When it comes to sex ed, I’m from the last generation of kids that will remember the blush and shock of “the talk”. Back then, the trend was that we heard the word “sex” from our parents during a special one-time conversation with a special one-time book during our early tweens (which didn’t technically exist back then). We didn’t hear the word again for at least five more years when it became more of a reality for our maturing hormonal bodies. Before junior high school, we didn’t tend hear or see the word “sex” anywhere except next to an “M” and an “F” on standardized tests.
These days, the word “sex” is a comfortable part of our every day speech. Even our pastors use the word freely in their prayers and sermons without issuing a warning a week in advance like they did in the olden days. I’ve changed with the times and find it easy to talk about sex with my husband and friends, but I’ve struggled to find my groove when it comes to talking about sex with our children. I know that they will hear and see the word everywhere – from the grocery store to the church pew – but I haven’t known how to use it well in our home, considering their young ages and varied developmental stages.
Two years ago, I stepped into uncharted territory by introducing our 9 year old daughter to the concept of sex very slowly using two fantastic resources that I hope to take off the shelf soon for our next daughter. First, we read a chapter from The Care and Keeping of You each week. Then, we read slowly through Dannah Gresh’s It’s Great to Be a Girl!: A Guide to Your Changing Body, concluding the year with a sweet talk on the front porch about the basics of sex. I’m so grateful to God that this experience was everything I could’ve wanted: it was just the right amount of information at just the right time.
In the 2 short years since we transitioned our oldest daughter from childhood naïveté toward an ongoing understanding of God’s plan for sex, our circumstances have changed dramatically. For starters, all of our younger children are now two years older: they are two years more observant and two years more curious with questions that are two years more difficult. In addition, our surrounding culture has become increasingly more saturated with sex than every before… in just two short years!
If my husband and I don’t talk to our children about sex before they are 5, we could be Person #427 and Person #428 to expose them to the word.
That’s not how we want things to go.
We believe it’s a privilege and responsibility to introduce our children to God’s gift of sex.
We have the opportunity to establish a foundation around the word “sex” that is full of goodness, truth, beauty, strength, dignity, and gratitude long before the world has the opportunity to offer its cheap, degrading, and unstable perversion of it. I want to make the most of our opportunity as parents, but I haven’t quite known how to do it.
Thankfully, I came across the 2-part Revive our Hearts interview with Josh McDowell entitled “Raising Children with a Heart for Purity“. The timing of this helpful interview was so perfect: I listened to it a few times and took copious notes. I jotted down the “7 A’s”, which are building blocks of healthy relationships with our children. I copied down the encouraging words that McDowell spoke to his own children: “You are created in the image of God with infinite value, dignity, and worth!”
I also read Straight Talk with Your Kids About Sex, the book that McDowell wrote with his wife, Dottie.
We’ve immediately applied two significant and helpful lessons from these resources:
1. To build a wonderful, trusting, and honest relationship with our children day by day, and
2. To talk about sex openly and honestly from the time our children are very young, addressing their questions in frequent 1 – 2 minute conversations. “Talk about sex early and often” were McDowell’s words of advice.
McDowell says that we have opportunities to talk with our kids about sex every day: TV commercials, magazines, and social media provide countless relevant topics for conversations. As the world inundates our children with sexual images and messages, we can make the most of each opportunity by transforming those messages into the building blocks of a healthy and holy understanding of sex.
I discovered that I could apply McDowell’s advice immediately. Every few days, I’ve discovered a simple opportunity to speak openly, honestly, and biblically about sex with my kids – and it has been great.
Here’s one example of a recent conversation: Last month, we listened to the first few chapters of the book of Matthew. One of the kids asked what it meant that “Joseph did not know Mary until after Jesus was born?” I decided to go for it and casually said, “It means that they did not have sex until after Jesus was born so there would be no confusion or doubt that Jesus truly is the son of God.”
This was the first time I used the word “sex” in front of all of the kids, down to the very youngest one. I acted calm-and-collected, but I actually had butterflies in my stomach!
Of course one of them asked, “Sext? What’s that?”
I used McDowell’s simple two-sentence explanation about what “sex” actually is (read the book!), and made sure they heard me say that sex is a good gift from God for a husband and a wife to enjoy together.
The kids just nodded their heads and moved on to hypothesize what Jesus must have looked like with 100% of Mary’s genes. “Maybe he had the Holy Spirit’s nose?” Meanwhile, I caught my breath! 🙂
Our novice conversations certainly aren’t perfect, but they’re a start. I can’t guarantee that my words will prevent poor decisions or ensure a particular attitude, belief, or behavior from my children, but I feel very good about creating an honest environment in our home regarding such an important part of life. Hopefully, this ongoing conversation will strengthen them to think well about God, sex, and culture.