Let’s talk about sex.
Maybe you have lived through some of these scenarios:
• During bath time your three-year-old son asks you why his younger sister’s bottom looks different than his.
• You are driving down the road when your seven-year-old daughter asks how babies are made.
• As you are working on the family computer you stumbled upon your teenage son’s recent search history on Google.
How do you respond in these moments? As parents these scenes make you sweat. You can feel the lump forming in your throat as you picture these scenarios becoming a reality. For all the dads reading, you instinctive reaction is shouting, “Go ask your mother!”
Part of our squeamishness with sex dates back to the very first man and woman. God created us in his image. Adam and Eve were the only humans who knew sexual identity apart from bashfulness and brokenness, but this all changed when sin entered the world through their disobedience. We feel the effects of their actions in every area of our lives, including our sexuality. Part of the consequence of sin is the awkwardness that now accompanies sexuality.
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Genesis 3:7
Ever since that moment God’s plan for sexual identify and sexually integrity has been distorted.
When it comes to the topic of sexuality, we can too easily feel ill-equipped to field these questions and conversations with our children, or maybe that’s just me! However, we can’t ignore the subject. In fact, to do so will be detrimental to our children. God has given us the immense responsibility of helping our sons and daughters understand God’s design for sexuality. So what can we do?
Let me disappoint you up front by letting you know that there is no secret formula or recipe. There is no way to entirely remove the tension that will surface. With that in mind, I encourage you to try three things as you navigate this critical role in your parenting.
1. Talk about the subject openly and often.
Maybe you are familiar with “the talk.” Yes, the iconic let’s sit down and discuss the birds and the bees discussion. Perhaps you even had “the talk” with your mom or dad. The premise of this right of passage is that you sit down and have a single conversation about the subject (as if you could cover all your bases in one session). Let me suggest a better way.
Our kids are going to hear this information from somewhere, so let it be from you and me rather than their friend on the school bus or their gym teacher. Instead of having a single talk before our kids head out on their first date, to prom, or off to college, let's talk about sex and sexuality often and honestly. If we create a safe environment for our children to ask questions, they’ll ask questions! Don’t just play defense but go on the offensive and look for opportunities to start the conversation.
2. Take the phase into account.
When talking about sex and sexuality, you don’t need to be bashful, but you should discuss the subject in an age-appropriate manner. What we share with a three-year-old should look drastically different than what we share with an eleven-year-old. That’s why is so important to take the phase into account.
A phase is a timeframe in a kid’s life when you can leverage unique opportunities to influence their future. Each stage of a child’s life holds unique opportunities to discuss sexuality.
Dr. Jim Burns of Home Word focuses on four phases as a guide for talking with your children about sex and sexuality:
Preschool Phase- The goal: Introduce them to their body
Elementary Phase - The goal: Inform them about how things work
Middle School Phase- The goal: Interpret what is changing
High School Phase - Coach them towards healthy relationships
To learn more about these phases and tips on how to navigate these conversations, check out this podcast: Sex Conversations Trough the Phases.
3. Trust God to use you.
Sometimes it’s easy to want to rely solely on the experts like Dr. Jim or even your child’s teacher or student pastor. At Parker Hill, we believe in the power of combined influences. You don’t need to have these conversations alone, and there is power in many adults who speak the same message to our children. However, let me encourage you to not offload this responsibility simply because you're uncomfortable.
God has given you the unique opportunity to parent your child, and no one knows them like you. Trust God to use you in spite of your shortcomings, quirks, and sweaty palms to make a difference in the life of your child, even when it comes to talking about sex.
Written by Jason Castelli, Director of Family and Adult Ministries at Parker Hill.