A Discussion: Teaching Our Kids About Sex

I’d like to facilitate a discussion on how we teach our kids to develop a healthy attitude about sex. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What are some good tools we can use to open up communication with our kids? What books have you have found particularly helpful to read for yourself and to read with your kids? What about a movie you have seen that could be used to teach about God’s plan for sex? Ministries that specialize in teaching young people about sex? Are there Bible passages that speak to God’s truth about sex that our kids would benefit from?
  • What is appropriate information at different ages? What about younger kids who have the maturity to handle the information while their peers may not? How do we teach a toddler to view their body positively? How do we teach this to a teenager?
  • What happens when a younger child hears something sexual from an older or more informed child (rightly or wrongly)? Or from TV or a magazine cover? How do we answer these questions? Should we answer every question as it arises or is there a place for saying that you’ll save that discussion for another time?
  • How do we teach our daughters to embrace who God made them and to have a strong and positive body image? As we all know, a grown woman who doesn’t love her body, is less free to allow her husband to enjoy it. How do we balance this with teaching her to dress modestly? How do we teach her to choose well in relationships?
  • How do we teach our sons to control lustful thoughts? What do we teach him to value in the girls he eventually dates and then the one he marries? How do we give him the tools to have self control and remain guarded?
  • What about masturbation? What message do we want to send on that? What are the important points to be sure we communicate? What do we say to those young people who don’t feel compelled to engage in masturbation and what do we say to those who do?
  • How do we express to our kids that sex as God planned is amazing and worth protecting for marriage? How do we teach them to have the integrity to value their purity when the world disregards sexual purity as though it were a plague.
  • What should our overall message be? How do we go beyond “Just don’t do it”?
  • What do we say to a teenager who is in a serious dating relationship? How do we prepare them for all the aspects of that? How do we teach them to be prepared before they are in that moment of passion? What if they are contemplating having sex? What do we say in that case?

I find it so sad that so much of the world’s teaching about sex towards teenagers is that they are going to do it anyway so teach them how to do it right. I’d rather come from the position that I want to teach them how to do it right and well and to know that my kids have the integrity and character to save sex for the right circumstances; that is choosing someone to marry who also has integrity and character who they can experience the full freedom of sex with. We’d never approve of them cutting themselves or abusing their body with drugs (even though that is terribly prevalent), and yet there is this green light to go ahead and have sex as long as they feel ready. It doesn’t make sense.

So please join in and share your thoughts in the comment section on any of these questions and feel free to share questions that you are wondering about as well.

21 Comments

  1. Well, I’m very happy this topic has come up, because it’s one I’m deeply concerned about. I’ve always realized that the ungodly have long held the monopoly on sex education, and that what they are indoctrinating us and our children with is terribly wrong. Unfortunately, I am just now realizing that the church is responsible for probably just as much wrong thinking about sex as the world is! I was raised with my mom telling me “It would be nice if you saved sex for your husband” and then putting me on birth control when she found out I was having sex at 15, and the church telling me basically “Sex is bad!” And I honestly don’t think that churches mean to imply sex is inherently a bad thing…I think it’s just that they realize it is so attractive and powerful, but yet for some reason there is this shame they feel probably from the way they were raised, and the confusing sexual messages THEY got, so they just don’t know quite how to handle it. And I am constantly “evolving” in my thinking as far as sex goes. But when it comes to my kids, it’s still very hard, I am at a total loss! My 9 year old has known what sex is for about a year now, because she started asking questions that gradually required more detailed answers until there was nothing left to do but just come out with it. “The daddy has the seed and the mommy has the egg” worked for a while until it was like “Well, how does the daddy put the seed in the mommy?” I mean, what the heck do you say to that? So I told her. What I struggle with a little more than giving the facts, is how do I get across to her that sex with the husband that God gave to you is great! I mean do I talk about the fact that it feels good? (She doesn’t get that-we have always told her she needs to dress modestly and save her body for her husband, and she’s like “I don’t get it, what do you do when you’re married go dance around naked together?” Lol…She doesn’t see the appeal of it!) That’s what’s hard for me. The facts were hard enough, but when it comes to thoughts of fielding questions like “Oh, so is that what you and daddy do when you close the door and tell us you’re talking?” I get pretty petrified. And I don’t want it to be like that! I don’t want it to be this big taboo thing! That’s why so many Christians are confused and feeling condemned in their marriage beds. I don’t want to contribute to that. And when she’s an older teenager, do we talk about toys? Sheesh! So, as you can tell, I am not contributing much besides my own questions and insecurities. But I can’t wait to read everyone’s responses.

