My 10-year-old brain went numb. How could two people actually do such things?
Even though it took me quite a while to ponder the magnitude of all that had been explained to me, I am thankful for the way this movement toward adulthood unfolded. Looking back, so many things went well. I had a relationship with my dad such that I turned to him for questions. My dad explained to me what I needed to know founded on a biblical ethic. My dad became the one I sought out when I had questions about sex. I had taken a step toward adulthood without any loss of innocence.
Fast forward three decades and I am now having the same conversations with my children. Thankfully, they have all gone well so far. So as I’m on the same road with you as parents, I’d like to offer some insights that I think will help this conversation go well with you and your kids. Answering these three questions are of the utmost importance: When should I have this conversation? What should I say? How do I move forward?
When should I have this conversation?
The short answer — probably earlier than you think. Often times the primary criteria we consider in this area is whether or not “they’re ready for this new information,” and to be sure, that is an important consideration. Pulling back this curtain to a child that is emotionally immature or isn’t expressing any curiosity about the beginnings of life, may introduce them to information they’ll find difficult to process or manage. Whether or not they’re ready is an important consideration — but it’s not the only consideration. As parents we must take into consideration the fact that there are a variety of ways kids can stumble into this knowledge. Whether it be through one of their friends, something seen on television, something stumbled upon online, or a crude joke made at school, the elements of sex can be introduced to them whether they’re ready or not. Some things to consider: do your kids’ friends have older siblings? Does your child spend a lot of time online? Do your kids have phones? While none of these guarantee early exposure to sex, they do increase the opportunities for this topic to be conveyed.
My personal opinion, around the age of 10 years old is probably the right time. If you homeschool and have a pretty good knowledge of the friends your child is around, perhaps you could push it to 11. If your kid spends a lot of time with other kids that you don’t know, perhaps you should make it 9. But with many researchers putting the average age of a first exposure to pornography at age 11 (others putting it at age 8), waiting until a child is a teenager is simply too late. Pornography, just like Tolkien’s Ring of Power, wants to be found.
What should I say?
Be clear. Be concise. Perhaps something as simple as this:
Honey, have you ever wondered where babies come from? God has made it so that the baby in a mommy’s belly is made from part of the mommy and part from the daddy. But how does this happen? God made men and women to be different but to fit together perfectly — our bodies represent God’s design for the creation of life. The way the daddy’s parts join with the mommy’s parts is this — the man puts his penis inside the mommy’s vagina and he leaves a part of himself in her which God uses to create a new life.
What happens next will be dependent upon your kid. Are their eyes wide in disbelief at such a shocking revelation? Then you’re probably done introducing new information at this point. Are they yawning and checking their watch? Then you might need to do some inquiring about their current understanding/experiences.
Remember, your kids will take cues from you. If you’re nervous, fumbling around with your words and sweating profusely, it will probably make them a bit nervous too. If you speak with a confident coolness, it will help them relax and listen to what you’re saying.
How do I move forward?
Whatever happens in the initial conversation, you need to plan on circling back. The goal is to develop an ongoing conversation with your child about sex. Let me repeat that: you need to develop an ongoing conversation with your child about sex. The goal of these conversations is not merely to convey information, it is to build their character. Ongoing discussions will allow them to come to you for their questions and give you the opportunity to expand the circle of information according to the timeline you see fit. This is not a one-and-done subject.
Perhaps the single greatest concept to begin weaving into each discussion is that God’s grace covers even sexual sins. We can easily make sex something so sacred, that failure in this area leads to shame, which leads to hiding, which leads to more failure. Let your kids know that God’s plan for sex is great, and that we should follow it seriously, but that God’s grace is even bigger. When we fail sexually, we return to God to find the grace we need.
Looking for more resources?
God’s Design for Sex Series, 4 Books: Revised By: Stan Jones, Brenna Jones (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress), 2007.
Good Pictures Bad Pictures, Kristen Jenson and Gail Poyner (Richland, WA: Glen Colove Press), 2016.
How and When to Tell Your Kids About Sex: A Lifelong Approach to Shaping Your Child’s Sexual Character, Stan Jones and Brenna Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo: NavPress), 2007.
Passport2Purity Getaway Kit: A Life-Changing Weekend with Your Preteen, Audio CD.
Simple Truths, Mary Flo Ridley – Complete Package DVD-ROM – 2009.
Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality: A Biblical Approach to Prepare Them for Life, Jim Burns (Minneapolis, Minn: Bethany House Publishers), 2008.