As a sex therapist, a mother, and a Christian, I am frequently asked questions on how to talk to kids about sex. It can be worrisome for Christian parents to talk about this topic for many reasons. One of those reasons is that most of our parents did not talk to us about sex. Most of my clients tell me that they learned about sex from school, friends, their own marriage, and books but not from their parents. Therefore, most people were never shown how to talk about sex with kids through their own personal experience as kids themselves.
Personally as a parent, I do not want my child to learn about sex from anyone else but me and my husband. I want to create a relationship with my child in which she has the freedom to ask me anything she wants about sex so that she can get real, honest answers from trustworthy sources. The reason for this approach is that there is just too much misinformation in the world that can teach my child plenty about what I believe sex is NOT! I want her to value her body and to know how to handle when (not if) she is objectified. She needs to learn how to honor her sexuality and how to love herself so that she does not settle for unfulfilling relationships and empty sexual encounters. To accomplish this goal, I must be willing to talk openly about sex with her.
Below I will give a process for how to talk to children about sex, but I do want to emphasize from the beginning: please do not wait until they are teenagers to have “the talk!” By that time, they will already know quite a bit, and this from their friends. Also, by that time they may feel embarrassed to talk to parents about sex because at that point it would be something unusual and out of the ordinary to do.
My advice would be:
1) Talk to your kids about sex, their bodies, relationships, and safety in very short but frequent ways: only a few seconds per conversation, but many times over.
It is super important to make desire, sexuality, and human bodies normal for children. To do this, we need to talk to our kids FREQUENTLY about these topics. We need age-appropriate talk around intimacy throughout our kids’ childhood and adolescence. We can start with naming body parts by their appropriate names and move to understanding their own bodies. Furthermore, kids need to learn the changes of puberty, how to navigate their growing interest in sex, consent and safety, and how to connect emotionally and physically with others. These topics are SO important because, again, we want to teach our kids a sexual ethic rather than rely indirectly on other sources for it.
2) Normalize and stay cool
Sex, desire, and intimacy are parts of a typical life. Please, please, please let your kiddos know that they are totally normal to want to have sex. Telling them desire is sinful and wrong sends the wrong message. We want them to know that desire and sex are gifts from God and should be treasured and valued. This is where you can include your sexual ethic so that they can understand what it means to connect with another person emotionally and physically. We want them to know about their bodies and how to honor them as well as how to honor the bodies of others.
3) Be honest
Kids know when we are telling them a story. Let them know the truth about sex and intimacy. It might be frightening, but kids need to know that sex feels good. We ought to do this because we want to be honest. We need to talk to them about hormones, how bodies react, and how the desire for intimacy increases. Teenagers need to know that what they are feeling in their bodies is normal and good.
4) Know what your kids are doing
Online materials can be very sexually explicit and wide-ranging, which can give your kids wrong and misleading ideas. Under the influence of such materials, they may even come to experiment with things that they are not ready for, that are unsafe, or that go against your values. If you find out that your child has seen pornography, ask them to see what they saw. I know that is hard, but WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT OUR CHILDREN ARE SEEING. If we stay in the dark on these topics, we miss the opportunity to share that what they are seeing is not really what happens during lovemaking. It also shows your kids that you are willing to talk to them about difficult, uncomfortable subjects. This is important.
There are many other ways to talk to your kids about sex, but these are just a few. Do not be afraid to ask professionals about how to continue to have these conversations. Also, if sex is a difficult subject for you to broach because of sexual pain in your past or present, please see a sex therapist to help you process the topic.