    P.S. And I don’t mean to cast my mom in a bad light about the birth control thing…so many moms do that because they feel like what else can they do? She did the best she could. She is a wonderful Christian, and an awesome mom. Her own beliefs and convictions about sex just weren’t strong enough for her to tell me “You NEED to wait for your husband, God SAID to, God loves you, and He knows best…”

  2. It saddens and concerns me what is marketed to kids. I’m in the habit of recording all my kids watch so I can skip the comercials. However, we were watching a show from the Cartoon Network and up popped a comercial for a kids version or rendition of music of Bob Marley. I only caught the last few seconds of the comercial as it popped up when I was unloading the dryer. I told my 5 year old daughter that they would not get to listen to him. We had a small age appropriate discussion that our bodies are a temple of God and that Bob sings about abusing God’s temple. Before anyone jumps on my case, I will tell you that I am not fond of his music, but I am familiar with his music and more especially the cover art. I just want other parents to be very weary about how the media is marketing adult content in kid friendly ways.

  3. I’ve mentioned this before, but as a newlywed (married at age 20) I wish I’d known more about sex. I had heard the word orgasm just a few times at college and didn’t know what it was, and I looked up ‘anal sex’ and ‘oral sex’ on wikipedia after reading the phrases in a study that we looked at in a college class after being bepuzzled by the phrase (having learned about sex as basically a way (though legendarily enjoyable) of reproduction, I kinda figured that sex was – by definition – vaginal). I hadn’t talked with my parents much about sex since I was in second grade and the kids at school were talking about it and I didn’t know what it was. (My reaction to the way dad told it was sheer horror “and you and mom DID that? THREE TIMES?” [there were three kids, so of course I knew they'd had sex three times, LOL.])

    Also, I’d NEVER heard of a ‘hymen’ until after we got married and I read ‘intended for pleasure’ on our honeymoon after an unexpectedly painful wedding night – I didn’t think it’d be just wonderful the first time but I didn’t expect it to hurt THAT BADLY. Hadn’t heard of a clitoris either :) And I wish I had.
    And hubby knew approximately less than I did. In fact, my dad was the only one that talked to him about sex, as far as orgasms and that he’d climax easier than I would…
    And Dad and my mom had the same sort of talk with me (he blushed a lot) and was kindof embarrased that I didn’t know about foreplay or orgasms (he was a bit awkward trying to explain the latter)

    I was a little floored that my hubby’s dad (our premarital counselor, actually – he married us) never EVER had any such talk with his son, but left everything to a few books.
    In fact, *I* had to explain monthly cycles and PMS and needing chocolate to my (then) fiance…
    Which kinda bugs me, since IMHO he should have known years ago to give him a bit of sympathy for his sister and his mother and other emotional females :)

    I had one friend that, if I were crying easily, (and we didn’t even know each other that well) would just tread real lightly b/c he had a sister my age and he understood – I wish all teen guys could have that sort of sympathy but some of the ‘innocent ones’ who probably WOULD be sympathetic if they knew, are just CLUELESS :D

    I dunno, I think a young teen can know TOO much about sex, and I’m kinda glad i didn’t have the temptation to constantly think about it, but there are some things that I wish I’d learned a little earlier, and so I wish my parent’s had kinda opened the dialogue about sex.

    Not that I want to badmouth my parents, I think they did a good job and I love them very much. And it wasn’t easy for Dad to have ‘the talk’ with his future son in law, but he did it anyways. And I’m thankful he did.
    And I could talk with mom, if I had questions, but when you’re a teen and your mom is busy and you have lots of brothers around, it’s hard to ask some of those questions.

