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Beating Porn to the Punch: 3 Tips for Talking to Young Kids About Sex

If there ever was a time when a mom or dad could give their child “the talk” and call it good, those days are long gone.

Our oldest turned 9 this summer, and both my wife and I felt he was overdue for some formative instruction about sex. By “sex” I mean sexual intercourse—he grew up learning about gender differences, correct names for body parts (at least boy parts), and learning to respect others’ privacy. But Trisha and I decided he was more than ready to get the fuller story.

Speaking to some friends about this afterward, I was met with some raised eyebrows. “Nine years old? The sex talk? Isn’t that a bit young?”

Of course every child is different. Every child has their own attention span and level of inquisitiveness. We cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach to instructing our children about anything—much less sex ed. But let’s shatter the myth that sexual topics are off-limits for the middle childhood years (about age 7 to puberty).

Talking to Young Kids About Sex  

Fact: The World is Already Teaching Our Kids

We try to limit the media our sons consume. We pay close attention to movie reviews, TV programs, and video game content. Still, it’s difficult to take our children out into the world without our over-sexualized culture slapping them across the face.

Want to find a child-friendly YouTube clip? Good luck not getting a litany of raunchy “related videos” appearing on the page. Want to take a trip to mall? Better avoid the wings with Victoria’s Secret or Abercrombie & Fitch. Want to buy groceries? Try finding a check-out isle where Katy Perry or Kim Kardashian aren’t giving your kids an eye-full of cleavage on every magazine rack.

Millions of pictures painting a thousand words. The last thing my sons need is my silence about sex.

1. Get Over the Fear of “Too Much Too Soon”

For many parents, they fear talking about sex will only awaken their child’s interest in sex too early. “What if I talk about penises and vaginas and they go searching on Google afterward?”

First, buy a good filter for your computer. No harm in that. Then second, recognize that your child is a sexual being already. No, your child may not have reached a stage of raging hormones, but by the middle childhood years, they are curious about gender and intimacy.

Dr. Margaret Stager from Case Western Reserve wisely says that “too much too soon” is a rare circumstance in today’s world. The opposite extreme—your children not knowing your values as they pertain to sex—is far more common and far more dangerous. “Because of the society we live in,” she writes, “the consequences of avoiding these conversations far outweigh the consequences of giving too much information too soon.”

Sexualized media is everywhere, and the question is not if your child will see porn someday. The question is when. You might be able to keep porn at bay longer than other parents, but in the world we live, it is nearly an inevitability. We want to be the first to talk to our kids about sex. Dr. David Currie of Doing Family Right says, “The problem is that kids as young as 8, 9, 10 are seeing way more explicit stuff than would even be shown on TV…I’ve been pushing parents to have this first talk about sexual issues by age 9.”

As you give more detail with each progressive conversation, you not only close gaps in their understanding, you also create a kind of dynamic with your child where he or she feels comfortable listening to you talk about sex. You will become for them an expected and comfortable source of information.

2. Use the Bible as the Basis for Discussion

Nothing prepares you more for talking to your kids about sex than grappling God’s thoughts about sex. There are many great resources available to help with this, but a good “theology of sex” should include, at a minimum, the following talking points for our kids.

  • God created us male and female, and together, we are an expression of the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). In our formative instruction, this is a simple place to start. Explain to them what physically makes men and women different from each other. Use simple diagrams (while I wouldn’t agree to everything written in the book, the illustrations in The Sex Ed Handbook are excellent for younger children).
  • God commanded men and women to be fruitful and multiply, having children to fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). From this we can talk to our kids about how babies are made, discussing the role of sperm and egg and the fascinating development of a human being in the womb. Find some good online videos of this. Watch your kids become fascinated with how we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
  • God created sex to bring new human life into the world and create oneness between husbands and wives (Genesis 2:18-25). This is where we get to explain to our children the activity of sexual intercourse itself. Reactions may vary in kids, but as the parent it is important to express the idea that sex is God’s idea, and it is a beautiful expression of love and oneness.
  • Sex is pleasurable and passionate, but it should not be a passion we stir up until it is time for marriage (Song of Solomon 2:3-7). Our kids need to know that sex isn’t “dirty,” nor is it something to be played with.
  • Sex binds you to a person in a special way, so it should never be done with anyone who is not your spouse (Exodus 20:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Sex is never casual. It always unites you to a person. We should never have sex unless we have also united ourselves to a person for life in marriage.
  • Sex should never be forced on anyone (2 Samuel 13:12-14). With the rate of child sexual abuse as high as it is, it is important all children hear from their parents about this threat. Children should know that they should tell you about anyone who touches them in a sexual manner.

For middle childhood, these are basic talking points. Later, as they approach adolescence, other talking points will be critical such as the physical and mental changes associated with adulthood (Luke 2:52), peer pressure (Proverbs 1:8-19), temptations for easy sex (Proverbs 7), guarding the eyes (Job 31:1), and guarding the heart (Proverbs 4:23).

