate physical, emotional, and spiritual act you can do with another person. Which is why it is to be kept sacred for your spouse.
This is God’s design. And we know that His design is perfect. We are the imperfect ones who choose to disobey God’s commands. When we do that, life doesn’t go well. This is true in all aspects of our life. Gossip and lying lead to hurt feelings, selfishness ruins relationships, overeating leads to health problems, overindulging in alcohol can lead to addiction, etc.
The same is true with sex. When sex is outside of God’s design there can be consequences – diseases, unwanted pregnancy, abuse, hurt feelings and relationships, and shame.
The bible discusses sexual immorality in multiple places throughout the bible. The purpose is not to be prudish but to protect and guard God’s children from pain, fleshly desires, and ultimately evil. This is the importance of keeping sex within marriage.
Paul describes this 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 (NIV) But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
I pray that is post helps you to have the sex education conversation with your children. You are the best defense against your child receiving inaccurate and immoral information pertaining to God’s beautiful gift.
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