“The talk.” You know what I mean. That talk. It happened to me in a Sonic drive-thru with my dad when I was a teenager. I don’t remember much besides the awkwardness of the conversation, the glory of my strawberry limeade, and the feeling of relief when it was over. I remember dreading the day when I’d have to have that “talk” with my future children.
My parents weren’t failures by any means. They did their best and made their fair share of mistakes like any other set of parents.
Kids are hearing about, learning about, and seeing sex earlier than ever. Just the other night, I turned the TV off because of the commercials, not the main program we were watching! The average age for first exposure to pornography is 11. Since they’re learning about it earlier than ever, the conversation has to begin earlier than ever.
Jenn and I have learned to approach the topic with our kids in a completely different way than how we were raised, and it’s been awesome…and sometimes awkward…but mostly awesome.
Jenn and I don’t have it all figured out, but below are some things we’re learning.
Before we dive in, I have to recommend Josh McDowell’s book, Straight Talk With Your Kids About Sex, which is where I learned a lot of these principles, and many more.
1. Make it an ongoing conversation, not a one-time talk.
How in the world could something so important and intricate as sex and sexual purity be discussed in its entirety in one, awkward talk? It’s impossible. That’s why you have to start young, and keep the dialogue going. This may save them from thinking they have to try it to find out. And if they do fall into temptation, how will they feel the freedom to talk about sexual failure with you if they couldn’t talk to you about it before they failed?
2. Kids learn awkwardness from you.
My kids aren’t weirded out when it comes to talking about body parts and baby production. They’ve weirded out some babysitters, but it’s no big thing for them. It’s not awkward for them because we’ve never made it awkward for them. In many ways, labeling a topic or conversation as “awkward” stems primarily from the way parents choose to treat it.
I get it. “Penis” and “vagina” aren’t words you commonly use. They’re a little odd to type, and it may have been odd to read, but unless you teach your kids differently, those words aren’t any more awkward for them than “knee cap” or “eyebrow.”
3. Call body parts by their real names.
What do you call your ears? Not “ding dongs.” What about your elbow? I imagine you probably call it “elbow.” So why, when it comes to “penis” or “breasts,” do we come up with secret code names for them? Society has engrained it in us that those terms are off-limits, awkward, or even wrong to say.
Josh McDowell puts it this way:
It may take a number of little discussions and explanations for a child to get the body parts figured out. But by using their correct names and explaining what they’re for, your child won’t be embarrassed or shamed when they find out the real names of their body parts.
After all, he says,
Your kids will find out sooner or later, and it’s becoming much sooner now because of the Internet. And you will want to become your child’s authority on what body parts he or she has and what they are called. You don’t want it to be the Internet.
Plus, if your family only refers to body parts by their real names, if your kids use a slang term, it will alert you to the fact that they’re discussing it elsewhere. As a parent, that’s something you’d want to know, right?
Make sure your kids know they are private body parts, but knowing the real names will be very helpful for everyone involved.
4. Give age- and time-appropriate answers.
Chances are, your young kids aren’t looking for long, scientific answers about embryos or oxytocin. That doesn’t mean you should give them short answers and move them along. You know your kids, their knowledge, and the context, so put those together, and give them the answer they are looking for. Since this should be an ongoing conversation, instead of a one-time talk, don’t feel the pressure to run them through a sex-ed class right then and there. There will be lots of other opportunities as they grow. Breathe, think, and keep the conversation rolling.
5. Maintain an “anywhere, anytime” rule regarding conversations with your kids.
Like we’re learning, kids learn awkwardness from us. As a parent, I want my kids to be able to tell me anything, any time, anywhere, so we encourage that. We tell them that there is no topic or question that is off limits with us. They can ask about anything…and they do! But I’d rather endure some awkward stares from some strangers than shut the door on necessary conversations with my kids when their minds are wondering.
More than once, a question has arisen when we’re all together. Jenn and I glance at each other, sometimes laugh to ourselves, then do our best to calmly, honestly, and non-awkwardly answer.
XXXchurch has a great parents resource page, which provides helpful blogs, stats, videos, and many other resources.
Straight Talk With Your Kids About Sex – Josh & Dottie McDowell
This is by far the best book on the market regarding this subject. It’s clear, honest, and Biblical. I think it should be required reading for all parents.
The Care and Keeping of You – Valorie Schaefer
As their parents, we are the main sources of information, but we want them to have some supplemental reading too. We did a lot of research, and bought a handful of books, trying to figure out the best option for our kids. We landed on this one for our girls. It seemed to be the most complete, honest, and open, without being cheesy, graphic or talking about topics in a shameful way. One book mentioned that it would answer questions you would never want to ask your parents. We didn’t even want to plant the thought in our kids’ minds that they wouldn’t want to talk to us about something regarding sexuality.
Some of you are much further down the road in parenting than I am. What have you learned and what are some resources you’ve found helpful? Leave some ideas in the comments so we can all benefit from them!