A recent anti-drug commercial depicted a middle-school student coming home to find the dining room table covered with sex education materials—including scale models! The father casually suggests they could talk about drugs instead, if the child preferred. Though humorous, the commercial poignantly illustrates a sad reality: sex is the last topic kids and parents want to discuss. Research demonstrates fewer than 15 percent of parents discuss sexuality with their children. It is tragic that this crucial area of life and obedience is so sorely neglected in most Christian homes. Further, when discussion occurs, it tends to focus on mechanics and abstinence, neglecting the glory and ecstasy of God’s design. Why is this conversation so difficult? Two reasons are readily apparent: 1) Parents often do not have a healthy understanding of sexuality and; 2) We avoid natural opportunities throughout a child’s life, holding out for the one-time, pre-teen, gut-wrenching experience.
Godly adult sexuality comes first!
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is unashamedly positive about sexuality. God concentrated more nerve endings in our genitalia than anywhere else in our bodies for a reason! It is a good gift that He invites us to delight in! Song of Songs is a particularly glorious, “God-breathed” celebration of human sexuality. Modern translations make accurate, but very safe decisions in rendering the Hebrew—which would make most of us blush! But sin has so marred our sexuality that, even in Christian marriage, many feel shame over sex. Others are enslaved by hidden desires and behaviors that defile the marriage bed and further sully their perception of sexuality. If parents hope to instill their children with a holy awe for this good gift, the first step is to take personal purity very seriously. Second, they need to grow in their own realization that God rejoices when we cherish and delight in our sexuality.
Make the most of every opportunity!
If you wait until your child is 10-12 years old to talk about sex, you have missed the boat! I was exposed to pornography at 5-6 and began masturbating regularly at 11. And life has radically changed since the 1970s! Harvest
regularly receives calls from parents whose children have accessed extreme forms of Internet pornography. Not to mention, the relentless daily bombardment of sensuality in virtually every form of media your child encounters. Have you spoken to your child? What are you waiting for? We need to be the first people to talk to our children about sexuality. Leaving them to the darkness of the world’s answers or the folly of their peers is profoundly unloving! Personal comfort is trumping the welfare of your child’s soul. USA
Many parents are wary of giving too much information too soon, thus creating an unhealthy interest in sexuality. This is wise, but you must be prepared to speak. When your child begins to ask questions, it is obvious that they are ready for accurate, age-appropriate answers. At four, our twin girls began asking questions about pregnancy and my wife explained that God made a “special hug” for mommies and daddies to enjoy and that sometimes this makes a baby. That was enough. As they became more aware of physical gender differences, we began to discuss the mechanics more specifically and use the “technical” terms for body parts. Again, take advantage of natural and often spontaneous inroads. I remember drawing squiggly sperm and an ovum on a napkin at the dinner table!
Always be careful to not go overboard in detail, allowing their questions to dictate the depth of the discussion. Starting young is easier on everyone! A four-year-old is less intimidating than a 12-year-old. A young child with no shameful associations with sex or their genitals makes the conversation less embarrassing for the parent as well.
Further, it is essential for both parents to be engaged. Single parents should prayerfully consider the assistance of other family members or close friends. Candid conversation demonstrates that in God’s design, shame does not accompany sexuality. When sexual conversation is restricted to the same gender parent it fosters misunderstanding because every other subject is readily discussed as a family. That said, as children approach puberty, having already developed natural modesty with the opposite gender parent, it is an appropriate time for gender specific instruction about bodily changes, etc. Treating sexuality as a natural, healthy aspect of Christian living is the beginning of the best sex education you can offer your child.
The best sex education
Rather than a dreaded, one-time ordeal, sexual conversations should begin early and continue throughout the child’s life. Once the basics have been explained, you can begin to uncover the rich, theological realities underlying sexuality. So a recent conversation in our home about Genesis 1 and 2 turned to how our “image bearing” is reflected in sexuality. God’s image is mysteriously split between the genders. Since Eve is taken out of Adam, so human sexuality is a reunion of God’s complementary image—in the very act of creating! Sex is a place where God declares to His creation, “I AM!” It is crammed with theological import. As children grow older, apply the biblical marriage metaphor to your discussions of sexuality, connecting it to the rest of life. Beginning with the Prophets and throughout the New Testament, the stark equivalence of idolatry to spiritual adultery and the great hope that Jesus is our perfect Bridegroom powerfully connects sex with life generally and worship particularly. (For a fuller discussion see: “From Faithless Harlot to Spotless Bride,” Harvest News, Fall 2001.)
Puberty provides a wondrous opportunity for parents to begin gender specific conversations that are more vulnerable. Proverbs 5-7 presents a great blueprint. Beginning repeatedly with “my son …” these passages poignantly depict the lure of sexual sin: “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil” (Proverbs 5:3). Proverbs 7 describes in great detail sexual sin’s promise as the adulteress expresses her ability to satisfy every craving of the young fool. The father is essentially telling his son, “This looks good! It tugs at my flesh too.” However, biblical wisdom is seeing the end from the beginning, so the father warns, “But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol” (Proverbs 5:4-5). “All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life” (Proverbs 7:22-23).
Although these passages speak directly to fathers and sons, the same principles apply to mothers and daughters. Are you honest with your teen about your own struggle with temptation or do you present yourself as one who is past all that? These passages urge gut-level honesty and transparency, to walk alongside our maturing children as individuals desperate for the grace of God and in need of the community of faith to remain pure!
A final word
The most important sex education is your children’s observation of you as husband and wife. It is tragic that most parents—if sex is even addressed—simply say, “Wait until marriage!” But so often teens observe mom and dad’s relationship and say in their hearts, “Are you kidding me? Wait for that?! I’m going to enjoy life while I can!” Parents must do the hard work of cultivating deep, passionate marital intimacy so that marriage is demonstrated to be worth waiting for! Your life always speaks louder than your words!
Regardless of the age of your children and the regrets you may already feel, the Gospel invites you to start fresh today! God’s mercies are new every morning because we cannot live off of yesterday’s grace. He promises to come to us daily, providing the grace for each new day’s challenges. Jesus promised to never leave us or forsake us: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). He is present with us by His Spirit to help us in our weakness and bring new life to all the dead places in our relationships—if we will seek Him and take the risk.
Article from Center for Parent/Youth Understanding