It was just the two of us. My oldest son, Walker, and I sat down recently to discuss the massive topic of sex. He had no clue. He didn't ask that good of questions. I couldn't really expect him to. After all, he is only five years old.
I've worked with high school and college students for 20 years. As well, my wife and I have done pre-marital counseling with about 15 different couples. I've probably talked about sex, physical relationships, or masturbation to hundreds of people individually, and many more in large group settings. All of that was different than talking to my own son about it.
For whatever reason, we have this sort of fear when it comes to talking to our kids about sex. Maybe it's because we have shame from our past so we don't feel qualified to talk about it, or maybe because words like penis and vagina are awkward topics of conversation. (And fyi, they are just as awkward to type.)
Each year I interact with thousands of college students, and I believe sexuality is the #1 issue we deal with. Our culture is hyper-sexual, and the people that should be teaching young people about sex are the very ones who are most silent.
If you are interested in reading an excellent book on this topic, How and When to Tell Your Kids About Sex is a great one. As well as being a great overall book about teaching your kids about sex, it has a really good chapter covering the tricky topic of masturbation. I'd highly recommend this book.
In this post, I'd like to point out a few points about why and when to talk to your kids about sex. My next post will be on some practical tips of how you talk to them about it.
So, here are a few foundational thoughts to tackling this topic with your kids:
1. It's actually not about the "birds and the bees." Talking to your kids about sex is not primarily about communicating biological information. This is probably why many of us shy away from this conversation. We aren't all that knowledgeable about the inner workings of people's private parts.
Sex education is about shaping your child's character. So in addition to the biological information, we must communicate and model values that are consistent with our words. I want my kids to eventually make good, Godly decisions about sex in the future.
2. Our culture is already teaching them. Why not you? Most of us would not be ok with our kids hearing inaccuracies about God for the first 12 or 13 years of their lives. Why do we allow this when it comes to sex? There are countless ways our culture is attacking our kids with myths and lies about sexuality. Each day our kids are soaking up these views and are framing them as their own.
As opposed to waiting until all these lies have built up for years, and then trying to correct them all in one conversation when the child is in adolescence, let's start when they are young.
3. It will not be summed up in one conversation. Parents often think far too small when it comes to sex education. When we think of telling our kids about sex, we think of "The Talk." I can't imagine the pressure to try to tell our kids about all that God intended for sex in one conversation. That's just not realistic.
Look at it as an ongoing conversation. Sometimes we can plan the talks and the content, and other times we feel totally out of control.
4. What's the goal? The goal is not to "sex proof" our kids. We want to prepare our kids to adequately handle this gift of sex later in life. In the mean time, we want them to experience healthy relationships with friends along the way.
If you don't talk to your kids about sex, your silence is not just an absence of information. You are letting your child know that you are uncomfortable talking about sex, that you don't want to talk about sex, and that you aren't a good source of information about sex.
5. When to begin the conversation? Because talking to your kids about sex is not a one-time event, begin the conversation with them while they are young. As the child grows, the conversation can get more thorough.
As I said at the beginning, my first conversation just took place a month ago with my oldest son. He is just over 5 years old. My next post will outline that conversation, and hopefully provide more practical steps in how to have that conversation.
Have you had a conversation with your child about sex? If so, how did it go? Did anything take you by surprise?
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About Kevin East
Kevin East is the Executive Director of Family Matters. He and his wife Stephanie have five unbelievable kids, two of which they most recently adopted. If Kevin isn't busy with work or family, you'll probably find him in the woods near his house with a power tool. He writes at his blog, "Following to Lead". Connect with him on Twitter at @kevinteast.
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