Talking to Kids About Sex

I wasn’t ready for this. 

My eight-year-old daughter was reading though the book of Genesis to me out loud. We were sitting on the couch one day when she came to the scene of Lot and Sodom & Gomorrah, then after with the incident with his daughters. In her sweet little voice she read: “Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them…” (Genesis 19:5)

I closed my eyes and cringed as she spoke the words out loud, hoping she wouldn’t notice and keep going. Then came the question:

Chloe: Mommy, what is it to sex them?

Me: Ummmm, they just wanted to do bad things to them.

Chloe: So is the sex like another word for kill?

Me: Ummmmm….. noooo, ummm, I’ll explain it to you more when you’re older. They just wanted to do bad things to them.

Chloe: Oh, ok. And she kept reading

When I recounted the incident to my husband later, he was upset with me for not censoring which part of the Bible she was reading. Which made me think… should we censor them? Isn’t it all God’s Word?

I had to shift my thinking quick, because as a Bible student and teacher I’ve upheld scripture to be inspired & God-breathed. But I had not considered which parts to reveal in their proper context to my kids who had not been exposed to these heavy life issues.

I don’t know why it wasn’t an obvious parenting choice to me then, to protect her little mind from things that were beyond her experience and understanding. I also made it sound like sex was bad! Uggghhh…. Honestly, it was a parenting faux pau, and I had to forgive myself and move on, hoping to redeem the next conversation.

Read: How We Taught Our Kids to Read the Bible

Another incident with my son made me take pause at the movies we expose them to, but I also had to consider the feeling he was expressing to me.

Watching Iron Man, he notices the scenes that are slightly more sensual… he says this to me:

“It’s so yucky when other people kiss and they like, eat their lips. The lady with Iron Man they both kissed a lot. I watched it when they kissed, I looked at it. You know Joshua my friend likes girls?”

How Do I Talk About Sex? 

This understanding, about sex and all its facets, is our responsibility as parents to guide our children. They are getting older, and with that comes their little bodies developing. Having a boy and girl, one of my concerns is the fact that they share a room, and when they become curious about their bodies, will they know enough to understand boundaries? There is also a difference between boys and girls in their emotional and physical development.

We’ve been pretty open about bathing together since they were babies, but once they started asking questions about body parts, I began to transition them into washing themselves, and eventually their own time in the shower. Feefees” and Wenises have been the cutsie names assigned to private parts, mostly because the real names just sounded too clinical! I know, I know… health professionals and law enforcement folks are cringing right now. I’ll address the importance of real labels later. 

Photo by Ariel Lustre on Unsplash

Learning from Community

All signs are pointing to this being the year to broach the subject with my seven and eight-year-old. Our homeschool curriculum this year will focus on the study of anatomy, and as we get into the parts of the body and its systems, this conversation is bound to come up. In a way, I’m grateful that the opportunity is presenting itself so smoothly!

Approaching the subject still made me a bit nervous, so I reached out to my Facebook group of homeschooling parents for advice. This was my message:

“How do you suggest handling passages like this with your young children? I’m torn between directing her to skip over them until we have the full blown “talk,” and allowing her to discover the whole counsel of God. Please help me to think through this. Thank you in advance.”
Friends… the response was incredible. This group of over 35,000 parents worldwide, ranging from parents of small children and just starting out, to those who have been at this parenting thing for decades, shared their stories.
It’s based on this post thread that I share with you today, the most prominent points and recurring themes that these parents divulged in the wisdom of their experiences. Let’s consider these points together.


1. Sex Itself Is Not Bad

We must be careful not to make the human body or sexual function taboo. Best to foster open communication about basic function, and then decide how much they can handle as they get older. One dad in the group put it this way:

“It is incredibly important for children to know the basics at eight. All children should be educated age appropriately and scientifically from the time that they can understand words. This keeps the discussion open, honest, and free flowing.

There isn’t anything dirty or tainted about sex. There is no reason to be embarrassed by it or to keep it a big secret that you get to lay out in one big traumatic “talk.” This closes it off. It puts up a wall. “If my parents can’t even be open with me about sex, then why should I be open with them? 

Sex-positivity creates a healthier relationship. Children feel that their parents are people they can trust and go to with their questions. Not to mention how many children are already being molested and raped at the age of eight. It is so important.

Inevitably our kids will be exposed to horrible injustices and perversions that happen every day. “Rape,” “molestation,” “sex-trafficking,” are horrible acts made by people who use an innately good thing to their own selfish advantage. Part of living in a fallen world is understanding people and their fallen choices.

[bctt tweet=”What God created as a beautiful thing should be kept sacred & understood for its original intention.” username=”practicalfamily”]

 2. Don’t Wait Too Long

Children should know the basics of their own body parts as soon as they can understand. Some in the group said as early as 6. Most said that age 8 was almost too late. I do feel more of an urgency now, which is why I chose to post about it to help others who may be in our position.

Kids often understand more than we think. Let’s give them the proper context for their knowledge and help them feel comfortable with their feelings.

Talking to kids about sex and natural sexual development is never something they should be afraid of, and it can actually be worse when they act on feelings out of ignorance or shame. Kids will pick up things from other kids wherever they are; public, private, homeschool co-op… doesn’t matter. Kids are curious and they talk.

Regarding sex-trafficking and predators, kids need to know how to protect themselves by understanding appropriate boundaries with others. It’s never okay for someone else to touch them or make them feel guilty for not engaging in their sick game. Some mothers suggested using the term “tricky people,” and knowing how to escape in a precarious situation & look for safe people.

One mom said that her first concept of sex was when one family member “committed an act against another” and her perception was that sex wasn’t safe. PBS did a piece here on considering initial training on sex-ed in Kindergarten.


