Figuring out how to talk to kids about sex is a difficult part of parenting. Sex within marriage is a wonderful (albeit often misused) gift from God. So, how do you empower your kids to obtain that blessing rather than just stop them from making mistakes?
If you are someone whose life didn’t follow “God’s Plan” for sex, have you ever wondered how to do it differently with your own children? Or, maybe you did all the “right” things, but someone sinned against you. If this is your story, please know that God mourns with you in the loss of your innocence and reach out to someone for help and healing. Perhaps you “followed your heart” and made choices that ended in great pain. Or maybe your life did indeed follow God’s plan, but today’s world is so much different from the one in which we grew up!
How we are to equip our children to enter adulthood capable of living fulfilled lives as Christian men and women, like everything else in parenting, starts with YOU!
How to Talk to Kids about Sex
Here are FIVE ways you can honor God, your spouse, and your children by talking about sex:
1. Sex is a Gift from God
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Proverbs 5:18-19
Far too many women grew up hearing their parents or religious leaders tell them that “sex is bad” and if you do it – or want to – you are also “bad.” I believe this was well-intentioned (although you know what they say about good intentions), said in the hope that their children would not engage in sexual activity before marriage. Thereby saving them from unnecessary heartache and possible sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancies. However, if this is what you heard when you were growing up, I am willing to bet that when you got married it wasn’t so easy to suddenly undo that rhetoric and actually enjoy making love with your husband!
Let’s do it differently for our children!
In our home, we talk about sex being a gift from God for the mutual and exclusive enjoyment of married couples. Sex is something special and wonderful and sacred that Mom and Dad share only with each other. By the way, this absolutely got uncomfortable when our kids eventually asked about us being with their other parents – since we were both married before – but we just honestly told them what was age-appropriate at the time and respectful of their other parents. Basically, we said that when you’re not living by following God’s way (we weren’t), but by following your heart/what YOU think is best for you (we were), many will get hurt. See 1 Corinthians 7. Thank God for His grace and forgiveness!
2. Talk about Sex Early and Often
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
With our kids, this isn’t a talk we had once, but a conversation we talk through over and over again as they grow and develop and change and have more and differing questions. Starting when they were about 4, 5, and 6, we added into our nightly reading routine books from the series, God’s Design for Sex. This four-book series begins with The Story of Me for 3 – 5 year olds which discusses how God created boys and girls bodies differently and also addresses safety and privacy issues. Remember, children pick up on your discomfort, so just honestly tell them, “I feel uncomfortable talking about this, but I know that it’s important for you to know, and I am asking God to help me.”
Since we live in Las Vegas, there are a lot of opportunities to discuss the advertisements we see around town. We always affirm that everyone is made in God’s image and to be respected. Therefore, we taught our boys how to “bounce your eyes” when seeing scantily clad women to respect their future wives. Once those images get in your head, they STAY there!
My husband and I have always been appropriately affectionate in front of the children because it’s important for them to witness loving, respectful, and playful hugs, touches, and kisses. When bedtime was still a struggle, we would explain how God wants all married couples to have “private time” in their bedroom (nighty-night, kids!). Now that our kids are teens we like to say embarrassing things like: “We’re going to bed for some private time” to watch them roll their eyes and groan. But secretly, they love the fact that their parents are so in love that they still enjoy “private time.”
3. Use Correct Terminology
When we first got married, our kids were young enough that they still bathed together. We always made sure to use the correct terminology for their parts. “Penis,” “vagina,” and “anus” were not dirty words in our home anymore than “elbow,” “earlobe,” or “kneecap.” They were simply other parts of their bodies that were covered by their underwear. We believed that by normalizing talking about body parts and actions that were not typically talked about, we could have open and honest conversations about even uncomfortable topics. We surely found out that the discomfort was all us and not them!
In the series I mentioned above, the second book (for 5 – 8 year olds) is called Before I was Born. This one explains that “the husbands penis goes into his wife’s vagina.” One of our sons stood up when he heard this and exclaimed, “HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK?!?!?!” We all giggled and agreed that it sounds really weird now because they are still young and they’re not ready to know how all that works. But it is important to START talking about it, so they are armed with the correct information. This will not only help in preventing abuse, but also curb the misuse of this gift that God has given to us to be shared in marriage!
4. Understand Child Development Stages
“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15
This is important because young children are naturally curious. They want to know how others are the same and different then themselves. As adults, we sometimes “sexualize” the natural curiosity of children by saying, “Don’t look at her!’ “Don’t talk about that!” “Why would you do that?” But this causes children to think they are bad or wrong for just being curious. With our boys, we’ve had many open-ended conversations about pornography (Did you know the average age for boys to first view pornography is NINE?! Let that sink in a moment 😢 ) and talk through movies/shows we watch to answer any questions they may have.
In the booklet, Understanding Children’s Sexual Behaviors – What’s Natural and Healthy (Updated and Expanded 2015), Cavanagh Johnson explains that “sexual” play is usually just an extension of regular play as long as it occurs between children of similar ages who typically play together. For example, say two five-year-old boys often play together, and their interests span a wide range from bugs to blocks to cars to wrestling. One day, they’re outside relieving themselves behind a tree and one says, “Hey! Your penis looks different then mine.” This may lead to a natural curiosity of looking and comparing ….and then they zip up and start racing down the hill. Maybe another day one will say, “Let’s show each other our penises again!” And they do, then move on to other things. There is nothing morally or social wrong with this.
However, if there is more than three years developmental age difference between the two boys, or they are not typical playmates, and maybe the older one often pushes the younger one around…that would be a different story.
5. Don’t Just Talk the Talk, but Walk the Walk!
“…set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12
This may hurt, but I care for you Mama’s too much not to tell you the truth: If you are a single mom who has a boyfriend stay the night, you cannot possibly expect your children to keep sex within marriage. They are going to do what they see you do – no matter what you say.
My husband and I got married quickly – primarily because we knew we were willing to make this marriage work for the long run, and also because we were having trouble keeping our hands off each other. We met in April, had our first date in May, got engaged in August, and were married in September! We were already spending every day and evening together and, logistically, it was becoming really difficult with the three kids. Since we would NOT spend the night together, we married as soon as possible and never once regretted it. I am not necessarily recommending this for everyone, but for us, if we were going to live by example for our children and other Christ Followers, we needed to get married quickly!
Finally, I hope this provided you with insight on how to honestly and openly discuss sex in your home. But, if you have experienced – or are currently experiencing sexual abuse, please meet with a professional to work through the sins that were committed against you! If someone hurt you, you don’t have to carry this burden anymore. There is help, hope, and healing found in God’s Word and in His Church – you are not alone. Please reach out!
Kate Fraiser is a Parent Coach with Connect Point Moms helping you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life. This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children in the moment you’re in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them. For quick and helpful parenting videos, find her on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, or Facebook.