When is the best time to have the “sex” talk with my child?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 @ 11:06 AM


When answering “When is the best time to have the sex talk with my child?”, I encourage you to first change the question. Here are some questions to ask instead:

How can I help my child understand his/her sexuality?
What is the best way to have open discussions about sex in our home?
How do I ensure my child develops a healthy, adaptive sexual identity that he/she feels confident in expressing within God’s plan?
How do I raise a child that understands and desires sexual purity?
These questions lead to different answers and also help to reframe your parenting approach regarding sex and sexuality with your children. Additionally, these questions seem invoke less fear and less pressure regarding the subject within your parenting of your children. It does not come down to one shot at getting “the talk” right with your child. Instead, it is a mindset, an approach, an ongoing relationship with your children that acknowledges sexuality as part of God’s creation and God’s plan. It acknowledges that as human beings, we have the capability of expressing ourselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, and sexually.

Donna Gresh in her article “The Secret to Raising Sexually Pure Kids” discusses the timing of the “sex talk”:

I used to think that I could wait until my children hit puberty before starting any conversation about sexuality. But experts in child development say parents should talk to their children about sexuality long before the kids reach their teen years. In fact, children tend to be most receptive to their parents’ sexual values when they are around 8 or 9.

One study evaluated an abstinence curriculum’s effect on different age groups. Students in the upper elementary grades were the most likely to make favorable attitude changes about delaying sexual activity while high school students were the least likely to change. When kids turn 13 years old, parents become cruel dictators with archaic ideas about hairstyles, clothing, and social outings. Presenting sexuality at this point just adds it to a long list of “thou shalt nots” to be challenged and questioned. Presenting the subject of sex and values a few years earlier enables you to build a foundation that kids are likely to take to heart.

Discussing sexuality begins when a child is a toddler and he/she is naming body parts. It is important to start the discussion of God’s creation regarding sexuality with anatomically correct language. As a little boy names his eyes, nose, ears, and belly button, he should also learn penis and scrotum. A little girl should understand she has fingers, toes, and a vagina with labia. It can start a confusing journey if we use anatomically correct language for all body parts but those that have to do with our sexuality. We want our children affirmed in their body and affirmed in their sexuality. Pet names or complete avoidance of naming sexual areas of the body can lead to feelings of avoidance, lack of acceptance, or associated with shame.

Discussing privacy and private parts is important to start at a young age. It is important for young boys and young girls to know who is permitted to see them naked and who is not. Who is allowed to touch their penis, vagina, and breasts, and who is not.

Take the opportunities to discuss sexuality within the context of family events. When we were pregnant with our fourth child, we discussed pregnancy and childbirth with our 4-year-old twins. We explained that it was due to the love between us as husband and wife that lead to the conception of a new baby sister. We explained that the baby was growing in mommy’s uterus. The boys participated in the week by week What to Expect When You’re Expecting app. They learned that the baby would be birthed through mommy’s birth canal. This was one of our first sexual education chapters in our family at 4 years old. This lesson builds upon their knowledge of their sexual organs and furthers their understanding of sex and its purpose in our lives.

As you see or hear things that have to do with sexuality, discuss them with your growing children. Have developmentally appropriate conversations. Create an atmosphere and an environment in your home where there are no dumb questions and curiosity is welcomed. As your child starts to express different thoughts and feelings regarding sexuality, respond warmly and openly. Do not respond with judgment or criticism, but encourage them to open discussion by saying “tell me more” or “that is interesting” or “hmm”. Only offer knowledge, insight, and information when the child has asked you to share. If he or she is sharing, encourage his or her talk by listening, not by talking. This will help to create a safe place and will develop a stronger connection with your child. You do not necessarily desire the “expert” relationship with your child, but an open dialogue regarding sexuality.

Do not separate sexuality from God, but instead, emphasize how sexuality is from God and of God. Discuss sexuality within the meta-narrative of scripture. God created male and female. He created us to be sexual and to reproduce. Sex was created to be a pleasurable and joyful union of souls between a husband and a wife. Theologically, sex between a husband and a wife is a foreshadow of the future union between Christ and the Church.

Rob Jackson encourages urgency in his article “How to Start Early”

The main thing about sex education is to get started. Let’s teach the sanctity of sexuality. Our children need to learn that God ordained sexuality to be the means in which they – and everyone else – come into existence for all eternity.

We need to understand our children and the difficult culture in which they live. As parents – and, more important, as older brothers and sisters in Christ – we have the privilege to teach them what we have learned in relationship to God and His plan for the family.