3. Establish a Teaching Routine

Call it whatever you want. Devotions. Family worship. Bible time. God time. Prayer time. Every parent should have a routine established with their children to open the Scriptures together as a family and talk about the things of God.

As far as sex ed is concerned, establishing this routine early in life is important for a number of reasons. Aside from the valuable instruction kids receive, family devotions is important because (1) it positions you as the their primary spiritual teacher, (2) it creates special memories as a family that enhance your relationship with your kids, and (3) when time comes to open the Bible to passages that teach on sex, it will seem like part of the normal routine.

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The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality

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Several lessons are filled with colorful, child-friendly illustrations of internal anatomy, as well as diagrams that teach children about how life begins and how babies develop in the womb.

This Bible study costs $5.95 in our store.

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Comments

  1. That graphic is absolutely perfect. LOVE it! And the article is good too – but I love the spoons and the egg – so creative!

  2. This is an absolute blessing of a post! Thank you for writing it.
    I know it will bless and hopefully change the minds of some parents, but
    for me it just helped me to not feel crazy and wrong for teaching my children early on about sex.
    I totally agree with everything you said, my husband and I have both had struggles with porn and
    experienced the emotional mess that comes with premarital sex, we also aren’t going to pretend kids
    aren’t sexual beings and that if we don’t tell them they won’t find out about sex. We don’t believe there should be this one big awkward moment when you lay all the details out on your child, ya know, “the talk”.
    We have gradually shared more and more with our kids and always honestly but age appropriately.
    Being a larger and growing family has made that all the easier, as questions get asked about pregnancy and such. Some friends and family members don’t agree with us, they feel the kids are too young to know anything about the subject, but honestly no one ever even bothered to talk to us about sex (tv, music and peers taught us all we knew) and we don’t want the same for our children. We want them to know what is and isn’t right pertaining to sex so they can experience it in a God glorifying, positive light one day. I will be sharing this post, thanks again!

    • Luke Gilkerson says:

      Thanks for your encouraging words, Del.

      My generation didn’t get a whole lot of information about sex from parents. What the school system gave me was detailed, but totally impersonal and divorced from any biblical values. I want my sons growing up in a home where sex is one topic among many that we can discuss freely and without needless embarrassment.

      Thanks for passing this post along to others!

      • You’re welcome, this post needs to be shared!

        I totally agree with your experience in school, that was mine too. Detailed and rather “technical” but not personal or biblical at all. I actually remember going home with a bag full of condoms given to me by the school and feeling weird and embarassed because I knew I was not going to be using them as I was a virgin at that time, but it made me feel like I was expected to use them! I do think the home is the best place to be learning about sex, and most other things. I think it is wonderful your family is also striving to create an open door policy kind of home, too many kids feel like they have to turn to google these days to find out anything they don’t want to be embarassed for asking.

  3. This is definitely a tough topic to tackle, but you’re right – if we don’t educate our children on the topic of sex and all that entails, as designed by God as a good thing, then the world will teach them their incorrect version. It’s better that children go into the world knowledgeable and prepared than go in unprepared and learn by friends and the computer about a warped version.

    Thank you for posting this!

    Blessings,
    Nicole

    • Luke Gilkerson says:

      You’re welcome, Nicole. I hear about “the worst case scenario” all the time with my work at Covenant Eyes: parents feeling like they need to play catch-up after finding their child has been looking at porn for months or even years. I may not be able to protect my children’s eyes for all of childhood or adolescence, but I prepare them as best I can to know what to do when they face temptation. I want them to have better preparation than most men in my generation.

  4. This SO well-written and SO wise. It’s so incredibly sad how many kids are learning about sex in all the wrong ways. Parents have got to step up to the plate and make sure their children are learning about sex from them FIRST, in a Biblical way, before they learn about it anywhere else. I’m sharing this post all over the place.

  5. Very timely as my hubby and I were just contemplating the need for such conversations with our quickly growing girls. We’re not sure where to start and boom! There was your post. :-)

  6. I wanted to share a true treasure of a book just for what you are talking about called, “The Wonderful Way Babies Are Made” by Larry Christenson. This book is biblical and beautifully written. It can be read to the young child or has parts more advanced for older children. I purchased mine on amazon. This one is a keeper to pass on!

  7. Seriously need some help with how to open this conversation with my 8 year old, son andd 5 year old, daughter. With each pregnancy, there’s been some conversation. There’s also small talks about modesty and why we try to avert our eyes when someone else is inappropriate. Your post is a confirmation that we need to be more direct and more diligent rather than vague only when questions come up. Do we have a boys conversation and one for the girls? Is there anyway to not be uncomfortable with this?

    • Luke Gilkerson says:

      I think for the sake of minimizing distraction, having these talks one-on-one is best.

