My oldest hasn’t even turned three yet, and I’m already nervous about one of two upcoming conversations: Either one day, he’ll come home from school, church, or a friend’s house, and he asks me, “Dad! What does ___________ mean?” And thus, a series of uncomfortable conversations which will last over 10 years will begin. OR (and far far far less likely) somehow, my child is never exposed to sex prior to the day I choose to take him on a purity weekend. And, over the course of that purity weekend, a series of uncomfortable conversations which will last over 10 years will begin.
To my knowledge, this is the most dreaded conversation that all parents MUST have! Obviously, I can’t speak from experience as to HOW you should have the conversation, but I can speak as someone who has worked with teenagers and their parents for over 10 years. After years of working with teenagers, some patterns have become very clear.
Here are five tips for having THE sex talk:
#1 | Start the Conversation Sooner Rather Than Later
To the best of my knowledge, I was six years old when I was first exposed to pornography. My sister and I were at a family friend’s house, and we decided to go wandering. This led us on a journey down a very large drainage ditch. Eventually, we came to bridge which we could walk underneath. There, we found a bunch of garbage which we started sorting through….dumpster diving was a favorite pastime of the Chandler family when I was in elementary school. There, we found a dirty magazine.
My friend and I were only six years old. We had no idea what we were looking at. All we saw were weird pictures of adults with no clothes making funny faces and posing awkwardly. My sister, however, was enough older than us to know that what we were looking at was bad.
I don’t know when my next exposure was. However, I do recall having conversations with someone about condoms when I was in the 4th or 5th grade. By middle school, it was commonplace for people to only talk about what dirty sites they were visiting on the new thing called, “The World Wide Web.”
The world has changed a lot over the last 20 years. Children are now exposed to sex at a much younger age. They stumble onto pornography on the internet far more frequently. If your children are in public or private school, they are being exposed to sex by their peers.
- You may be asking the question, “Is it too soon?”
- You should be asking the question, “Are we too late?”
If your child is in the 7th or 8th grade, you need to start the conversation.
#2 | THE Sex Talk is Actually The Sex Talks
People always talk about “The Sex Talk.” There is a “sex talk,” where you initially explain the birds and the bees, but then there are many more conversations that follow. Ideally, there would also have been many conversations which preceded “The Sex Talk.”
From a very early age, you should start having conversations with your children that make it clear that they can come to you safely with questions about anything. And they will have questions. All along the way, your kids need to feel safe coming to you with those questions, any questions…even silly questions. Your reaction to each question either builds trust and makes them feel safer, or it builds barriers, and makes them less likely to come to you with future questions. You must posture yourself to be the safest place for your child to go when they have questions. You prime yourself for “THE” conversation by having lots of good conversations in advance.
Then, once you have “THE” conversation, it’s not like they aren’t going to have more questions. It’s not as if things aren’t going to get MORE complex. You need to have “THE talk” in late elementary or early middle school. Anything after that, and you’re running behind. I know that sounds young, but my wife remembers hearing about sex at the lunch table from a classmate in the first grade. She then pretended not to know anything about it when her parents sat her and her brother down for “THE talk” several years later. Obviously, your child’s understanding of and experience with sexuality is only going to get more and more complex AFTER the conversation. Therefore, you have to proactively CONTINUE to have “THE” conversations.
- Telling your young child the proper names for genitals and making it clear that they are private.
- Answering questions they ask.
- You have “THE Sex Talk.”
- You have the pornography talk.
- You have the sexting talk.
- You have the boundaries in a relationship talk.
Covenant Eyes wrote a post (literally the day before I posted this post) on how and when to talk to your daughter about sex and porn. Talking to Your Daughter About Sex: A Stage-By-Stage Guide
Here is a series of books, “God’s Design for Sex,” which help have start having “The Sex Talks” as early as pre-school (talking about the differences in genders).
Ages 3-5 Ages 5-8 Ages 8-11 Ages 11-14
#3 | Schedule a Passport 2 Purity Getaway Weekend
When you have “THE Sex Talk,” make it a rite of passage for your child. Take them away for an amazing weekend with their parent of the same sex. Go to Six Flags. Take a trip to the beach, and purchase the Passport 2 Purity curriculum (review it yourself before the actual weekend).
