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A friend called me to share a troubling experience she had with her 8-year-old son.
They were talking and her son made some comments that led her to believe he understood more about sex than she realized. When she asked him more questions, he revealed that a fellow classmate of the same age had been telling him about pornography.
The other student had not shown him pornography, but had described it with enough detail that my friend's son clearly got a mental image of what pornography is.
What a nightmare.
Understandably, this disturbed my friend on so many levels. She had wanted her son's first lesson about sex to be an accurate and morally-based teaching from her and her husband -- not some casual playground banter laced with inaccuracies, misconceptions and moral bankruptcy.
And, of course, at a very gut level, it all just grieved her mama's heart... grieved her that we live in a society where you can't be too certain what your children's classmates will say about sex. (Or what your children will see in the mall or on TV).
Sometimes when I share with parents that age-appropriate accurate information about bodies and sexuality should start at a very young age, people push back at me.
"I don't want to rob my children's innocence by talking to them about sex."
Society and media are already lined up ready to rob their innocence -- and if they don't get accurate godly information from an adult who has their best interests in mind, then all the skewed sexual knowledge will start to settle itself comfortably in the one place you really don't want it -- their heart.
Good news though! As a parent, you are more capable than you give yourself credit for when it comes to talking to your kids about sex.
In fact, you are the BEST person to talk to your kids about sex.
As I listened to my friend, I encouraged her and applauded the positives.
Although she didn't like that her son's classmate prompted the topic, she took the opportunity to have an open and honest conversation with her son.
She did the right thing.
She not only answered his questions and cleared up any inaccuracies, she also explained to him what God designed sex to be -- a beautiful experience between a husband and a wife.
Are you nervous about talking to your kids about sex?
Here are 5 tips that will help:
1. Admit you are nervous.
Talking to your kids about sex can feel embarrassing and awkward -- for them and for you. Instead of acting like you have it all together, shed light on your embarrassment.
How? By saying this..."I know this feels embarrassing and awkward, but I care enough about you that we need to have this conversation. It's okay that it feels kind of awkward."
Not only does this give you room to breathe, it also removes the pressure your kids may feel that they have to act like they have it all together.
Call the embarrassment out in the open and you loosen Satan's grips.
2. Don't become paralyzed by your past sexual mistakes.
Did you have sex before you were married? Yeah, me too. If you had sex before you were married, don't let it stop you from talking to your kids.
And don't lie about it.
Kids are perceptive little creatures... they can see right through your bluff. Plus, if you lie to them, you erode trust -- the very thing you are trying to build.
Here's a good statement: "I did have sex before I was married, and I have regrets about that. I wish I had known then what I know now -- and because of what I know now, I want to help you make better decisions."
3. Don't wait for the perfect moment.
The perfect moment to talk to your kids about sex?
There is no perfect moment.
There are only teachable moments -- and you have to purposely look for them and create them, or you will NEVER talk to your kids about sex. In our sex-laced society and media, one would not have to look too hard to find conversation starters.
4. Create lifelong dialogue.
The one-time "talk" about sex? Yuck. Bad idea on too many levels to discuss.
A better approach is creating lifelong dialogue.
If you start talking to very young children about body parts without a sense of shame, then it will be easier to talk to them in preschool years about appropriate touch. If you do this, it will be easier to talk to them in the early grade-school years about differences between boys and girls and appropriate boundaries. And if you do that, it will be easier to talk about puberty. And if you talk about puberty, you create a foundation for talking about sexuality. And if you help them understand sexuality, then you can help them understand accurate information about sexual intimacy and godly relationships.
One thing I encouraged my friend to say to her young son about a week after their initial talk was..."I'm glad we talked the other night about what you had heard from your friend at school. Thank you for sharing that with me. I want you to know that mommy and daddy will be talking to you more about sex as you're growing up. It's good we have these conversations. But you don't ever have to wait to ask me anything. I promise to always tell you the truth."
5. Help them grasp that sex is good -- in the context of marriage.
One of the biggest disservices the church in general has done when discussing sex with teens is to reduce the entire discussion to three words: "Don't do it."
As parents, we have the responsibility to help young people understand not only the risks of premarital sex, but also the tremendous benefits of marital sex.
The conversation has been lopsided for too long on the side of "don't do it." Sadly, the "don't do it" verbiage has failed to even show them comprehensively why they shouldn't have sex before marriage. There aren't just physical implications (STDs and unplanned pregnancies), there are huge emotional, mental, social and spiritual implications as well.
The truth is that sexual arousal feels really good and when a teen finds themselves faced with those sensations in their body, they need to understand that those sensations are God designed. That teaching alone could prevent so much of the shame that is wrongly associated with sexuality.
God designed sex for us to thoroughly enjoy in marriage. And He equipped our kids with self control over what they do with their bodies until they are married.
Stop making excuses to not talk to your kids about sex. You can do this. You can start -- and continue -- age-appropriate conversation.
It's not too early. And it's not too late.
Copyright 2011, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.