      I do think that getting over your own discomfort is key. Just remember, your child probably won’t be anticipating this conversation like you are, nor does he or she have as much conditioning as you have to feel the same sense of discomfort about the subject of sex. If you’ve established a good conversational relationship with them, this will be one talk among many with a loving parent. Approach this like you would any other Bible discussion. Make the Word of God the focus and then bring in the anatomy stuff as a supplement.

  8. AnnaMarie says:

    Very good post. Thank you. My oldest is only 6, but I know this is important to know what to say!

  9. Great post! I am the parent of 3 boys and my husband is about to go through the Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle book with my oldest. He is a freshman now, but they definitely had “the talk” much earlier…and it was necessary based on the fact that my son was hearing some intersting things at the lunch tables in elementary school. Question: I have been debating back and forth in my head about whether to go with Covenant Eyes or Safe Eyes. What are your thoughts? Love the line where you said that last thing your sons need is your silence about sex. Spot on!

    • Luke Gilkerson says:

      Hi Carolyn, it is great that your husband is doing that with your boys. It would be great if more fathers did that kind of thing.

      Funny you should ask about software. I’m actually an employee at Covenant Eyes (so, you could say I’m somewhat biased). I can’t say much about Safe Eyes, especially since they were bought by McAfee. Back when they were an independent company, their filter was decent. Covenant Eyes offers both monitoring and filtering and works on many, many devices. Covenant Eyes is used by both adults who are holding themselves accountable online, and by parents who want to hold their children accountable, so it is really a solution for the whole family. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have.

  10. Do you tell your kids about your own sexual sin? If so, when and how?

    • Luke Gilkerson says:

      Funny you should ask. I’m writing a post on that right now, due to be published next week.

      In short, yes. There is nothing wrong with transparency about your own sin with your kids. However, it is important not to share every detail. Your transparency to them is not a “confession,” in the same way you might confess to a good friend (James 5:16), but more of an opportunity to teach. Use the details about your sin that serve a purpose. If you are teaching your kids about the harms of pre-marital intimacy, and that is part of your past, you might say something to the effect of: “I’ve sinned in this way in the past. I got too close to a certain person and we were physically intimate in ways we shouldn’t have been. It connected me to that person in a way that was really unhealthy for two unmarried people to be.” Use only the details of your story that demonstrate the point you are making.

      In the end, we as parents should remember that our ability to speak truth into the lives of our kids is not contingent on us being perfect (now or in the past), but is related to our integrity. If we sin (or have sinned) we can model transparency, humility, and repentance in front of our kids by talking about how God has brought us from darkness to light.

  11. I absolutely love the article and agree with everything written. I dont have kids but I do have nieces and nephews that have surpised me once or twice with their knowledge. My only question comes from when my nephew asked me why a kid he had met at the park had 2 dads. As a Christian I said God made man and woman for each other not in any other combination. But that their were some people that didnt agree with that and thats why this child had 2 dads. My nephew is six and when he pressed for more answers, he is a ‘why’ kid just like me, I didnt know how to answer without getting into dirty details. I do not wish to show that its ok cause I believe in what the good book says about such things but I also dont want to teach prejudice against others. Gay rights and gay pride is such a huge media issue that just like sex its every where it will come up. How do you teach about homosexualls without sounding like a bigit?

    • Luke Gilkerson says:

      It is good to do some explaining, because as I said above, the word is already explaining its own values to our children. By the age of 18, 69% of boys and 55% of girls have seen same-sex intercourse through online porn, so we have to speak about it.

      Depending on the age of the kids, I might just explain myself a little further. Start by saying exactly what you said, that men and women were designed by for for each other. If more questions are asked, you can draw on his understanding of what intimacy looks like: kissing, hugging, touching, flirting (however he’s seen heterosexual couples show affection, etc.). Say that there are some who think it is okay for men to act like they are married to other men (or women to other women). I don’t think it is necessary go into all the mechanics if the kids are young: I’m hesitant to fill a child’s mind with images they are not ready to process. When they approach adolescence more detail can be given then. (Those are my thoughts on the matter, anyway.)

    • Luke Gilkerson says:

      As for not wanting to sound like a bigot, the most important thing is teaching not to talk and not talk about it to his peers. Model for him what you think would be appropriate to say if he were ever in a conversation. No matter what, he has to be prepared: If he’s going to state a conservative opinion about this, no matter how he phrases it, he will be labeled as intolerant or bigoted.

      It might help to state the difference between morality and law. There are many things that are sinful that are also legal (such a premarital sex, for instance). He doesn’t have to get into the legal side of things in order to state something is immoral. He doesn’t have to deny someone their “rights” in order to talk about a biblical perspective. Teach him to keep the focus on God’s perspective, not the changing legalities in our nation.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The majority of children in western society are exposed to ungodly sexual education at an early age already. Media is rife with sex. Magazine covers ooze it. And public schools are breeding grounds for false information about sex to spread among a child’s peers. Many six-year-olds are coming home from school talking about boyfriends and oral sex. Don’t even get me started on the Internet. […]

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