LET'S FACE IT. Most of us would rather face a root canal than talk to our kids about sex. It can be awkward, difficult, not to mention embarrassing. When should we give "the talk"? What should we say? How much information should we give outand at what age? What if they don't want to talk about it? What if you don't know how to talk about it? And what if you have some guilt about your sexual past?
Take heart. Here are some guidelines to help you tackle this all-important parenting task.
Talk More Than Once
Don't make the mistake of having "the talk" once, then leaving your child to fill in the blanks as she matures. Your kid's growing up in a culture that bombards her with sex on every front. From videos, TV, movies, magazines, to pornography on the Internet, the list goes on. One talk will not suffice. You need frequent talks over a period of many years.
When you have the first talk with your child, keep it simple. Share facts and use proper terminology. Be sure to ask if she has any questions. Don't give more information than she needs. Reassure her you'll have many conversations about this as she grows and that you want her to feel free to ask you anything, anytime. No question is dumb.
In followup discussions, don't talk only about sex! That's part of the problem. Sex isn't an isolated issue, so be sure to discuss commitment, communication, choosing a mate, marriage, and having children.
Cummunicate the Positives
God loves sex! He created it for our mutual pleasure as well as for reproduction. God made us sexual beings, and the act of sexual intercourse is the most intimate expression of love between a husband and wife. Yet our culture often depicts sexuality as dirty, naughty, sleazy, kinky, exotic, or free-for-all. In a world that cheapens sex, we need to elevate it. Make sure you communicate its goodness, in the context of marriage, to your children.
Take your kids to God's Word for his standards about sex:
He created us to become one flesh with one person (Gen. 2:24). We're to remain virgins until we're married, then remain faithful to that one mate.
Homosexuality is not God's plan (Rom. 1:24-28). Yes, he loves gays, and we should, too. But they aren't living in accordance with his will.
It is good not to touch a woman (1 Cor. 7:1, NKJV). In the Greek, "touch" translates "light a fire within her." So how far can we go physically? A good guideline: Don't ignite the fire of passion. Anything beyond holding hands, kissing, and hugging prior to marriage should be off limits for all, and for some this may be too much.
Flee sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18). Avoid people and places that are temptingempty houses after school, co-ed parties without chaperones, etc.
When our twins, Susy and Libby, turned 16, my husband, John, took each one on a special date with a private ceremony. He spoke of his pride in her and his prayer that one day God would give her a godly husband who would love and cherish her. And he talked of God's gift of oneness in the sexual union. John asked each girl to promise she'd wait until her wedding night to give this special gift to the man she would one day love even more than her dad. After she prayed this promise with him, John gave her a gold key on a gold chain to symbolize that her heart belongs to her dad until her wedding night, when she would give this key to her husband. This precious exchange between a dad and his daughter serves as a reminder of the purity she wants to save for her husband.
We've found it helpful to challenge couples who are seriously dating or engaged to sign a written "Purity Covenant." Even if the couple's already been sexually active, they can confess their sin, receive God's forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and sign the covenant promising to remain pure until the wedding night. It's never too late to do what's right.
As your kids reach their teens, they'll be more open to hearing truths from someone other than Mom or Dad. I once had my friend Holly come to a party at our house and talk with a group of young teenage girls about love, sex, and dating. Holly is blunt, clear, and humorous; she communicates well with teens. Jeff, our youth minister, has had many talks with our boys on these same topics.
Keep up-to-date on good books and videos. I highly recommend Let's Talk About It, a video on sex and dating for high-schoolers with Ash and Eva Ashburn (available through Gospel Seed and Young Life at 1-800-341-9902).
Our children need to be exposed to young adults and older mentors who share your biblical perspective. You cannot do it alone, and you must be willing to be that older mentor in someone else's child's life.
Some parents have deep regrets about their sexual past. If your past is one you feel you can share (prayerfully consider this decision first), then do so. A friend of mine who was pregnant when she married has shared openly with her children the pain her past actions caused; it's given her kids the desire to be obedient to God. Encourage your children to hear testimonies from others who are honest about their past and who have demonstrated repentance.
Always be quick to remind yourselves and your children of God's grace. There is no sin he cannot forgive. He is a God of fresh starts.
SUSAN ALEXANDER YATES is the author of And Then I Had Kids: Encouragement for Mothers of Young Children and What Really Matters at Home: Eight Crucial Elements for Building Character in the Family (both Word). The Yates have five children ranging in age from 19 to 26.
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