We couldn’t be more excited to have a guest post written by Joanne Parks, the mum of one of Cathy’s high school friends. I (Cathy) was astounded at the ease and joy with which my friend Hannah would talk about sex with her parents! How is this even possible? I observed that Hannah and her sisters had a really high, healthy and Biblical view of sex and were unashamed to talk about it in appropriate ways.
This is a topic that most parents dread talking to their children about, and yet most parents are convinced of the importance of it. So we asked Joanne if she would be willing to contribute some thoughts to our blog, and she was! So here’s her wisdom…
“But Mommy, WHY would Joseph want to divorce Mary when she was pregnant with baby Jesus?”
This was the question that forced us to (very) quickly figure out what we were going to do as parents to explain God’s good gift of sexual intimacy to our children. Our oldest daughter, Hannah, was 4 at the time and was as curious as curious can be. Her question stemmed from reading the Christmas story before bed that night. (Be warned, friends… family Bible readings can bring up quite the variety of topics to discuss!)
As young parents we were caught off guard and frankly a bit nervous. We had not expected to have “the talk” with our firstborn during her preschool years. We had neither thought this through nor had time to carefully plan out our words. But here we were. And we needed to respond.
We stumbled through a simple description of conception that may have sounded something like “when two people love each other and then get married, sometimes a little part of mommy and a little part of daddy come together to make a baby” (don’t judge us). So many parts of that could lead to huge misunderstandings, but that’s what we said.
Because of her big personality we knew Hannah’s tendency would be to share this new information indiscriminately with her peers so we concluded that conversation with strict instructions that she not talk to her friends about these things, adding that “their parents would like to be the ones to get to talk to them”. But we also knew that we wanted to leave the door open for future conversations and questions, so we included the reminder that “you can ask Daddy or Mommy anything about this anytime. Any question is fine to ask, just don’t talk to your friends about this”. We kissed her goodnight and told her we loved her and left the room to go debrief what had just happened. She shared a room with her younger sister who was 2 years old. As we passed by their doorway 20 minutes later we overheard Hannah telling her sister “Now Sarah, you can ask me or Mom or Dad anything about this, ok?”. Ah well… that didn’t last long.
Well, two and a half decades and two additional daughters later we have learned a few things about talking to your children about sex. We’ve not done this perfectly by any means, but at least we’ve learned to not be so nervous. And we’ve learned to be thankful for this great privilege and responsibility that has been a part of parenting our children.
As you consider what this might look like in your parenting let me encourage you to think of this as one more piece of discipling your children. Try to remove the dreaded stigma that is so often attached to this subject. It may not be how your parents handled it with you, or how your culture typically thinks about these things. But it is important as you consider how to raise children with a healthy Biblical understanding of sexuality.
Here are some things to keep in mind as parents:
1. Tell them what God says in the Scriptures:
As Christian parents our teaching should be rooted in the truth of God’s Word.
In Genesis 1 and 2 God declared his creation of man and woman very good. It was his idea in creation that man should not be alone, so he made woman for him. He blessed their physical union. He told them to be fruitful and multiply. They were naked and not ashamed. God says physical intimacy in marriage is good!
In the Bible we see that sexual intimacy is intended to be experienced within the safety of the covenant promise of marriage. Sexual intimacy is wonderful and it is also very vulnerable. And God’s good design is for it to be known with one spouse in the security of a lifelong marriage commitment of love and trust.
God sets boundaries of protection for us with regards to sexual sin. As your kids get older include reminders that God warns us to guard our hearts from lust and to beware of the snare of sexual sin (Proverbs). But in teaching the warnings and the boundaries don’t neglect to continue to teach that it is good and is from God. It can be easy to forget to speak of it in a positive light as we help our older children guard their hearts.
You will eventually want to be sure to include that God also shows grace to those who sin. And we are all sinners. Inevitably you will have the opportunity to explain that as sinners mankind has rebelled against God’s good plan and rejected his leadership in all areas of our lives. This means that sexual relationships are frequently not handled in the way that God intended. These decisions assuredly come with earthly consequences, but this is also a great opportunity to talk about forgiveness for anyone who repents of their sins and turns to Christ. This is a Gospel opportunity in your parenting. Teach your children about the grace of God for sinners. Because really, when it comes down to it, we are all sexual sinners in need of forgiveness.
