Talking to Your Kids About Sex

by Kristin Bonham and Jeanna White

When do you talk to your kids about sex? What do you say? Is it really that time already? Can’t somebody else do this for me? Is it too late if their already asking me questions? Can’t we keep them innocent for just a few more years?  Ahhh!

Getting a Vision for talking to your kids

There are two extremes when it comes to talking to your kids about S-E-X.  The first extreme is that you’re so afraid to talk to your kids, so you don’t.  This is the symptom of a sheltering parent and the focus is to keep information, good or bad, out in order to protect them.  The problem with this approach is that you are not going to be with your child 24/7, so how will you manage to keep everything out?  The second approach is that you decide to get to them first and you tell them everything!  This is the equipping parent and the focus is to be the only source of information.  Take a deep breath…it’s not a race and you do not have to be the expert on everything. The common mistake with these two extremes is that it is all about transferring information. 

Talking to your kids is not about information!  It’s not about giving them knowledge!  It’s about fostering a relationship between parents and children where they feel safe with you, they feel they can trust you to lead and guide them, and they want to come to you with whatever is going on. 

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that teenagers will tell you everything…they won’t.  No matter how great your communication and relationship is, they will hold back to some degree.  Your responsibility as a parent is to foster the relationship so that they will want to talk to you, and this begins with telling them you will always tell them the truth. 

Our focus and goal as Christian moms should be to relate with our kids, relate to our kids and help our kids relate with others.  In this context, relate means to connect with, to have an ally, to work out relationship.   If your vision is relating, there is time spent together… sometimes not talking at all, but learning your kids, learning what environment encourages them to talk.  It might be before bed, riding together in the car, taking them to eat out, doing an activity they love, etc. 

When you focus on relating with your kids, you teach them how to handle information when it comes to them through sources you would rather avoid.  You teach them to reach out to the right people to speak into their lives and add to what you are teaching them as a parent.  You help them build trust in your relationship and confidence in who they are so that they are able to navigate tough things they will be facing. 

Take a trip down memory lane

Remember what your conversations about sex were like with your parents?  Maybe they were awkward or even non-existent.  It is one of the hardest things as a parent to not react when your child asks you about something they heard at school or with a group of friends.  We have to have a game face that shows our calm openness… haha, good luck with that, right?  If you are reacting to questions with, “Where’d you hear that? You can’t hang out with them anymore,” your kids will shut down. 

You have an amazing opportunity to become your child’s most trusted guide through all the changes and relationships they will be experiencing.  We’ve talked to many parents who freak out when they get a question because as an adult, we know the depth of the answer.  Remember, your child doesn’t!  I remember my daughter asking me what a tampon was.  She heard the word and wanted to know what it meant.  Do you think she wanted all the information about women’s monthly cycles, why we have them, and all the birds and bees?  She was 8!  She had no idea what a loaded question that was.  In that moment, I paused and said, “Do you want the simple version or the yucky version?”  This told her that she was asking way more than she knew and I gave her a chance to tell me what she wanted to hear. 

I look back and see how many times this happened with each of my kids.  If you go into all the “yucky” details when they had no idea it was coming, they will shut down.  By asking my daughter which version she wanted, I let her set the pace.  She picked the simple version.  I told her, “It’s a piece of cotton.”  I told her there is more to know and she can come to me in the next few weeks when she’s ready and I’ll tell her.  She did and we had the talk that was age appropriate and neither one of us freaked out!

More than one-liners

Read some books!  There is a lot of information out there to help you get through these conversations.  You need to have more than one-liners though.  Telling your kids, “Don’t have sex,” or, “Sex is sin before marriage,” without relating to your kids, calmly explanating things, and having conversations about how they are feeling and dealing with all these emotions, is sending them a message that when their bodies are changing, it’s dirty or sin.  Prepare to talk to them about the physical, emotional and spiritual components of sex and how God created them.  Being close enough with your kids to have meaningful talks about sex is more important than the “when” do we have “the talk”.

So, When?! 

Around 4th or 5th grade is the perfect time to talk about hygiene, zits, bad hair days, periods, etc.  This will set you up for having more talks about different changes their bodies are going through.  Some kids develop earlier than others and you want to prepare them but not scare or shock them.   You have to remember, their hormones are going crazy and they need mom and dad to help them figure it out and know what to expect.  Don’t get too technical but prepare them for what they will experience.  Share your experiences that are appropriate and tell them what to expect. 

We want to encourage you to jump in!  Don’t let a lack of knowledge, the way you grew up, or embarrassment keep you from going there.  Admit it’s hard and let God give you the confidence.  You may think you are protecting your kids innocence by putting off the talks but they are curious because God made them that way!

Developing Character

When you make the focus of your parenting about relating, you are developing character that will carry them through many different scenarios with friends, siblings, teachers, and leaders.  Create routines they can trust and teach them to wait for things like cell phones, dating, or different experiences.  Take opportunities to develop time management, teaching them to keep their commitments, be on time, follow through, and respect authority.  This may be a great time to take an inventory of your own habits and make changes, too.  Your kids are going to follow what’s modeled for them.  Be the best model you can… not perfect, but growing and changing yourself.  Your kids will follow you!

Here’s a nugget to remember:  You are the closest example to how God wants to relate to your kids.  Take advantage of your opportunities.  Put your phone down, turn the TV off, shut the music off.  Silence isn’t a bad thing. They might actually start talking!

“The quiet words of the wise are more effective than the ranting of a king of fools.” Ecclesiastes 9:17 (The Message)

Recommended Reading:

  • A Chicken’s Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids about Sex by Kevin Leman and Kathy Flores Bell
  • Preparing for Adolescence by Dr. James Dobson
  • Growing Great Kids by Kate Battistelli

Kristin Bonham is a pastor’s wife and the Women’s Ministry Director at Grace Family Church. She’s been married to Chris for 24 years and is mom to Taylor, Abby and Casey. She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Pastor Chris to anywhere tropical. She collects books and reads some of them. Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with family and friends around the table.

Jeanna White is a pastor’s wife and the Early Childhood Director overseeing PromiseLand and The Clubhouse. You will always see a smile on her face as she and Pastor Jerry work together helping families know Jesus. They have three crazy, awesome kids, Easton, 17, Hunter, 15, and Skye, 10. Being parents is what they are most passionate about.

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