    I just want to raise my kids to know a bit more than I did, and to feel like they can talk to me about it, like it doesn’t have to be something so secretive (not that sex isn’t private, but I think TALKING about it shouldn’t be so off-limits). but I don’t really know exactly how to do that.

  4. Thanks for this post. With a baby girl on the way my husband and I have already started discussing many of these things, and haven’t really come to any conclusions yet!! One thing we are sure of, though, is that our children will know (when they are the right age) about the fact that Mummy and Daddy did not wait until marriage, and regret it hugely. We want them to know how much pain, hurt and psychological scarring it can leave, and how serious it is. Not to scare them, you understand, but because we want to save them going through the same experiences. We will also stress the specialness of sex within marriage, and in an appropriate way describe how wonderful it is, always focusing on the fact that it’s far far more than just two bodies meeting. It’s spiritual and emotional, it flows out of good communication and ‘oneness’ in marriage, and adds to it too. We’ll also make sure that our daughters (and sons if we have any!!) know how special and sacred their bodies are, and learn to respect themselves and other people and treat them well.

    We have already discussed that my husband will take our teenage daughter out on ‘daddy and daughter dates’, and spend time with her, and treat her properly, as well as showing this in his behaviour towards me, so that she KNOWS what it is to be respected and cherished by a man, and will not settle for anything less.

    If we have sons we will also talk to them about how girls are their sisters, and they should treat them as such. They should in fact behave towards them as if the girl’s fathers were in the room with them at all times. Because God is, and He IS the girl’s father!!!!

    It’s hard to know where to strike the balance between “if you’re under 18 you follow our rules, and you do not have sex, period”, and the more free and open attitude that actually says “we love you and trust you to make the right choices”. I hope and pray that giving our children all the above, and letting them know how special and cherished they are will mean that they respect themselves enough to make the right choices for themselves!

  5. I just did the Passport 2 Purity with my 10 year old. It discusses everything from peer pressure, to relying on the Bible for direction in life, to puberty, sex, and dating. It is a Christian study that I found at Focus on the Family. It was wonderful information for her without giving away too much. It also opened the communication lines between us. I highly recommend it. :)

  6. Thanks CS for this article. This is something that I pray about often how and when to be a positive influence sexually in my childrens lives. My oldest daughter is married and I think she is pretty secure in her sex beliefs. Her DH was raised in a strict catholic home and says they were taught sex was pretty much for procreation. He was saved and they attend our church. He was happy to hear how we Baptist viewd it! :)
    I think that old saying “children learn what they live” is so true in this case. If they see a healthy loving relationship between there parents they will try to model this. we need to teach them at a young age that their bodies are wonderfully made by God and are a temple. When they are a.litte older we can have a sex talk with them, but I don’t think they need the full explicit, oral, orgasm, and foreplay talk until they are in a serious relationship and ready for marriage.
    I remember as a older teen/young adult I would often hear my parents late at night.(I’m sure they thought they were being quiet and that us kids were sleeping). At the time I was totally grossed out and embarassed, (I figured they were a little old for this) when I look back now I’m happy to know how active they still were in their 50’s. I think it influenced me for the good. I’m not saying to bring the kids into the bedroom, but it’s healthy for them to know we have sex, especially when they’re older.

  7. I do not have any children yet,but have long since begun a list of things about life and the world i will have to introduce to my daughter or son one day. Dealing with my own parents there were son many things left up to chance and unguided that left me and most of my peers and just about the majority of US about life. Sex is a big one which I havent seen most parents properly address the lines of healthy comfortable communication in which serious and informative knowledge can be shared not just when their child is of age but as I feel along the entire way of growing up. I feel the sex talk as it’s called shouldn’t be a talk, it should be a life of dependency and guidance from PARENTS to child in which all things in moderation adn due time will be revealed. Sadly, sadly, sadly God, Jesus,Salvation and sex NEVER make anywhere near eachother in a positive, non condeming convesation. & if God is all than, He shouldn’t be excluded from this either. In additon to teaching them, find out information you yourself actually dont know to prepare them,because there’s a lot of lies and traps. & it is a duty of parents to not just mention relationship,proper and improper interactions,safety,dating,in retrospect to the Bible,God,and actual life, BUT MARRIGE. Marrige is mentioned casually as if it is an outfit that you’ll buy 1 day as a prom dress or suit. I always say God is a real God in all parts of life so keep Him with you as you go and grow, so He can protect you and end up back Home in Paradise with the Savior where we belong. I wish to God evn I and 1 third of the ppl I meet in college had parents who didnt just mention or leave these things to chance or social education. SO much confusion, adn hurt and ppl are really lost from lack of early care and guidance. Thankyou for those who created this blog and site,

