Interview With Shannon Ethridge: Growing Sexually Healthy Children

Shannon’s Bio: Shannon is a million-copy best-selling author, speaker, lay counselor, and advocate for healthy sexuality with a master’s degree in counseling/human relations from Liberty University. She has spoken to youth, college students, and adults since 1989 and her passions include: Challenging adults and teens to embrace a life of sexual integrity, encouraging married couples in their pursuit of sexual and emotional fulfillment, counseling women who have looked for love in all the wrong places and equipping parents to instill sexual values in children at an early age.

Christian Nymphos: What are the most significant things that you see competing with young people growing up with a healthy sexual understanding?

Shannon Ethridge: Most teens think that if they are ever going to have good hot sex, they’d better do it now when they are single, because once they get married they probably won’t see much action.  Where do they get that notion?  From tons of things they see in the media (frigid wives, frustrated husbands), but mainly from their own parents’ relationship.  Over 90% of teens say they don’t want a relationship like the one their parents have, and most that I talk to insist that their parents don’t even have sex.  I usually laugh and ask, “How do you think you got here if your parents don’t have sex?”  Then they’ll acknowledge, “Well, my parents must have had sex before, but based on how they treat each other, I can’t imagine that they do anymore.”  This is a sad report card, and a wake up call for us parents.

CN: How can parents best communicate and instill healthy sexuality in their kids?

SE: If we want kids to aspire to enjoying a healthy sexual relationship in marriage, we’ve got to do a better job of exemplifying what a healthy relationship looks like.  Kiss.  Hold hands.  Snuggle on the couch while watching television.  Go out on dates.  Give your kids something to look forward to.  Also, open lines of communication are key.  Tell your children, “You can ask me anything you want to ask about sex, and you can use whatever words you need to use in order to ask it!”  Never punish them or respond with shock and horror when they do ask questions, but certainly don’t wait for them to initiate!  Give them healthy doses of preventative medicine at every stage of development.  Remember, sex education isn’t a one-time plumbing lesson.  It’s ongoing character development.  Every Young Woman’s Battle would be a great tool to put in the hands of your teen and college-age girls, and for parents of daughters even younger (8-12 years old) I suggest reading Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle together.  Both books are available at, and there are also male corollaries to each of those books for your sons, available at

CN: Does the same gender parent have more influence on their children or do both parents play a part in influencing sexual health?

SE: Both parents play unique key roles.  The same-sex parent teaches the child about their own masculinity or femininity and helps them grow comfortable in their own skin and with their own sexuality.  The opposite-sex parent teaches the child how to be treated in relationship.  That’s why I encourage dads to take their daughters on dates, and for moms to do the same with their sons.  Together, mom and dad can help them feel good about themselves and set their relational standards high.

CN: What about single parents? How can they teach their kids to view their sexuality in a proper way?

SE: It’s okay to just be honest and say that you want more for them than what you were able to achieve for yourself.  Don’t fear sounding hypocritical, as it’s not about you anymore.  It’s about them, and a single parent would certainly hope that their children have a more successful marriage than they had.  Don’t focus on what your spouse did wrong.  Acknowledge your part in the dance of discontentment, and teach them how to choose a healthier path.  And if you choose to date, model the type of behavior you’d expect from your child.  Dress flatteringly but appropriately.  Remain in public areas of the house rather than taking your date behind a closed bedroom door.  Keep public displays of affection to a socially acceptable level so that your kids aren’t rolling their eyes, gagging, and yelling, “Get a room!”  Show them that you can have healthy dating relationships without crossing the line prior to marriage.

CN: What are the most important messages for our kids to hear about godly sexuality as they grow up?

SE: Most would say, “Just say no!” and I agree that God wants us to save sex until marriage because He loves us and wants to protect us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  But I think the most important value that we can instill in our kids is that, “God LOVES sex!”  Explain that He gave it as a gift for husbands and wives to enjoy, and because it is so special, it’s definitely worth the wait.  Then when our daughter puts a wedding band on her finger, she doesn’t have that negative tape playing in her mind over and over, “Good girls don’t!  Just say no!”  She’ll feel confident that “Good girls DO!  And they do it without guilt, shame or inhibition!  And God is pleased when husbands and wives enjoy the gift that He gave them in one another!”

CN: What signs would a parent look for if they suspect that their kids may have been abused sexually? And what can parents of kids who have had their sexual boundaries overrun do to help in the healing?

SE: Any sort of sexual acting out with a playmate or other family member is one of the surest tell-tale signs.  It’s very important that we respond to such scenarios without shock and horror (that will shut them down very quickly for fear of getting in trouble).  Calmly get that child alone and sweetly inquire, “Where did you learn about what you were just doing?”  It’s also vital that you talk with the parent of the other child involved.  If you realize that this was more than just innocent “child sexual play” to satisfy their own natural curiosity, and you believe there’s been sexual abuse, don’t hesitate to get counseling.  The sooner the better.  The sexually abused child more than likely has a lot of confusion, anger, guilt, and shame beneath that peanut butter and jelly smile, and by going through counseling together, you’re saying to that child, “You’re valued.  You’re loved.  And your emotional health is very precious and worth investing in.”

CN: We also received a question from a reader of our blog which I thought would fit into our interview with you given your experience in this area, so I would love to hear your response to this:
I have numerous friends at my church who have told me that they could go the rest of their lives with out having sex! I can’t even go a week! And these are women who regularly experience orgasm. I want to help these women but most of them have been married longer than me and are older and have older kids, etc. I have two young kids and one on the way. My husband and I have been married five years and have very busy schedules with work and church. And I still find time and energy and desire to have sex with my husband. Do you have any suggestions on how I can help with out offending?

SE: Unfortunately, many women have lost touch with their God-given sexual desires, and their husbands suffer silently as a result.  Busyness and distraction are just the tip of the ice burg for some.  Others struggle with poor body image, low self-esteem, past sexual abuse, guilt over past promiscuity, or lack of understanding about the physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual components of our sexuality (or [d] all of the above).  I’d encourage you to consider starting a Sexually Confident Wife discussion group in your home or at your church, as this will open their eyes to all that they are missing out on in a healthy marriage and help them overcome the hurdles that are holding them back.  Go to and download a free Reader’s Guide to assist you in leading such a group.  And don’t be intimidated by the fact that they’ve been married so much longer than you.  Sometimes older women need a gentle reminder of how to freshen things up when things have gotten a little stale and stagnant in the bedroom.  You may be just the inspiration they need!  What a ministry to both wives and husbands!  You go, girl!

1 Comment

  1. Cinnamon Sticks and Shannon, thanks for taking the time to address this important issue.

    Shannon, I truly enjoyed The S.C.W., and I appreciated your honesty and openness. You are right, our ladies are led to believe that “good girls don’t” – at least I was, and DH has been quite patient as I work to overcome that. WIth God’s help and leadership from ladies like yourself and those on this board, I will free my daughter from that thinking. (I also loved that I could take the dust cover off and the title was very subtle and I could take it to work without worrying about questions!)

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