It’s probably not news to you that if you’re a parent, you’re supposed to talk with your kids about sex. If you’re like most parents, however, you get a queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach and your palms begin to sweat every time you think about it. You have no idea where to start. God knows your parents hardly ever talked with you about it. The moment of opportunity passes and you put it off again, hoping and praying you’ll have the courage next time.
According to research, teens of parents who push through their discomfort and talk with their children about sex, abstinence, the benefits of saving sex for marriage, possible emotional and physical consequences of sexual activity as teens and outside of marriage, are more likely to practice abstinence and less likely to engage in sexual intercourse, contract a sexually transmitted infection, become pregnant and/or have an abortion.1,2 Additionally, research has demonstrated over and over that teens whose parents spend social time with them have better relationships and higher self-esteem.3
So say a prayer for courage, do a little reading and develop a plan with your spouse. Then get talking! Here are 10 tips to help you on your way:
1. God created us as sexual beings! Sexuality, desire, morality and character are all in God’s plan for each human. Children need to understand their changing bodies and how to be good stewards of our bodies.
2. As Christian parents we need to understand chastity and modesty. Chastity is controlling voluntary expression of sexual pleasure according to our state in life. Modesty is the virtue that controls any acts which might cause lust or lead to sexual acts.
3. Don’t let your discomfort keep you from talking to your child about sex. You are the most important person in your child’s life and he needs to hear this from you! By opening the lines of communication, your child will eventually trust that he can come to you with questions, not to his peers. If you refrain from talking to your child about sex, he will mistakenly learn that sex is “shameful” and “bad.”
4. This is difficult for everyone. Most adults never had this experience with their parents. You are not alone. Ask a friend about how they talk to their child. Share stories, laugh.
5. Be prepared. This tip sheet is a great start! Read some of Gregory Popcak’s “Beyond the Birds and the Bees” or Fr. Henry V. Sattler’s “Parents, Children and The Facts of Life.” You don’t need to read the whole book.
6. Share joy and pride in your child becoming a young woman or young man. Fathers, take your son out to buy shaving supplies. Moms, take your daughter out to buy her first real bra.
7. Be honest, short and sweet. Don’t give too much information at first. When your children are entering puberty, you’ll need to initiate the conversation. Start small. For example, ask him if he knows what ______ is. Or what his friends say it is. Then you can give him a simple, straight forward explanation.
8. Be matter of fact, despite feeling nervous. Normalize your child’s feelings – this means you let your child know their feelings and body sensations are normal. Assure them that they are not “bad” when they have these sensations or thoughts. They need to know that sexuality is beautiful and part of God’s plan for each of us.
9. Provide your child with tools to appropriately attend to his growing changes. For example: Dads, talk to your son about your feelings when your genitals became aroused; normalize; provide some ways for dealing with these feelings. Moms, share with your daughter how you felt when you began menstruating; normalize, be sure you have supplies on hand.
10. Strive to encourage conversation, don’t lecture. This discussion will be ongoing over time, not a one-time conversation. You don’t have to, nor should you, try to get it all in during one conversation! Once you begin opening the line of conversation in this way, you won’t be as uncomfortable and neither will your tween.
1. The Heritage Foundation, http://familyfacts.org/briefs/42/parents-influence-on-adolescents-sexual-behavior
3. Lam, C. B., McHale, S. M., & Crouter, A. C. (2012). Parent-child shared time from middle childhood to late adolescence: Developmental course and adjustment correlates.
Child Dev. 2012 Nov;83(6):2089-103. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01826.x. Epub 2012 Aug 23.