  8. “Mom…Mom..why are you making noises?” My 7 year old daughter asked this from her room next to ours when we thought she was asleep. “Go to sleep we’ll talk about it later” was our response and then laughing in disbelief that we are at this phase in our family life already. Needless to say I was quiet the rest of that evening. It put me in a panic though. What would I say if she asked in the morning? She doesn’t know about sex yet. We plan to tell her when she is 8. She never did ask anything since but it has me really thinking out this area. We want to give our girls the best information and in the most comfortable(at leaste for them) way.
    I think we will tell them the basics at about age 8. Answer questions they have as they ask them, and definitely go through something like Passport to Purity when they are that age. I will likely refer them here when they get engaged as it seems to cover pretty much everything. Also I try to pray as often as I think of it for God to guide us as parents in this area and bless our daughters with a healthy upbringing.

  9. I have found a book called “Beyond the Birds and the Bees” by Gregory Popcak to be a great resource in bringing up my children with a healthy sexuality. It is written from a Catholic perspective, which unfortunately, many think frowns upon sex as unacceptable for anything but making babies. Seems to be a common misconception amongst not only Catholics, but many other Christian denominations as well. I hope we can all reverse that thinking by teaching our children the Truth of God’s message about sexuality, whatever our denomination might be.

  10. Here’s a (kinda) funny story that happened to me the other day, to lighten things up. (It’s not totally off-subject-stay with me!) My husband and I just bought a dildo. Toys are a new thing for us, and it was only our second purchase. I bought it online, and it did give measurements, but I didn’t get out my measuring tape or anything, so when it came in the mail, I was shocked. It was comically big. And I was afraid for him to even come near me with it. So we played around a little with it that night, (because it cost $27 and we didn’t want it to be a total waste, lol) but then decided to just trash it. So he threw it under our bed in the meantime. Well, I had forgotten about it the next day, and wouldn’t you know, my 4 year old comes strolling out here, twirling it around and says “Mom, what is this, a candle?” I just said “Yes, honey. It is.” :)

  11. Moms really need to be responsible for teaching their kids–and dads teaching their boys some too! My sister did not know enough about her body when she was married. Yes, she read up and learned about sex, and talked some, but the whole reproductive cycle was a bit of a mystery, all growing up. She almost died because of not seeking attention for a tubal pregnancy soon enough–after bleeding off and on for more than two weeks, and having incredible abdominal pain.

    A non-Christian book that moms can use as a tool to explain their daughters bodies to them better is Cycle Savvy. It includes discussion of ovulation, and all of the incredible secretions we have, so girls understand that they are not having regular “infections”, or dirty, or needing to douche, just because their bodies are working perfectly.

    And the Bride Wore White is a great tool to teach your girls a biblical view of sexuality and chastity/purity before marriage. That author is in the process of preparing some information for girls in the 8-12 year old group, because we need to teach our girls before the world gets their message across first.

