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How to Talk to Your Children About Sex

Posted on | Todd Erickson

Todd Erickson is the Pastoral Executive at Second Presbyterian Church and serves on the Board Of Trustees at PDS. Todd also served in youth ministry for 27 years. He and his wife, Lynn, recently gave the following points in talk to parents. This is timely for parents of sixth grade boys as your boys are reading chapters 7, 8, and 9 of Flight Plan over the next two weeks. This is valuable to all parents because, as you will read, it’s important to start these conversations early with our children.

Talking to our children about sex can be awkward and intimidating. But, as with every part of your parenting, you don’t face this alone. God loves you and your child, so ask for his help. Ask for wisdom. Ask for his help to listen well and speak well. Pray, pray, pray!

Seven things to aim for in your conversations with your children:

Be Biblical

God created sex as a gift to humans. In keeping sex within healthy boundaries, God is offering us something amazing, not keeping us from something bad. Read Song of Solomon 4 and notice how beautifully the Bible celebrates this gift, and read 1 Corinthians 7 and notice the encouragement God gives about the sexual relationship within marriage.

Be Honest

As we teach our children about sex, we need to be aware of our own sexual brokenness and attentive to how that may cloud our thinking and teaching. How you see sexual intimacy will shape how you teach it to your children.

At the same time, being honest with your children does not mean that you have to tell them things that are not appropriate for their age. Speaking the truth does not always mean full disclosure. For example, until they are about 11 or 12 years old children think in concrete rather than abstract terms, so it might not be best to explain more complicated sexual issues (i.e. same-sex attraction) to your 5-year-old.

Be Brave

It’s going to be awkward. There is no way to avoid it. But no matter how little you and your son want to have this conversation, talking with him about sex will protect him and help him honor God with his thoughts and actions.

Be Early

Ask yourself whose voice you want them to hear first regarding sex the voices of the internet? The voices of their friends? Or yours?

We recommend explaining physical differences to your children when they are around four years old. When they are 7–8, it’s time to talk about the basics of sex—they will be hearing about sex from other sources by the time they reach 4th grade.

Be Clear

Uncertainty in our answers can actually make our children more confused about sex. More clarity will bring your children more comfort.

Here are a few specific tips:

  • Set aside a defined time to talk about sex — don’t just rely on off-the-cuff conversations (even as kids get older)
  • Speaking shoulder-to-shoulder in contexts like car trips and walks can often work better than face-to-face contexts, especially for boys
  • Talk to your son about pornography and masturbation by the time he turns 11

Be Consistent

Keep the conversation open and make regular deposits of truth over time. That tends to work better than having one or two big conversations.  

Throughout these conversations, make sure you are affirming that sex is good within God’s designed boundaries. Satan’s desire is to numb us to sexual desire and pleasure. Our kids need to know that sex is good, but dangerous when handled outside God’s gracious boundaries.

Do it Now

Feeling like you’ve missed the mark on some of these tips or timelines? It’s never too late to start — so start now.