The curriculum is a series of lessons that you listen to together; you don’t even have to do the teaching. Then, you have conversation with your child after each session. The curriculum has one session which is different based off of their gender.
Now, I have not gone through this material with my children. Age 3 probably is too young, but this is the curriculum which almost everyone I know has used if they did a getaway weekend, and all of them have endorsed it.
#4 | THE Sex Talk is also a Technology Talk
There was a time when “THE talk” was only about explaining the birds and the bees. In the 21st century, it’s become a technology conversation. Between internet PORNOGRAPHY, INTERNET ACCESS ON MOBILE DEVICES, and SEXTING, YOU HAVE TO TALK ABOUT SEX AND TECHNOLOGY with your kids.
I want to say this as clearly and bluntly as is possible: If you are not monitoring or filtering your family’s internet (especially their mobile devices), and if you have an 8th grade boy, I’m sure he regularly looks at pornography.
I’m sure there are exceptions, but IT IS BAD PARENTING TO ASSUME THAT YOUR CHILD IS THE EXCEPTION. I have had so many conversations with the parents of middle school boys where the parent assured me that their sweet little boy isn’t interested in that. They’re probably right. However, puberty hits hard, fast, and unexpectedly. You don’t know when they’re going to suddenly become interested in seeing naked people. But, 8th grade seems to be a very safe point to assume they’re interested.
It’s an awkward subject where you MUST actively get involved.
INTERNET ACCESS ON THE PHONE
Internet pornography by itself is extremely alluring for three reasons, according to psychologist Al Cooper:
- It is ACCESSIBLE. There are literally millions of porn websites that can be accessed almost anywhere.
- It is AFFORDABLE. Most people who view pornography only view the free material.
- It is ANONYMOUS. You can look at porn in the privacy of your home or office. No one has to know you are viewing it.”
– Psychologist Al Cooper
Access to the internet on mobile devices adds a fourth element, PORTABILITY.
A phone gives a student access to limitless pornography in their pocket. It can go anywhere. They can look at it anywhere. They can share it with people around them anywhere.
The first time I encountered sexting was while I was student teaching at a Christian high school. I was teaching 9th grade Bible at the time, and one of my students was expelled for taking a picture of his privates and texting it to a girl at the school. At the time, it was the craziest thing I had ever heard of. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever do something like that. To me, it seemed so blatantly obvious that that is a TERRIBLE idea to give someone else access and control of a naked picture of oneself. Little did I know, this was going to become a trend.
Over the years, I’ve had male students come to me, and female students go to my female leaders, and admit to having sent naked pictures of themselves to people. There’s no real common denominator as to who will get involved in sexting. Some very plugged in students have done some very foolish things. They want to be wanted. They want to be noticed. They turn to a very dangerous way of doing so.
You must talk to your student about each of these areas.
#5 | Don’t Allow Your Short-Comings to Stop You
One of the things which can make “THE talk” so difficult is our own history. If you have a history of mistakes when it comes to sexuality, it can be very difficult to initiate a conversation in that direction with your children. Likewise, it’s only natural to fear they might start asking questions about your past.
I absolutely understand that this is a uniquely sensitive subject, but we don’t hesitate to talk about lying with our children because we have told lies before. We don’t hesitate to talk about stealing simply because we’ve stolen before. We can’t allow this to be the subject where we hesitate.
Most likely, many of the mistakes you made happened because you didn’t have people in your life guiding you in this area. If you don’t teach your kids about sexuality, they’ll learn about it from TV and pornography. It’s far better that you humble yourself before your kids and talk about an area where you’ve failed than allow them to be educated on something so vital by some writer in Hollywood, or a group of perverts in a studio.
“Either you influence your kids or someone else will.”
– Josh Shipp
- Please talk to your children about sex sooner than later.
- Please talk to your kids openly and honestly.
- Please talk to your kids frequently.
What suggestions do you have for having “The Sex Talks?”