  12. This is a tough question… and something my husband and I have never discussed, but something I think we should discuss fairly soon. Our kids are young (both under 4) so I don’t expect any real questions anytime soon, but I do have to deal with my 3 year old touching himself, and how do I react to that? (Currently I tell him he shouldn’t play with it, but I’m starting to think that’s not the right thing to say.) Obviously at this young age, he is exploring and realizing it feels good, but what about when he gets older? Do older boys/men masturbate without thinking of having sex with a woman? Because otherwise, any pre-marital masturbation would automatically be a sin…
    I don’t remember my parents EVER talking about sex with me, other than to tell me not to have it, and then accuse me of having it once I started dating. As a result, I got all of my “teaching” from the world- the soap operas my mom watched, movies, other kids at school, etc… and I had strong desires from a very young age (I can remember fantasizing about boys as early as elementary school). Since I was never taught how to handle these desires, once I got to high school and eventually started dating, I did not know how to fight the urges, and gave my virginity to my third boyfriend at the age of 17. I became very promiscuous in college (consequently, the topic of drinking wasn’t covered by my parents, either, and I also drank A LOT, which led to the majority of my college encounters), I cheated on boyfriends, and honestly for most of the time I was in college, didn’t even have boyfriends, but was still sexually active.
    We have never discussed our past sexual histories in detail, but talked about doing so last night, and plan to very soon, as it has been heavy on my heart for the past week or so, with the feeling that I need to finally disclose my past and ask his forgiveness. He attempted to start a discussion when we were still dating, and I hesitated (and glossed over it) because I felt he would be upset and not want to be with me if he knew everything.
    I feel a huge sense of guilt for my past, and I want to do everything I can to make sure my kids don’t follow in my footsteps. I don’t blame my parents, but I also don’t think they did enough to help me have a good attitude about sex. I definitely plan to make sure they know what a wonderful blessing sex between a husband and wife can be, and that they need to pray for guidance and come to us when they have lustful desires. I also want to learn what their love languages are, and try to approach them from that perspective, as I learned in our pre-marital class that mine is TOUCH, which explained so much about my struggles in the past.
    I guess my biggest desire in this subject is to save my children from what I have gone through, to learn from the mistakes my parents may have made, and maybe those reading this might be able to get a lesson from it as well…

  13. Obviously at this young age, he is exploring and realizing it feels good, but what about when he gets older? Do older boys/men masturbate without thinking of having sex with a woman?

    Some people can masturbate without lusting, some can not. That is why it is not a black and white issue. If you teach them from the get go how to masturbate without lusting, then you also teach them what they should be thinking about while they do it. That God made them as sexual beings and that they can thank God while they do it for how he made them. That they will pray into their sexuality and ask the Lord to help them to honor Him with it.

    Regarding telling your husband about your past, while it is important to be honest you shouldn’t feel that you have to tell every single detail. It is important that you break the soul ties you have with your previous partners (and your husband with his) and that you ask the Lord to break off the soul tie you formed with one another before you were married. Ask God to cut it off and to break it over your children and all future generations. Then ask Him what He wants to give you in it’s place.

  14. I’ve read you guys mention “breaking soul ties” in a few places now… what do you mean by that? How do you do it? I want to do everything I can to completely break ties with my past life of sin.

  15. I will write an article on it for the near future.

  16. What Christian books have you used to teach your daughters about appreciating the body God has given them and to lay down a positive image about sex and the reproduction system? What age did you start? I’ve seen several at my local Christian bookstore, but don’t want to waste money on books that are not good.

    My daughter turns 6 soon, and I believe it is time to start. I don’t want to repeat the mistakes my persons did. I tell my DH that I am still scarred from the encyclopedia set my parents gave me (which I never opened, because I was so uncomfortable)

    I pray for my daughter daily that she will not lose her virginity before marriage, but with how today’s society is…I am scared for her. I am still amazed at the number of my christian friends who lived together before getting married.I wouldn’t even do an overnight trip with my husband before we were married so not to give people the wrong idea.

    Anyway, what books?

  17. I am SO THANKFUL for my mom’s frankness with me. When I had questions, she just answered them. By the time I was about 3 I had a primitive idea of what sex is and understood that you’re supposed to be married to do it. I understood that it feels good and that it’s where babies come from. So, when my friends were sneaking around with Cosmo and getting answers from their more worldly friends, I was never really tempted to do that. I felt like I was a step ahead of them. It gave me confidence.

    I was outspoken about the importance of saving sex, even in high school. I understood basic anatomy (and STDs!!!) better than most of my friends, so I wasn’t intimidated by my more worldly peers. I remember in biology class one girl asked if the penis was made of bone. WOW. When your only knowledge of male anatomy comes from seeing a hard, erect penis, you sound so dumb to someone who knows better!

