Talking to your child about sex can be a daunting task for any parent, especially in today’s culture of high-speed internet and mass media. My hope is that this article will offer some tips for Christian parents to begin having the conversation about sex with their child. I would like to first emphasize that when we are talking about sex we are also addressing intimacy and sexuality. Intimacy is the desire to be known, loved and accepted as who we are. When children are shamed for curiosity about sex or normal sexual exploration, they can struggle later in life to experience intimacy to its full capacity. As the parent, you know your child best and where they may fall on certain development spectrums. Each child will respond to conversations about sex differently depending on their gender, age, and exposure to sexual content. I feel it is important to start by noting some of the normal developmental milestones and questions children may be asking at certain ages.
Sexual Focal Points At Each Stage
As they grow up, children experience sexuality and questions about sexuality in different ways. Some key facts of each age group are:
- Toddlers (2-3)
Sex education needs to be about their entire body
They want to learn names of body parts
Increased curiosity of adult gendered social behavior
- Early Childhood (3-7 years)
Asking questions about where babies are made
Preschool aged children are interested in everything including sexuality
Sex play, such as “doctor” is normal
- Pre-Adolescence (8-12 years)
Tweens and teens will begin asking questions about puberty and sex
May become more modest even with same sex parent
Masturbation often increases
- Adolescence (13-19)
It is very important to address safety, responsibility, pleasure and choice when it comes to sexuality
More physiological changes happening during this time
Increased desire to relate to romantic partner sexually
A Christian Perspective on How to Speak to Your Child About Sex
For young children, it will be helpful to keep these conversations short and sweet. Don’t be surprised if your child asks a few questions and then quickly moves on to a more interesting topic such as their favorite toy or what’s for dessert. Beginning these conversations early on will set the stage for more challenging conversations that will come later on. Some children may respond well to books or dolls that can help explain the way God made our bodies. For young children, you might start with the story of creation and how God made man and woman’s body unique. You can explain to your child how they are created with specific body parts that make them a boy or girl. When appropriate you can explain how God made our bodies to feel pleasure and to someday share that with a special person. This a great time to address what “safe touches” are and why we keep our bodies private from other people. It is important to emphasize saying “no” if your child is touched in a way that makes him or her feel uncomfortable or yucky. These early conversations are building blocks for discussions down the road.
Parenting and the Media
It may also be helpful to ask yourself what types of messages your child receives about sex and sexuality throughout their day. Consider the types of TV shows they watch and social media venues they have available. Watching TV with your child might open up doors to conversations as you use curiosity to uncover the meanings your child might be making in their world. Seeing things through your child’s eyes will help you know where to start the conversation.
Counseling Support for Christian Parents
Discussing sex and sexuality can be a very painful process for some adults because of events that may have happened in their own childhood. This is why it is important to process your own feelings about sex and sexuality before starting conversations with your own children. Talking with a spouse, friend, or counselor can help you to process your thoughts and feelings. It can also be beneficial to begin conversations around sex with the help of a Christian counselor who can create a safe place for open and loving conversation. Some children and teens may feel more comfortable talking with an outside source about their questions and concerns. Discussing sex with your child may be uncomfortable at times but it is much better for them to hear directly from you rather than seeking information elsewhere.
What Every 21st Century Parent Needs to Know by Debra Haffner
10 Conversations You Need to Have With Your Children by Shmuley Boteach
From Diapers to Dating by Debra Haffner
freedigitalphotos.net – “Family Lying in Outdoors” by Stock Images and “Male & Female Symbol” by sscreation
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