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5 things not to do when you talk to your child about sex

My oldest son and I are walking through some material discussing God’s view on sex. It is a holistic and age-appropriate book written to help parents walk with their child on this journey. Growing up I never really had the “talk” and found most of my information via “locker room talks” hanging out with the guys. I want you to know that I am not an expert and what I want to share comes from some mistakes I am making in talking to my kids but also some lessons I learned growing up. Part of the assumption of this blog post is that you are talking to your kids about sex or at least have the desire to. I hope you will consider talking to them because the ramifications of not doing so could be permanent damage.

So this is what not to do when you talk to your kids about sex…

#1 – Don’t take yourself too serious.

I was sitting there talking with my son and I said the word “sex” and he immediately his eyes got big, his face turned red and he pressed his lips hard against each other holding back a burst of laughter. He is nervous and I am nervous so I just said: “It’s ok to giggle a bit.” We both laughed. Maybe that wasn’t the right thing to do and there is some developmental psychologist out there who disagrees with me but I firmly believe in laughter to ease the tension. It does not take away from the seriousness of the subject but there are some things that just deserve a good laugh. Don’t take yourself so serious and I assure you your child will respond and might actually enjoy these discussions.

#2 – Don’t assume.

“He already knows about that,” are five words you should never ever say. He may know but he probably has not heard it from you and I can guarantee he hasn’t heard it from God’s word so it’s best to not assume. Also, don’t make assumptions about whether your child is or is not interested or if you are or are not getting any information through. Let God do the work and you simply obey him with the task of guiding your son or daughter through adolescence so they can have a game plan for what God has for their body.

#3 – Don’t lecture

Look at the discussion as an opportunity for both of you to learn instead of you “imparting knowledge” to them. Ask open-ended questions and listen for them to say answers like, “I don’t know” or, “I am not sure” a lot. Encourage them to ask you questions too and go in with the attitude that you are serving them and are willing to listen.

#4 – Don’t hide your failures.

“Son I am talking with you because when I was your age I did not have anyone to sit down and talk with me and I made a lot of mistakes growing up that I am not proud of.” Those were my exact words when I sat down with my son a couple days ago. The statistics are not good when it comes to those who have had sex before marriage. Odds are many parents (even those who grew up in a Christian home) have failed in this category and hiding that information I think would do more harm than good. Yet, there are good ways to share information and bad ways. I do not think you should share all your battle scars but some blanket statements about your failures should be on the table and open for discussion.

#5 – Don’t leave Scripture out of it.

Why should my son or daughter be concerned about discussion on sex? From a strictly human perspective we could say STDs, unwanted pregnancies and other issues might prompt us into a discussion about “safe sex.” I believe, however, that casual sex does more psychological harm than good because my default posture is that sex is properly defined from a God-centric mentality. When we properly use Scripture as our ethos when it comes to morality I believe it will not ruin our view on sex as some have suggested but it will rejuvenate it. Unfortunately many Christian parents and ministers have simply said, “God hates sex before marriage so don’t do it.” The bible is full of more than that.

It is our job as parents to teach our kids about sex and I have given you five things that you should not do when it comes to your discussions. What are some things you would add to this list?

 

Book Review: Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality by Jim Burns

Say your kid walks in from school one day and the conversation goes something like this:

  • James: “Hey mommy I got to ask you something?”
  • Mom: “Ok James. What’s on your mind?”
  • James: “What does the word ‘sex’ mean?”
  • Mom: “Oh dear…”

I bet many of you parents have had that same conversation in your house or something similar. Depending on your story the word “sex” can either be a word that has negative or positive connotations to it. I am not sure how you guys had “the talk” growing up but my tutelage on sex usually came in “locker-room” conversations and not from my parents. Unfortunately, our children are more likely to hear sex from media or other sources and by the time talk about it they may know more than we do.

Jim Burns, President of HomeWord and Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University, is the author of this wonderful book called Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality. I purchased this book probably five years ago and on a whim decided I should read it and took it off my shelf. I should have read it years ago.

The book is a practical approach at how to come alongside of your children to teach, coach and train them in ways to think healthy when it comes to sex. By “healthy” he means approaching the subject with a God-centric mentality. He spends the greater part of a chapter coming up with a theology on sex. The good part is that God loves sex and we should to but within the confines of its ordained place: marriage. Dr. Burns tackles the tough issues and does not shy away from handling these conversations but does so with grace.

For me as a dad, the best section he discusses is the chapter on creating a plan and a purpose for discussing age-appropriate developmental issues. There is no such thing as “the talk” and Dr. Burns is quick to note that it is a bunch of talks handling a bunch of issues over time.

I recommend this book as a primer for parents to initiate these conversations with their children. Many of them, I think, are like me where you are just wondering: “Where in the world do I start?” Start with this book. I am serious. It is that important. I also think this is a must read for youth and children’s ministry staff which should serve as an introduction for all sex discussions within the youth group.[1]

Quotes…

  • Sex is better when couples have a spiritual connection, and sex is not better if you live together before marriage. (p. 16)
  • Another troubling aspect of the crisis is that sex fools kids into “instant intimacy.” When young people become physically intimate with each other and then break up, it leaves scars…The more I saw a negative change in the emotional health of students who had just broken up, the more I heard they had been sexually involved. (p. 23)
  • No matter how hard you try, you will not be able to keep your kids in a bubble long enough to not be influenced or impacted by the culture’s view on sex. (p. 33)
  • SEX IS ENJOYABLE. ([Emphasis mine 😉 p. 36)
  • Modesty is actually more than wearing non-revealing clothes. Modesty applies to the way we act, dress and live. (p. 54)
  • The most effective way to teach healthy sexuality is to take advantage of spontaneous teachable moments whenever possible instead of more formal talks. (p. 72)
  • Frankly, you aren’t running a popularity contest as a parent. You are, in fact, in the protection business. (p. 86)
  • Oral sex is sex…Our sexuality is based on so much more than just intercourse, and this needs to be communicated to kids. (p. 91)
  • I have several friends who are women. I love them and respect them, but I also know that in order to keep the relationship healthy, I need to set good boundaries. (p. 126)

 

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[1] Especially helpful was Chapter 6 that deals with sex abuse issues. Ministry folks recognizing the signs and signals of sex abuse could be the difference in a young person’s life.