3. Sex Is Not An All-Or-Nothing Conversation

Every child’s emotional maturity is difference, but there seems to be an age appropriate window, and exposure to sexual things just a little at a time. I worried about explaining too much and not explaining enough.
What other parents taught me is that if an awkward question flies out of the blue (which is where awkward questions come from 99.9% of the time), asking them what they think it means first may be a helpful gauge for what they already know. Clarifying from there can lead the conversation into safer territory.
One mom of eight kids, ranging in ages from 12-27 years old, gave this as a sample explanation:
“…when you get older, and start becoming a woman / man and thinking about marriage, I’ll be eager to tell you all about it. We have a few years yet before then. But please ask me if you hear anything anywhere about it that confuses you or concerns you.
Another mom shared about being sexually abused as a child, and explained how important it is to have that open conversation. She says: 
“There have been some tough questions and I’ve asked my son if we could shelve it for the moment and explained it was specifically because I wanted to protect him a bit longer from information that wasn’t necessary at the moment.
I asked him to trust me, but also asked him that if it came up again or he got information away from me, to please bring it up and we’d talk about it then. There have been times where he asked later that day and other times where it came up months later.
I think it’s a win when they feel safe enough to come back to you.
As a mom, I will always find myself wanting to protecting their innocence and the enemy of their soul will always seek to corrupt that innocence. But an honest attempt to answer their questions in a calm manner seems to be the response backed by seasoned parents.
Corrie ten Boom, Holocaust survivor and world-famous author, tells a story in her best-selling book, The Hiding Place:

“And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexsin?”

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.

Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

It’s too heavy,” I said.

Yes,” he said, “and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

This is not unlike the heart of our heavenly Father, when there were times in scripture that Jesus told his disciples that it was not the time for them to know. Maybe because He knew they wouldn’t understand, or because other things were coming to pass that would qualify that knowledge. Either way, God knows when knowledge is too much for us, and He doesn’t hold back in a deceptive way, but because His timing is not ours.

Read: article from Desiring God: Some Knowledge Is Too Heavy
So avoiding some chapters with my young children (i.e., some stories about Abraham, Noah, Lot, Moses, most of Song of Solomon) is okay for now, it’s not skipping over the Word of God in a disrespectful way, it’s simply not giving our children more than they can carry. 

Talking about the birds and the bees

4. Consider Your Own Hesitations

If you’ve hesitated to address the subject at any age level, consider where your initial sources of “sex” came from. If it was never discussed in your home, you may be attaching a significant level of shame because you had to learn it from friends or magazines.

One mom in the group said that they have a “full disclosure” policy with their preteens because it was never discussed in her home.

Talking to kids about sex may mean looking for resources or another parent you feel comfortable talking to.

Learning how to help our kids to feel comfortable is so important when setting the stage for this topic. It doesn’t have to be awkward, their questions may catch you off guard, but come back to the principles listed here and ask the Lord for guidance. It’s okay to defer the answer until later, just be sure to come back to it.

One mom who happens to be a former child sex abuse investigator described how to cover the basics:

“We just have an ongoing conversation – we tell them correct names for all of their parts, talk about the difference between something that’s private and something that’s secret (sex between married people is private, but not secret; if someone suggests secrecy (regarding sex) he/she is not looking out for your best interests (disregarding your privacy is another red flag).

We start that conversation using poop as the topic. Pooping isn’t a secret, but it is a private matter. We talk about sex as a gift from God, which comes with a big responsibility, but the truth is, when you tell them the bare bones, the mechanics, it’s pretty unbelievable to any 6-9 year old.

After they know the basics, it’s easier to address song lyrics, advertisements, the emotional and social, not to mention spiritual ramifications of treating sex too casually. I would not recommend a serious sit down conversation. Do it in the car so they can look away if they need to, or while you’re drawing or playing with Play-Doh.

And relax – it isn’t gross, it isn’t bad, and there isn’t a single person walking around who got here any other way.”

Read Dr. Meg Meeker’s article: Yes You Need to Have “The Talk with Your Child. Here’s Why.


 5. Sex Is God’s Plan, Designed Within Marriage

“While it might seem old-fashioned or passé to people outside the faith, the Christian view of sexuality is actually a very radical one. It’s radical because is goes against the culture and holds up human sexuality as nothing less than an icon of the inner life of God.” – Glenn Stanton, Focus on the Family

When we have been exposed to a wholly unnatural form of what God called a good thing, and see it used to another’s sick advantage, we may tremble at the idea of passing this on to the innocent.

Example sentence from a mom in the group:

“You can use an example that they know ~ they see Mommy and Daddy kissing. That’s a good thing. But it would not be right for Mommy to kiss anyone else in that way. That’s only for married people.”

God’s first command to the first man was to be fruitful and multiply the earth. His intention was for us to experience life together as sexual beings, in the closeness and trusted relationship of marriage. Anything outside of His plan separates us from His blessing. But even marriages can suffer from wounds of abuse, power-struggle, mistrust, emotional immaturity, and even addictions fed by unhealthy exposure from childhood.

This is the battle, parents. This is the decision we make:

  1. To know and understand the truth of God’s design first; on this we build the foundation of the sexual experience
  2. To unwrap and heal our own shame associated with sex so we can have a healthier, open environment in our home
  3. To be willing and available to address issues and answer questions as they arise

Talking to kids about sex can be a scary thing for parents, but we don’t need to navigate these waters alone. Let’s build a strong foundation for our kids to have a healthy view of sex, learn appropriate boundaries, and respect others in their journey to adulthood.

Next Article: This is What Your Teens Are Asking About Dating, Relationships, and Sex




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