If your kid had a question about sex, how comfortable would they be asking you?
Would it be easy for them to come to you? Or would it be difficult? Or would it be somewhere in between?
If you don’t feel too confident in knowing for sure, trust me—you are not alone.
Most parents struggle not only with initiating conversations with their kids about sex, but also with creating a safe enough environment that their kids would be the ones to bring up the topic.
And even though I’ve heard parents jokingly say, “I sure hope they never ask me about sex,” deep down I doubt many actually feel that way. Most parents genuinely want their children to feel like they can ask anything. You want to be a safe landing spot for your kids, no matter what they are facing or what they are wondering.
Sex is such a sensitive and awkward topic, for sure. I get why this is hard. Lots of trepidation going on when you think of those conversations.
Will I know how to answer what my kid asks?
What if they ask about my past sexual experiences?
What if they ask about controversial topics like gender issues, masturbation, pornography or things they’ve seen in the media?
It’s definitely not the easiest parenting ground. Over the years, I have written about talking to kids about sex, particularly from the angle of you as a parent taking the lead. You can find links to those posts here, here and here. A foundational tenet I tried to stress in those posts is the value of building a lifetime of age-appropriate dialogue. The “one-time” sex talk simply leaves too many gaps.
Today I want to share what you can do to gain some perspective and footing should your kids be the ones who launch the conversation.
3 Tips to Make it Easier for Your Kids to Come to You with Sex Questions
1. Actually tell them they can come to you
It seems like it should be so obvious that they they can come to you that you shouldn’t have to tell them they can. They should just intuitively know, right? I mean, you are their parent after all.
Don’t be so quick with this assumption, though. If anything, your kid may think that talking to you about sex is not an option, especially if they want to talk about something they believe will cause you concern or make you question their morals.
So don’t assume. Instead, intentionally express you are available.
I just want you to know I am here for you if you have any questions about sex or puberty or anything along those lines. You can talk to me.
I know it may feel awkward at first to talk to me about sex, but I promise you I am one of the safest people for you. I care deeply about you and I want to help however I can.
I know I’ve said this before, but it’s just because I don’t want you to forget. You can talk to me about anything, including sex.
If anyone has ever done anything that has made you feel uncomfortable, such as touch you or say something to you, you need to know you can come to me at any time. I can help you and I will help you. It’s never okay for someone to touch you inappropriately.
I’m here for you. No matter what you want to talk about, I’m here to listen.
Those are just some examples. My point is that you don’t need eloquent words; you just need an authentic heart and a willingness to be intentional. Tell your kids they can come to you. Keep telling your kids they can come to you.
2. Steer clear of shame and snap judgments
Your kids may want to talk about topics that make you feel uncomfortable. It can be super tempting to just respond with a Bible verse or a pat answer or a harsh instruction. In some instances, if your child is being vulnerable about something that is a struggle for them, such as pornography or sexual temptation, you may feel inclined to shame them.
But that’s just going to shut them down and possibly cause more damage.
Here’s a good tip… if they say something that feels shocking, overwhelming or disappointing to you right in that moment, take a breath. Don’t instantly respond. They are going to gauge how safe you are by your tone and body demeanor, so if you want them to keep opening up, steer clear of shame and snap judgments.
Be willing to acknowledge their confusion or pain or bewilderment. Even simple statements can help create a safe space to keep the conversation going…
I can see why that’s confusing.
I can understand why you’re curious about that.
I’m so sorry this has been difficult for you.
Thank you for sharing that with me. I know it took courage for you to do that.
Yes, you are there to give guidance, but more importantly, you’re there to help your child grow in their ability to discern what honors God and what doesn’t. If you want them to have a healthy perspective on sexual intimacy in marriage, then strive to help them understand that context.
Remember too that your kids are like nearly all of us were when we were their age… just trying to find our way. It’s not fair to expect a 15-year-old to have the wisdom of a 45-year-old. Try to remember what it felt like to be young and navigating the changes of a body going through puberty or the first flutters of feeling attracted to someone or the barrage of messages coming in about sex.
3. See the value in dialogue
I encourage you to embrace dialogue. The questions and bewilderments your kid may have about sex are not going to be cleared up in one conversation. I know that as parents we wish this wasn’t the case. We wish one talk would indeed suffice.
But it just doesn’t work that way. And nowhere is this more true than when it comes to helping our kids grasp sexual integrity, understanding, and awareness.
There is huge value in dialogue—ongoing, authentic, and yes, sometimes painful, dialogue.
You and your kid likely will not always agree, and that’s part of the process, too. And as much as you may think you have to have all the answers, you don’t. It’s okay to say, “Yeah, that’s confusing for me, too. But let’s keep talking. Let’s keep seeking to understand God’s heart together.”
Sometimes parents ask me if I think it’s a good idea to be honest about what they now see as sexual sins or indiscretions from their past. Should you tell your kid you had sex before you were married? Should you tell your kid you struggled with pornography? Should you tell your kid you were promiscuous?
I can’t answer that for you. I tend to be in the camp, though, that honesty builds trust. I also think any sharing needs to be age appropriate. There are things that are appropriate for a teen or young adult to know about their parent’s sexual past that would not be appropriate for a young child to know.
My experience with my own boys has been that the more open I am about having age-appropriate dialogue with them about sex, the more natural the conversations become. I’ve been fairly transparent, not shying away from tough questions or bewildering topics.
And I have humbly grown to not be so scared about my children becoming adults and having to navigate sexual issues.
As a mom, I have had countless conversations with them about sex and relationships, and I will continue to do so. I have stumbled a lot, mind you, but I keep the dialogue going. They both have initiated some of that dialogue as well, but even if they never did, I would have peace that I did my part in creating the atmosphere where they could have.
And that’s my hope for you, too. You can’t control whether your kids talk to you about sexual matters, but you can do everything in your power to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. The tips I’ve shared above are a great start.
And I have a 5 video series available on building better sex in your marriage. Great way to invest in your marriage! You can find out all about it at this link: Better Sex in Your Christian Marriage.
Copyright 2020, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.