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Why is It So Hard to Talk to Kids about Sex?

Sex is Tricky, Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery admits. Especially when it comes to talking about it with your kids.

My philosophy about sex talks with kids is to be open, honest and matter-of-fact, so they won’t sense that shame and sex are intertwined and so, when they do become interested in exploring their sexuality, they might be motivated by love instead of blind curiosity. I want them to take sex seriously enough to know it’s holy. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

My reality is that I AM STILL LEARNING THAT STUFF. This makes me a shaky-at-best sex teacher. So whenever my kids ask about sex- I panic and then just start saying crap. I just start saying all the things.

Melton recounts a humorous (and, for her tween child, embarrassing) recent conversation over the family dinner table, prompted by one of her kids surmising, “So, how you get a baby is you pray for one, right?” (you can enjoy the full story here).

In her closing thoughts, Melton reflects,

Some things don’t get easier. Some conversations are hard and awkward and imperfect and all we have to do is keep having them anyway.

Melton’s story is something every parent can relate to, and her efforts to have open, honest, and age-appropriate conversations with her kids are praiseworthy. Too many kids grow up without having those important conversations with their parents. Too many of my own peers, raised in the information age, were left to the Internet to learn about hard things, things their parents were too embarrassed to teach them.

Mark Gregston, an expert on teens and troubled children, writes that open communication between parents and children can solve many problems before they even start. Children and teens can even be involved in creating and enforcing rules and boundaries, he writes, and are often more likely to adhere to family rules if they’re invited to the conversation.

Sit down together and discuss what you think behavior in your home should look like… Talk about how your family expects to deal with issues like dating, driving, cell phones, church, school work, friends, media . . . the list can go on and on, but be sure to major on the majors. Discuss (don’t dictate) what kinds of behavior fits with your family’s values and which don’t, and include some rules for the adults in the family as well, so the kids don’t think this process is just targeting them. Talk through the reasons behind the rules that you are establishing and get everyone’s opinion about what consequences should be applied for breaking the rules. You’ll be surprised how tough your kids will be on themselves when consequences are being discussed, so you might have to lessen them to be realistic.

Another conversation perhaps just as tricky as the sex-talk is how to navigate the Internet. These are frustrating and challenging waters for parents who grew up with magazines, land lines, and libraries, now trying to impart wisdom and ethics to children with cell phones and limitless internet access to search for (or stumble upon) any imaginable piece of content. In the Crosswalk article 3 Online Trends Parents Need to Warn Their Kids About, Ava Pennington encourages parents to be forthright about the dangers of the Internet, to put safeguards in place, and to keep tabs on their kids’ online activities. She writes,

If you don’t listen to your children, someone else will. So don’t just talk to your kids, listen to them, too. What are they curious about? What concerns them? If they won’t talk to you, find a trusted adult they will open up to. Drama aside, it really could be a matter of life and death. Besides, they will probably learn about these and other questionable sites faster than you will!

…You may think your child is safe because you’ve had these conversations and regularly check their devices.

However, the 2014 McAfee study noted that 80% of tweens and teens “have had a conversation with their parents on how to stay safe online” and 77% admitted that what they post online can’t be deleted. Yet most kids still share too much personal information. Fifty percent posted their email address, 30% posted their phone number, and 14% posted their home address. These numbers add up to trouble.

…Stay informed and stay involved. The information superhighway is a valuable tool. Still, when it resembles the Wild West, kids need to be protected…especially from themselves.

The lists of tricky parenting conversations goes on and on. What do you say when they are preparing to leave for college? How can you teach them self-control? How can we humble ourselves when we discover we’ve broken promises to our children?

Even when we mess up, Brent Rhinehart writes, we can be confident that we can trust in God to get us through it, if we lean on him.

Romans 8, long a favorite passage of mine, reminds us that “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

“…Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

And, as the old hymn says, we…will surely prevail if we stand on the promises of God. We can’t be trusted, be God can be.

For more parenting stories, see’s channels on raising Teens, raising Kids, and Single Parenting.

Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor at

Publication date: February 25, 2015