2. Look to be the primary source of information.
You might be surprised at what it takes to stay ahead of the curve and be the first one to talk to your children about sexuality. Like in our story with Hannah these topics can come up during elementary years or even earlier. Though we aim to protect our children from unwanted outside sources like the internet, other more innocent settings might prompt questions related to sexuality. These can come up while playing with friends at the park, visiting a pregnant or postpartum neighbor, going to elementary school or co-op groups, visiting a farm or even while reading Bible stories.
But instead of waiting on your kids to bring up questions related to sexuality (the extroverted ones will likely do this), you should consider taking the initiative with them and begin conversations with them at an age appropriate level (the introverted ones will need this!). As parents you know your own children the best. You know what they are able to take in and understand. Try to answer their questions simply and honestly, with a certain degree of comfort and ease. You may have to fake that last part, but your attitude will certainly set the tone for the conversation. And for the very curious ones who keep pressing you for more information it’s also ok to say “we’ll save that question for next time”.
We were so glad to come across a helpful book series by Stan and Brenna Jones entitled God’s Design For Sex (click here for the first book in the series)*. These were read-along books that guided us through several conversations with our daughters. One of our girls still teases me about the time when I wouldn’t let us break for lunch until we finished one of the later books in the series. It seems that I may have lost sight of what was most important that day. I’m thankful that she can laugh about it now.
3. Aim to be the trusted source of accurate answers.
Build a foundation of trust that paves the way for them to know that they can come to you with any question. You will tell them the truth. They don’t have to look elsewhere for answers. They can come to you with anything and know that you won’t be upset with them.
Use proper vocabulary. This was my husband’s conviction from the beginning, and slowly I came to agree that this pattern helps to keep God’s good design held up in honor. You will have many chances to explain and define slang words that they hear over the years and those will stand in clear contrast to the good plan that God has made.
Be open to lots of questions. Your kids may come home from school and ask what a particular word or gesture means that they heard from a classmate. They will trust that no matter what they hear from others they know that you will tell them the truth.
Be prepared for some forgetfulness on their part. The following Christmas Hannah asked nearly the exact same question! All that stressing turned out to be for naught. She had already forgotten our most excellent explanation!
4. Keep talking.
Speak about these things often. Despite all the references to “THE talk”, it’s far more accurate to think of this as a lifetime of talks. Deuteronomy 6 reminds us of how parents are to be continually telling their children about the character of God and his commands for his people. As we raise our children in the ways of the Lord we talk to them about all sorts of things related to following God. We talk about these things as we go about the ordinary routines of life.
Your children may or may not welcome these conversations depending on their differing personalities but you must have them anyway. We laugh with one of our daughters as we recall together how she would sweetly but faithfully protest by saying “Do we have to talk about this again?”.
By the way, it’s always a bit awkward when they connect the dots and realize that their parents have actually done this act that is being described. Occasionally this leads to giggles (preschoolers), but more typically it shows up in facial expressions of shock, horror and disgust (school aged kids). Older siblings are often quick to become the experts and explain to their younger siblings that, duh… there are four of us so clearly Mom and Dad have done this four times.
Over time your conversations will include increasing detail about more delicate topics of desire and pleasure, sexual temptation and sin, fidelity and forgiveness. Don’t shy away from these conversations. These will all point to God and his good design. And they can turn into great opportunities to speak about the good news of the Bible, that a loving and holy God has made a way for a stubborn and rebellious people to be forgiven for their sin and be reconciled to him through Jesus’ undeserved death on the cross, where he took the punishment that we deserve and gave us his righteousness in exchange. He is good indeed.
Joanne has been married to Brian for 28 years and they have four daughters and two sons in law. She has lived on the Arabian Penninsula for the last 14 years and is excited to see what God will do as they plant Covenant Hope Church in the spring of 2017.
We hoped you enjoyed this post – we thought it was really helpful.
Our children are still slightly young for these conversations to start, but we want to be ready when they come along.
There are a number of resources that come highly recommended to help us chat to our children about issues surrounding sex. We’ve not read or used any of them ourselves yet, so can’t personally recommend them. But why not check out Joanne’s recommendation above, or the books below, which we’ve heard are really helpful:
Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids*: this book is recommended by many people to help parents talk to children about pornography. Have you used it? Why not leave a comment to share your experience of it?
God Made All of Me* comes recommended to help you chat to your children about their body – particularly private parts of their body and how they should be treated by others. Again, we’ve not used it so let us know in the comments if you think it’s good.
We’re so grateful for this fantastic post – if you’ve found it helpful then please do share it so others can enjoy it too.