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How to Talk to Your Children about Sex: When Children Become Teenagers

wWHEN CHILDREN BECOME TEENAGERS(1)This past couple of months, we’ve discussed some critical tools to begin the conversation about sex with your children. I hope that you’ve begun to feel more comfortable and empowered to explore this topic with your child. More than anything, I hope you feel less alone in the matter. However, I recognize that there is still a fear in bringing up sex to our children, who later become teenagers. A fear that by bringing it up, we are exposing them. We are filling their minds with information that we hope they won’t be using for a long time. A fear that by talking about it, their minds may become tainted and curious. And in doing so, we may hinder their purity as they get older and begin developing sexual feelings.

I get that fear. It is legitimate and you are not alone in it. However, I think that a mind shift is required to recognize the benefit and value of presenting this information at a young age, and continually shedding light on the topic of sex throughout their childhood and adolescence.

Exposure Brings Light, Not Darkness

Recently, I was talking to a group of 20-somethings about God’s purposes for sex, when one member shared an authentic response. She said, "This sounds great and all for when I’m married. But what’s the point in learning about the beauty of sex when I can’t do anything with it now? How am I to stay pure knowing these things about sex?”

I admired her honesty. And I think her question offers insight into a common mindset for parents: speaking about sex leads to impurity and my child will be more tempted as he enters into teenage and adult years if he knows these things.

However, my response was that often times, we attempt to sustain purity by suppressing, by being secretive, by staying silent. In doing so, we are keeping the topic of sex in darkness.

Ephesians 5:11-14 says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them…But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.”

As we teach our children about the beauty and purpose of sex, we expose the truth about sexuality. Instead of seeing sex as bad, and therefore we keep it secretive and silenced, we teach that sex is valuable, and whatever is valuable must be protected and honored. In doing so, we bring light to the topic of sex, instead of keeping it covered in darkness.

The Practical Manifestations for Teenagers

By being open and honest with our children, we model for them the ability to be open and honest about their personal struggles, feelings, and thoughts concerning sex. We model for them how to be authentic in accountability, how to share instead of suppressing their feelings, how to ask for guidance and prayer in the matter. We teach them that sexual strongholds hold less power over us when we expose them. We show them the value of protecting our purity and God’s purpose for sexuality.

We also provide a platform to instill healthy practical boundaries for our teenagers. If you have already established trust in the topic of sex with your children, you give them a reason to respect your guidance. Here are some tools to instill healthy boundaries for your teenager:

  • Discuss physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries. When one of these boundaries is violated, all three tend to suffer. Instead of only focusing on physical boundaries, discuss the value of your teenager protecting spiritual and emotional components in dating.
  • Highlight the importance of accountability. Teach your teenager to surround himself with friends, mentors, and leaders who can hold him accountability in this matter. Remind him that he can always come to you.
  • Explore the value of spending time together in groups. This provides a protective measure for your teenager and also allows others to speak into unhealthy patterns they may observe in a relationship.
  • Do not shy away from continuing to talk about masturbation and pornography. Remind them of one of the purposes of sexuality, which is a greater understanding of oneness with God and others. Self-stimulation is a cheap substitute for the intimacy found when two become one.
  • Continue to set boundaries in telephone, computer, and television use. A direct combat to engaging in sex is your teenager being active, spending time in community and activities, and living a healthy lifestyle overall.
  • Suggest reading Boundaries in Dating by Henry C. Cloud for more understanding on how to set healthy overall boundaries in relationships.

There are many practical tools to encourage purity for your teenagers. However, silence is not one of them. As we finish this series, I hope that you recognize the necessity of your role in talking to your children about sex. I hope that you see both the privilege and responsibility of speaking truth into God’s purpose for sexuality. And I hope that you feel encouraged that you are not alone, that guidance is available as you continue to guide your children on the topic of sex.