We have done a lot of talking this week about sex and covered topics how:
- sex shouldn't be taboo
- barriers can be harmful to our sex life
- spiritual intimacy can enhance our physical intimacy in marriage
Now it's your turn to ask the questions again!
Today is part two of the questions that were asked anonymously by our readers. If you missed Sex Q+A (part one) click here!
Sex Question #3: How did your religious education affect your view of sex? I feel like all I ever got was that it was bad and dirty. It took me years to figure out that sex, in the proper context, was wonderful and beautiful!
Sex Question #4: What did your mom tell you or what do you wish she would have told you about your wedding night?
Several readers shared thoughts and questions with us related to their sex education or lack therof as a child and how that affected their sex lives later as adults. It turns out that the way parents and caregivers discuss sex with their children can matter deeply when it comes to forming that child's attitude toward and enjoyment of sex later in life. Many Christian parents, in an effort to protect their children from the consequences that come from making poor choices, inadvertantly take a fear-based sex education approach. If we can just convince our children that sex is something disgusting, dangerous, repulsive, fearful, or wrong, then we may be able to keep them from having sex until they are married! They can avoid the risk of STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and emotional turmoil entirely!
The problem with this method of sex education comes when children so internalize the message that sex is bad or dirty, that they carry this message with them right into marriage and beyond! As Becky and Mel discussed on Monday, sex has become a "taboo" topic in many Christian communities, yet sex itself, as God designed it to occur, is not dirty, bad, wrong, or disgusting in any way! It was designed by God for many amazing reasons, including for our enjoyment! You are not alone, dear reader, if you spent your wedding night feeling guilty or weeks after your wedding unable to consummate a marriage because of a mental block put in place by the sex education (or lack therof) you received as a child.
As adults, how can we do better for our children? How can we talk to the children in our homes and communities about sex in a way that covers both the bad AND the good? Can we educate our children in a way that both uplifts God's perfect plan for sex and the blessings that come with following that plan and also warns against the consequences that can come from deviating from that plan? I think we can certainly try!
A few tips for helping children to develop balanced, healthy, God-fearing views about sex:
1. Start the conversation early. While a two or three year old may or may not need to know exactly how babies are made, you can begin "sex education" with your preschoolers simply by teaching them to love and protect their sexual body parts. Along with matter-of-factly informing them of their own anatomy when we catch them checking themselves out in the bathtub, we can instruct and encourage our children to protect those parts of themselves as intimate and private places of their body. Those are some special body parts that God made just for us! Because they are so special, we don't let other people touch or see those body parts and we keep them covered when we go outside. God has a special plan for their private body parts that we will tell them about when they get a little bit older.
2. Tell your children about sex before their friends do. By middle school, it may already be too late to "introduce" sex to your children. They may already be hearing about what a "blow job" is from their friends in the locker room or even know a friend who has lost their virginity already. I remember talking to a group of fifth through eighth graders in a catechism class about sex one time. Not only did all the fifth graders already know (or claim to know) what sex was, many of them boasted they'd already lost their virginity. At age 10-11. If you want the first person who explains sex to your child to explain it from a God-fearing perspective, I'd suggest waiting no later than about third grade to have "the talk."
3. You can tell your child "all the details" at once, or introduce them slowly, as long as you open and continue the conversation. I remember when my own mother started "the talk" with me. It was around third grade, before I really even knew I wanted to know the details, to be honest. Over a series of car rides, She explained sex in a way that made it sound really nice and wonderful before explaining exactly what it was. She explained it was something designed by God that two married people who loved each other very much could do. She explained it was something moms and dads do privately in bed, while naked, that makes their bodies both feel very good and sometimes after having sex, God would create a baby by using the sperm and egg from both their bodies. I remember asking a few prodding questions at the end of one such conversation. "Do moms and dads HAVE to be naked in bed? Can they at least keep their underwear on? Because, ew. Why would anyone want to do that?" My mom assured me that when I got older I would want to "do that" too, and that she would tell me more about it later. A few weeks later, she reopened the conversation and informed me of the crucial "Tab A is inserted into slot B" detail we'd thus far somehow avoided in our sex discussions. At the time, I was horrified and insisted I would be the rare exception to the influence of hormones. I was NEVER GOING TO HAVE SEX. EW. My mom smiled and insisted I would change my mind some day, and that when my hormones did kick in, I would want sex very much. When that time came, I would need to consider God's plan for sex. Which brings me to my next tip:
4. Teach your children to guard their hearts, not just their parts. Most school sex education systems focus solely on educating children about the mechanics and physical ramifications of sex. Schools teach children how babies are made, and then teach them about practicing "safe sex" using condoms or birth control. But sex is not purely a physical act. God designed sex to unite two people intimately. As Katy mentioned on Wednesday, sex enables couples to "know" each other. Discussing the emotional aspects of sexual intimacy with our children can help them to understand that having sex with someone isn't just a carnal, physical act, but it's a big deal emotionally as well. They may find that if they give themselves to the wrong person, too soon, outside of God's design for sex, that they give a part of themselves away in the process that is difficult if not impossible to find again. Part of God's design for sex is to protect us from the emotional consequences of binding ourselves with and intimately knowing the wrong person. Sex with the wrong person at the wrong time can create baggage we carry with us into future relationships and even marriage. When discussing sex with your children, don't just focus on the physical blessings and consequences of sex. Stress with equal measure the positives and negatives of the emotional side of sex as well. Why should we encourage our children to wait to have sex until after marriage? Not because it's dirty, wrong, or disgusting, but because it's beautiful and powerful, charged with intimacy, emotion, and acts as a powerful binding agent, and they want to be absolutely sure that the person they choose to bind themselves with and "know" intimately is the one they are also willing to commit to for the rest of their lives.
5. Be honest about your own regrets and experiences. As children grow old enough to understand sex, its power, beauty, and God's intent for it in their lives, and are struggling with the temptation to ignore that intent, it can sometimes be helpful and appropriate to share your own past experiences with your child. Did you make a poor sexual decision as a teen that led to regret and consequences? You may not have to share every gory detail, but consider being honest with your teen about your experience and the lessons you learned from it. Did you try to follow God's plan for sex in your life and experience blessings through that experience? Share those blessings. You may give your child something to look forward to. If sharing details of your own sexual history with a child is far too uncomfortable for you, consider asking another Christian adult to approach the topic with your child. A teen group leader, young adult mentor, or someone not as far removed from the teen or pre-teen years to be as "out of touch" as mom and dad, but old enough to have learned valuable life lessons, might be even more effective than you at inspiring and encouraging your child to follow God's plan for sex in their lives.
We would love to hear if you have any more tips for talking to kids about sex. Did your parents, teachers, caregivers and mentors talk to you about sex in a way that was both God-fearing and informative? Or did you feel like sex was always a "dirty" or "naughty" topic? Please share any thoughts or tips you have with us in the comments!
Read more from our Sex+God series below:
Sex Q+A (Part One) - - Sex just hasn't been the same for me since having a baby. Any tips? - My husband has struggled with an addiction to pornography for most of his teen and adult years. How can I get past that? Sex Q&A (Part Three) - Is it normal for your husband to desire sex more than you? - I struggle with the sin of masturbation. I think there MUST be another woman or two struggling with this out there, and would like for them to not feel as isolated as I do. But how does one simply bring it up in conversation...?