Last summer Jen and I decided that it was time to have THE talk with our older two boys. We’ve had a lot of people in our church and community ask us about how that went and more specifically how we went about doing it. I am going to share our approach and how it went as a resource for others who are in the same boat, not because we are experts or have all the answers, but as a response to questions and conversations that have arisen.
Obviously, I don’t think that this is the only way or even the best way to go about initiating the sex talk with your kids as every child and family is unique in its story, situation, and approach. But, hopefully this is helpful as you consider both when and how to begin (or continue) the sex conversation with your kids.
We live in a sexually saturated culture. It is everywhere, so we can’t avoid it. Children are being awakened to their sexuality and exposed to pornography and explicit language about sexuality at much earlier ages than the past. In fact, studies show that puberty is beginning at earlier and earlier ages in our children- even as early as seven years old. Do a quick Google search on “age of puberty getting younger” to read the research or “when do children begin seeing pornography” to read the stories and hear the statistics. It can happen through smartphones, magazines, advertisements, and computers (even ones in classrooms that have filters- my son saw a topless woman on his 4th grade classroom computer).
At young ages, our kids are awakening to their sexuality, being exposed to pornography, and having conversations about what it is and yet what I have discovered is that many parents (including us before this talk) are nervous, intimidated, and reticent to initiate this conversation with their kids.
We wanted to be the first people to talk to our kids about sex. As the parents, we wanted to initiate the conversation at an appropriately early age with our kids so that we can be a primary safe and guiding voice in their sexual development rather than leaving our kids to the sexual wisdom of their peers, slightly older siblings, or the click-bait rabbit trail of you-tube “related videos.”
Our boys were 8 and 9 years old and, for us, we knew it was time to broach the conversation as we had observed them beginning to awaken to their sexuality, notice girls at the beach “differently” than before, and ask really good questions about things they had heard kids say at school or seen on advertisements or computer screens.
So, we determined six specific goals for our conversation with them:
1- We wanted to be the first people that told them what sex is, how it works, and why we are sexual creatures- rather than begin with a response to something they saw, said, or did. Our hope was to open the door so that they felt the confidence and freedom to approach us with any and all questions, experiences, or thoughts that they had about sex moving forward.
2- We wanted to avoid all shame or negativity in the conversation and rather create a healthy, whole, and positive association with sex and sexuality.
3- We wanted to frame the conversation from our faith perspective- understanding it within a Christian faith context and explain that this is a different perspective than many others have regarding sex.
4- We wanted to be age appropriate and meet them where they were, focusing on the functionality of sex first rather than the sensuality, because that is something that hasn’t fully awakened in them yet.
5- We wanted to begin the conversation about pornography and screen time and why we wanted to protect them from that, explaining why we have the rules we do.
6- We wanted to openly answer any and every question they had about sex.
A friend loaned me a very simple faith based book called Before I Was Born by Carolyn Nystrom that walks children through the functionality of sex, marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding with some age-appropriate illustrations. It wasn’t perfect and the cover of the book looks like it’s from the 1950s, but I decided having a book like this with a script I could read them would keep me from saying too much to start (I’m a talker).
We decided I would talk to both of our older boys together while Jen was with our youngest son in another room. Jen and I talked through the game plan together and I practiced it a bit- getting prepared and ready to say things like penis, vagina, boobs, ejaculation, sex, tampon, boner, and erection to my 8 and 9 year olds. (Ha! Are you sweating yet?) We also decided how much and what we would share about our own sex life with them, as they would inevitably ask. We wanted to be on the same page and have a game plan.
When the time came, I sat them down and told them that I wanted to talk to them about something important. I told them they were ready for a new conversation, which made them feel privileged to be talking about a new age appropriate thing. And I asked a lot of questions about what they knew about sex. It turns out they didn’t know much. While they had heard the words and seen images, I was the first person to explain to them what sex was and how it worked.
I showed them the book and worked through it reading a page aloud and then explaining and letting them ask questions along the way. Their eyes were HUGE at moments in a bit of shock and there were moments where everything seemed to click like several incomplete ideas in their heads came together and it all made sense. There were questions about how it all worked and then of course about mine and Jen’s relationship. “Do you guys do that?” Surprisingly, the conversation was easy and fun. We laughed together when things seemed funny and the tone stayed light.
In the end, after their questions were exhausted, they said “Thanks Dad” and we moved on. Later Jen followed up with them and entered the conversation as well. We told them they could ask us anything about sex anytime and that it would be an ongoing topic of conversation for the rest of their lives and that we were there for them. They have asked several questions since on different occasions and they have brought us in on stories of conversations with kids at school and of what they have stumbled into online, despite filters and monitoring their screen time. It hasn’t been perfect, but it has been really healthy.
That is how we did it and when we did it, it’s been good for us, but each family is different. I hope it is helpful for you as you are considering how to begin or continue the conversation with your children. However you go about it, I think the main thing is to be proactive, engaged with our kids when it comes to sex, and to keep the conversation going.
Love to hear from you. How have you gone about having THE talk with your kids?