Guiding our children through God’s design for sexuality
While driving one evening, I glanced at my son and declared, “You know what? You probably woke up this morning and said to yourself, ‘I really just want to have a conversation about sexuality with my dad this evening during our drive.’ Am I right? And here I was, thinking discussing sex with my son would be the highlight of my day, an easy and exciting moment for us with any feeling of discomfort or awkwardness for both of us.” Almost immediately, our laughter filled the car, slicing through any awkwardness that hung in the air as we broached the topic of sex.
Let’s face it: no parent circles this conversation on the calendar and waits with unbridled anticipation. Yet, it’s a dialogue that, sooner or later, must happen — perhaps it’s overdue. Avoiding the topic of sex isn’t an option, though prepared with the right resources, we can talk about sex with our children, and we need to start earlier rather than later.
God’s gift of sexuality
Despite how culture portrays sex, it’s a gift from God that is to be cherished and liberally shared between husband and wife within a committed monogamous relationship that historically has been called ‘holy matrimony.’ Now, as parents and guardians, it is up to us to breach the topic of sex within our families and lay the groundwork so that our children might feel comfortable enough to talk to us about sex.
Let’s be honest: if our kids feel comfortable talking to us about sex, then everything else will feel like a piece of cake. Therefore, as the leaders of our families, we are to be the primary fountain of knowledge to our children about any subject, especially sex.
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2–3, NIV)
Giving a biblical perspective on love and procreation
By design, sex is reserved for marriage and is intended for both procreation, giving birth to children, and an expression of love. Hebrews tells us,
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure… (Hebrews 13:4a, NIV)
In other words, sex is for married individuals, and we, as parents and guardians, need to communicate this to our children.
We need to express how incredible sex is, that it’s not dirty but rather an act that God created and desires for us to participate in when we are married. However, sex is not intended for those outside of marriage, as it can lead to consequences that can last a lifetime. But when do you start to tell them these things, and how do you start?
When our kids begin to notice the physical differences between boys and girls, this is a perfect time to have an age-appropriate talk about sex and gender. Rather than this subject being taboo or avoided, we can seize the moment and impact our kids in a way that will shape their future. Let me explain how one might respond when such a question arises.
Say a five-year-old boy asks why he’s different from his sister or mom. A simple, reassuring response that explains God’s design, “God created you as a boy and your sister as a girl. He gave us our bodies to show us how He made us unique.” Show them in Genesis that the Bible tells us,
So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, NIV)
Notice how we addressed the child’s immediate curiosity as well as sets a foundation for understanding their identity and God’s intentional design behind their bodies?
It sounds cliché, but when parents first navigate the subject of sex with their children, it’s really not that uncommon for them to use the analogy of the “birds and the bees.” This approach points out that the well-being of young birds relies heavily on the combined efforts of both parents, who ensure their young have food, shelter, and protection.
Without the combined effort from both parents, the baby bird would face starvation, lack of shelter, or danger. This would be insurmountable for a single bird acting alone and requires both the mother and father birds. Raising a child is a shared responsibility, not just for birds but also for us moms and dads.
Modeling healthy sexuality through daily actions
Drawing on the nurturing behavior of birds, we can illustrate the importance of parental guidance and protection in our relationships. The way we, as parents, honor and respect one another displays what a healthy sexual expression should look like. It’s often stated that children tend to absorb more from what they witness than from what is explicitly taught.
It is through our daily interactions as husbands and wives that we show our children what a healthy relationship ought to look like. Live out God’s command that,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:25, 33, NIV)
Children absorb these lessons on sexuality through the caring and appropriate touches they receive from their parents, being celebrated for their differences from the opposite gender in the family, and being affirmed in their God-given identity.
We are to see our identity in Christ, not just in our sexuality, so that we might have a solid grasp of our value. We need to recognize this first and foremost about ourselves, enabling us to help our children understand this about themselves. Understanding this will significantly impact how we discuss the many issues and questions that will come our way.
Navigating tough conversations
At some point, we must also tackle hard questions head-on, from a Christian perspective, addressing issues like homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender identity, and other questions. Despite societal views on sexual expression, we stick to God’s plan for heterosexual and lifelong partnerships.
Encounters with diverse family structures, such as same-sex parents, provide moments to teach compassion and tolerance while upholding Christian beliefs on sexuality. Remember to be prepared to give a biblical reason why we hold to these beliefs (1 Peter 3:15). Our love and recognition of others’ worth stems from everyone being created in God’s image.
So, when those inevitable questions start rolling in, be upfront while age-appropriate. And on the topic of their bodies, let’s not beat around the bush — use the actual words like penis, vagina and breast. It’s not just about being anatomically correct; it’s a matter of their safety. Thus, our job as parents is to help our children recognize that their bodies are their own. And if — God forbid — should anyone ever make them feel uncomfortable, they need to know they can come straight to us, no hesitation.
Being frank about sex
Now, how do we kick off those tough conversations on sex within our homes? Based on my experience as a pastor and a father of four, we need to be frank with our children about the subject of sex. We don’t want the playground or, heaven forbid, the internet to be their primary source on sex.
No, we need to be the ones who set their foundation of what sex is and is not, and so it is up to us to tell them that sex is an incredible gift from God that is solely designed for marriage. This conversation is more than a one-time chat; it’s an ongoing discussion about God’s desire for us. Together, we will,
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6, NIV)
Having some resources in advance would be helpful to prepare us to teach our kids. Here are a few that may help you:
- “Birds and Bees by the Book” by Patricia Weerakoon — A six-volume series that covers key topics such as family, porn and additional age-appropriate subjects.
- Growing Up God’s Way — for 11–14s — For pre-teens and early teens, this guide through puberty.
- Talking with Teen about Sexuality — for 15–18s — For older teens, this book addresses sexuality and relationships.
Just like the laughter that filled the car as my son began our awkward but successful conversation about sex, these conversations draw us closer to God’s will, reminding them (and ourselves) that sex is a God-given gift for those in marriage.
Find out more about how Long Drives and Life Lessons can impact your kids.