    If we don’t fill our children’s heads with truth from a very early age, they will have no trouble finding lies elsewhere. I say teach boldly!

  18. Great advice cinnamonsticks. I wish my mom had talked to me about masturbation. In high school my closest friends all thought it was a sin but were addicted to it anyway and felt ENORMOUS guilt about it. I joined them. I felt so evil. Then I committed to not doing it for one year, and that totally changed my mind. I wondered, “Does it count if I wash myself there in the shower? Personal hygeine can’t be wrong. But what if I enjoy washing myself? Then is it a sin?” Well, what if I enjoy washing my breasts? What if I enjoy brushing my teeth? Aren’t we SUPPOSED to enjoy our bodies, which have been fearfully and wonderfully made?

    I now believe that masturbation is only as sinful as the thoughts you think while doing it. I can masturbate while thanking God for my rockin’ body (how awesome that He created us with the ability to feel such pleasure!). I can masturbate while thinking about how juicy and horny I’m going to be when my husband gets home. Those types of masturbation are awesome and God-honoring.

    Turns out my mom feels the same way. It was one of the few things she never directly addressed with me until after I was married, and I so wish she had! I think it would have spared me enormous guilt during high school.

    My girls are 2 and 3 and I just tell them if they’re going to touch themselves they should do it privately. I also tell them during diaper changes that they have cute butts and tushies (our word for girl parts). We do lots of butt pinching around here! I want them to know they are awesomely made by God, every inch, and that there are appropriate ways of enjoying themselves. I’ll probably lay it out a little more when they hit puberty.

  19. I would say any visual anatomy book can be a good tool. My mom had a biology book that had awesome clear plastic pages, each page printed with a different body system (digestive, respiratory, reproductive, skeletal etc.) so you could layer them and see the whole body.

    The difference is your involvement- instead of just handing her a book, look at it with her. As you look at the pictures, you explain how amazing it is that God made all this and how wonderful it all is. I’ve found that no book can really address my children’s exact needs, or impart my exact values, as well as I can myself. My 2 and 3 year old girls’ favorite book is Lennart Nilson’s A Child Is Born. They don’t understand a word of the text; instead of reading I explain the pictures to them. They’ve learned so much and I’ve been able to put it in terms I know they’ll understand.

    Find a book with good pictures that you’re comfortable talking about- that’s what I recommend :)

  20. My children are all adopted. So our discussions started at an early age about how our family was created by God. And of course included where babies come from. Everything was put into a Godly context. From ‘special hugs’ to ‘making love’, sexuality was included at all ages, and all stages. Never did we teach our children that their sexuality was ‘wrong’. Just to ‘wait’ til they were in a Godly covenantal marriage to unwrap this gift.

    I am very blunt. My children can ask me anything, I will answer them.

    Also, when my girls started menstruating, we had a very open talk about their bodies being able to be mothers, but that they were not emotionally, spiritually, or physically able to care and nurture a child, and therefore, they needed to guard their sexualilty.

    My eldest is getting ready to marry. I have provided materials for her to read, and an open invitation to talk to me about anything. And she has.

    Other young women have turned to me for counsel, it is my privilege to be there for them.

    Books and articles are wonderful resources. An older woman that can be open, honest, and God honoring, can also be a wonderful resource.

  21. Our conversations have slowly evolved over the years. Our first two sons were 9 & 5 when our little girl was born and as the boys asked questions we gave then appropriate amounts of information for their respective ages. Our oldest is now a high schooler and as he entered the teen’s sunday school class my husband took the talk deeper. Our church also did a class using the Silver Ring Thing cirriculum. This opened my husband’s and my eyes to what kids are really facing today. We had classes with just parrents and with the kids as well. I would suggest this cirriculum to all parents, but be ready to talk with your child. We had to be honest with our son that we weren’t told to wait for marriage, so we sinned and lived together before we were married.
    Our children are somewhat sheltered because we homeschool them, but they still see enough of the world to know that many think marriage is only optional. So we pray and just try to guide them the best we can.


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