Sex Ed: Some Recommendations for the Christian Parent

When I was about 12 years old, my mother handed me a sex ed book our family doctor had recommended. She'd never talked about sex or puberty before, so I thought it as kind of weird. Still, I read the book. The saddest part was, it didn't teach me anything I hadn't already learned from my friends and acquaintances. What a shame.

A shame, because my parents lost the opportunity to teach me the truth about sexuality.

That was in the 1980s. Now imagine your child today learning about sex from her friends and acquaintances. And, since we've become such a sex-crazed society, the media, too.

Because make no mistake about it, if you don't teach your child about sex, she will learn about it elsewhere. And the messages the world sends about sex today is twisted and untruthful and hurtful.

Did you know that some researchers believe the average age American boys first see porn is 8? (Other experts say "before the age of 18.") Or that each year one in four teens get a sexually transmitted disease? That by age 18, most American teens have had extra-marital sex? That teens who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have STDs as any other teen? That the average American teen has been exposed to 0.93 hours of sexuality in movies? (This seems a low estimate to me!) And that for each hour of exposure to sexual content in films, the risk of initiating sex at each age increased by more than five times? Did you know that 7 percent of high school kids have had sex before the age of 13? And that by 9th grade, a third of students have become sexually active (and by 12th grade, two thirds are sexually active)? And 60% of teens overall regret they started having sex? And while I have no stats to prove it, I believe the age of sexual activity is lowering rapidly. This is based on anecdotal evidence, such as someone telling me their 9 year old son attended a "rainbow party" where all the girls wear a different color lipstick and the boy with the most colors on his penis "wins."

Undoubtedly, most parents need to start talking to their children about sex earlier than they think they need to.

But how does a Christian parent go about this? First and foremost, I encourage you not to have one big, informational-dump "talk." Not only can this be overwhelming for your child, but it doesn't encourage children to come to you with their "embarrassing" questions. More than anything else, you should strive to become the human source your child comes to when he has questions about sexuality. (Actually, the human source when your child has questions about anything.) The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to talk to your child regularly about sexual matters, starting from a young age.

How young, you may ask? As soon as they start asking questions about private parts - and maybe sooner. My recommendation is preschool. I know that seems very, very young. But my recollection from preschool is that children were already showing each other their private parts - and more. How much more likely are they to do that today?

For this mama, the rule is: Answer all their questions honestly, in an age appropriate way. 

This doesn't mean going into nitty gritty details when they are very young. Usually, simple (but honest!) answers are enough to satisfy young kids. An example: If your preschooler asks you why Tommy's bottom looks different from hers, a good explanation might be: "Because God made boys and girls to look different down there. But we keep those parts private most of the time and share them only at certain times: When a doctor needs to look, or Mommy or Daddy need to help you with the potty or maybe some medicine, or, once you're grown up and married, when you're with your husband."

In addition to making these talks a regular part of your lives, I can also recommend using a few Christian sex ed books. I really like what we've read of the God's Design for Sex series. I began reading The Story of Me, which gives the basics of where babies come from, to my kids when they were about preschool age. When they were in the first or second grade, I began reading the second book in the series, Before I Was Born. However, I omitted certain phrases (one in particular), which I explain in detail here.

There are books for older kids in the series, too, but I haven't yet read them to my kids. (You can see reviews for some of them, plus other Christian sex ed books, on my old blog Christian Children's Book Review.) In addition, when I wanted to teach my daughter about menstruation, I read her The Care and Keeping of You. This American Girl book does a good job of explaining the changes that happen during puberty. My only complaint is that it assumes girls don't want to talk to their parents about this topic. Since I read the book aloud to my daughter, I was able to omit that part of the text.

One other recommendation: Don't be wishy washy.

When explaining matters of sexuality, teach from God's Word with confidence.

Don't let worldliness taint the conversation. For example, don't say, "Wait to have sex until your married...but if you decide to have sex before then, use a condom." This is such a mixed message! It makes sex outside of marriage seem permissible, and worse, it makes God's Word sound like something you can ignore or change! I understand the desire to protect our children from STDs and per-marital pregnancy, but the world is already pushing condoms onto our kids. Stand firm in God's Word.

Finally, do your best not to preach. Remember, you're not telling your children how to follow your opinions about sexuality; you're explaining to them God's design for sex.

And that is a beautiful thing.

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