A study of the Scriptures reveals that sexuality in the context of marriage is one of the most beautiful gifts God has given to humanity. Sadly, the perversions of the topic that are so prevalent in our culture have caused many in the Church today to see sex as a taboo topic that is almost seen as off-limits to discuss. What a sad commentary, when Satan steals from the family one of God’s most precious gifts! No wonder Jesus calls him a thief. As a result of this distortion, far too many – perhaps even a majority – of parents never talk about sexual topics with their children.
From my vantage point as a pastor, most parents desire to talk to their children about these important things, but the conversations are stolen in a subtle way:
- When the children are younger, moms and dads feel uncomfortable with the subject because they fear it will come too soon.
- When the children are entering adolescence, moms and dads feel uncomfortable because they realize how awkward such talks will be – especially in the midst of their child’s already changing body and overall transition of life from a child to a young adult.
- When the child is in his or her teen years, moms and dads feel strange having waited so long – fully aware that their child has figured out many of the details about sex from friends and the media.
As a result, conversations never happen. Then, when sexual topics are brought up at all, they are discussed only in the context of humor or scandal. What a tragedy.
When is the best time to talk with your child about sexuality? Right now. Regardless of their age, it is time to start the conversation. I’ve found through my ministry and interesting principle to hold true: If a child hears information on the subject of sex from someone other than the parents first, the parents often end up having to deprogram what they’ve heard before they can share with them the simple truth. As parents, we want to be proactive in insuring our children are equipped with God’s plan in case they come across a lie.
Of course, the depth of that conversation will depend on the age of your child. Consider the following conversational guides related to three stages of maturity. Notice I did not categorize them with hard-and-fast ages, as different children will be prepared for different levels of dialogue, and only you as a parent can know these things:
1. Early Conversations for the Young:
Just because a child is not prepared to hear about the details of the marriage bed does not mean that he is not ready to talk about sexuality. In fact, your child is growing up in a world that will be sending sexual messages anyway, and you want to be the one to share the truth. At this stage, it is important to focus on principles rather than actions. Help your child understand what it means that God is holy, and how He has called us to reflect that holiness. I would recommend that the following topics are covered:
- God’s plan for marriage is for a man and woman who are devoted to one another for life. (It is important to note that, for many children, there will be people they care about who did not stay together for life. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t love them. God can help people who did not follow that plan to live according to His best plans from that point forward.)
- Sex is a part of God’s plan for marriage. If you feel like the timing is not appropriate to explain the details of sexuality, I would still recommend that you help them understand that sexuality is a gift from God. When they begin to hear about sex from peers or media, we want them to understand that God has a standard that is better than what the world has to offer. A simple, non-detailed definition of sex is an act of love between a husband and wife that also helps them have children.
CONSIDER SAYING: “You don’t need to understand everything about this at your age. There are some subjects that you will have plenty of time to understand later on. But right now, whenever you hear the word sex, you need to know that it is something beautiful that God has created for a man and woman who are married to one another. Of course, like so many other things, the devil has taken sex and made it something that is not what God intended. So some people do things with God’s gift that don’t have anything to do with marriage. If you ever hear someone talking about sex, I want you to come talk to me first and let’s make sure what you are hearing is what God has told us in the Bible.”
- Just as God is holy, He wants us to live holy lives. That means, when it comes to our bodies, we also make sure that we protect them for God’s glory. That means we don’t live as the world does or do anything we want to just because it feels good or others are doing it.
- Pornography is a terrible thing that does not reflect God’s holiness. Pornography is a bad part of our culture in which people allow others to see them naked and do things that shouldn’t be done with their bodies, or things that should only be done by a husband or wife.
CONSIDER SAYING: “Pornography is one way that people disobey God. They sin by exposing their bodies to others to whom they are not married. Other than when your mom and dad need to help you, or a doctor needs to help you, there is no place when you should be naked in front of anyone else until you are married. If anyone ever wants to show you pictures of someone without their clothes on, say no and tell me right away.”
2. Deeper Conversations for the Growing and Contemplative Child:
As your child has more access to peers and others beyond your influence, it becomes more essential to equip him or her with the truth of God’s word related to sexuality. As God leads you, ensure that your child has an understanding of the following:
- The Act of Marriage. This may seem like a daunting task, but don’t forget that sex is a gift from God. Your child deserves to hear about it from someone who will share the details in a way that is God-honoring! Set aside a specific time to get away with your child for this important conversation. Don’t just do it off-the-cuff, in a ‘by the way” fashion, but help them to see its importance by the priority you place. Set a special time to go to a park together, or allow space where everyone else in the family leaves so it is just you and the child. This eliminates any unnecessary awkwardness or embarrassment.
Begin at creation, by sharing God’s original intent for husbands and wives. Genesis 2:24-25 states,  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (ESV) That phrase “one flesh” is a beautiful picture of sexuality as God intended.
Share the basics of what happens, and pause often to invite questions. Consider utilizing some great books on the topic if you would like a guide. Some suggestions can be found on at Resources for Questions About Sexuality & Gender page.
- The Sanctity of Marriage. Every conversation about sex should be shared amidst the topic of the beauty of marriage – the precious relationship that God has set apart for a husband and wife. It should be held in high esteem – seen as something beautiful and blessed. Marriage is more than sexuality, and the topic of sexuality will always be incomplete and less than intended outside of the bigger, profound picture of marriage.
3. Practical Conversations for the Emerging Adult:
Beyond “the sex talk,” parents must maintain a constant dialogue about sex and marriage. There are too many other sexually-charged messages in our culture that won’t be silent. You don’t want to send the message “Well, thank goodness we got that over with!” Consider the following ongoing opportunities:
- “What If” Scenarios: Describing a fictional but realistic challenge to your child before it is really encountered is a great way to evaluate real-life solutions to complex problems. For example, something like, “A young man and woman are in love and would one day love to be married. In the heat of passion, they both desire to carry their relationship into an area that is reserved for a husband and wife. He says to her, ‘We plan to be married anyway!’ What is wrong with this logic? What should they do?”
- Spend Time Unpacking the Three Questions Related to Sexual Matters. As a church, we talk a lot about three essential questions: Who is God? What is True?; and Why am I Here? Of the three, we tend to focus on the second when it comes to sexuality: “You shouldn’t have sex until you are married because God says it’s wrong.” That is absolutely the case, but it is a deeper, broader conversation when it begins with question one: “Because God is holy, He has called us to holiness. In fact, He created marriage as a reflection of Christ’s love for the Church and the Church’s love back to Jesus. Therefore, I need to consider every area of my heart – including the act of sex – that might be less than the heart of holiness to which God has called me.”
- Pray for Future Spouses Together. The best way to get our eyes off of the compromise that the world has to offer is to focus on the beautiful standard that we should be looking toward. Pray often for the future spouse of your child, and challenge him or her often to consider what traits would be found in the ideal mate.