This video was created as part of the The Summit Church’s efforts to equip parents to be the primary disciplers of their children. We hope it is useful for the equipping of many parents. A printable PDF of the transcript can be found here. The script for this video is also included below. There resources referenced at the end of the video are:

Let’s start by admitting that this discussion is both uncomfortable and necessary. These are not conversations that parents look forward to. It feels like removing some of the sweet innocence from our children.

But the reality is, if we do not teach our children about sexuality, someone else will. Silence does not preserve innocence. The world is happy to fill our silence. Silence surrenders the opportunity to educate our child’s innocence into maturity to our child’s friends, teachers, and the internet.

Before we consider what to say, let’s start with five guiding principles:

First, you want to talk earlier enough that you are sure you are the first to talk. It is better to have these conversations pro-actively, so you have the initial conversation describing things accurately. The alternative is to wait until crude language from peers or exposure to sexually explicit material results in the first parent-child conversation being corrective. You don’t want early conversations about sexuality to be prompted by a guilt-provoking event.

Second, in any uncomfortable conversation with children, tone and body language say as much as our words. Be conversational. Don’t use big words. Have a relaxed smile. Kids interpret awkward conversations as if they’ve done something wrong. We don’t want our discomfort speaking to begin an association between guilt and sexuality.

Third, when we talk to our children, we need to be thinking about what helps them navigate their social world, not all the theological, political, and social debates we are facing as adults. If we talk above what our children need to understand, our children learn that they don’t want to talk to their parents about sexuality.

When we talk to our children about sex and sexuality, we need to be thinking about what helps them navigate their social world, not all the debates we are facing as adults. Click To Tweet

An example of talking to your children to help them navigate their social world might sound like this with your older elementary school student: [Since I have sons, I’ll role play talking to a boy.]

“Hey, bud. I want to give you a quick heads up on something your friends may begin talking about at school. You’re at that age where kids start to understand more about the differences between boys and girls. They’ll start learning the name for different body parts. You know the names for your body parts, but it’s probably good to learn the names for girls. Your friends may ask you, ‘Do you have a vagina?’ or ‘Are you a virgin?’ If you don’t know what they’re asking, you’ll feel embarrassed. If you guess wrong, they’ll give you a hard time and you’ll be more embarrassed. Let’s talk about the names for body parts. [Discussion].

God made boys and girls differently. Both are good. If you hear somebody using names for body parts that seem crude, don’t use those. Even if you still think girls are weird (remember, they think you’re weird too), we always want to treat girls with honor. It’s okay if you still think girls have cooties. That will change. But no rush. The main thing I want you to know right now is that if you hear something that confuses you or just have questions, you can ask me. Any questions? [Pause] Great, go back to playing.”

Fourth, the “win” in a conversation about sexuality is not primarily education but openness to future conversations. The most important conversations are not the ones we initiate as parents, but the ones our son or daughter feels comfortable initiating because we broke the ice in a way that made the subject approachable.

As parents talking to our children, the “win” in a conversation about sexuality is not primarily education but openness to future conversations. Click To Tweet

Fifth, if you have multiple children you will likely talk to the younger siblings at an earlier age than the older ones. You don’t want to trust your oldest child to the be “translator” of information. Kids are wonderful, but they say the darnedest things; not always accurate, but never in doubt. Initial conversations about sexuality should not be left to a game of adolescent grape vine as one sibling talks to another.

With those things mind, let’s talk about what to say. I will mention six conversations. We will move from early conversations to later ones. You can when to have these conversations based on the “you want to talk first” principle and your child’s social setting.

First, teach your children appropriate names for their body parts. Let them know which ones are private; meaning no one else should see them or touch them. Let them know if someone does ask to see or touch those parts, its okay for them to say “no” even if that person is an adult and that they should tell you so you can make sure they are safe.

Second, teach your children appropriate names for the opposite gender’s body parts. Begin this conversation before peer groups begin using slang or crude language to name these parts. Use this as an opportunity to reinforce the importance of treating people with honor, which includes how we talk about them.

Third, avoid teasing your children about infatuation. Periodically mention this as a natural change that will happen and something you’re available to talk about when it does.

Fourth, teach your children about common experiences related to sexuality before they are likely to experience them – first menstrual cycle or having a wet dream. These are opportunities to win trust with your child as they mature and come to know you as someone with the foresight to prepare them for things they didn’t know to ask about. When a young person’s body does new things, it can be unsettling. A little advanced warning from someone they can trust to talk about is more comforting to them than it is uncomfortable to you.

Fifth, talk about sex as a good gift from God given to couples for marriage. Here is an imperfect (although hopefully helpful) metaphor, sex is like driving. It is good at the right time. It is not good if engaged in too soon. No one wants 12-year olds driving cars on the interstate; not even 12 year olds. That doesn’t mean it’s bad for 12-year olds to like the idea of driving. It is loving to the 12 year old and every other driver on the road for them to wait.

When talking about the importance of waiting, emphasize honor more than fear-based motivations. It is appropriate to talk about STD’s and the implications of teenage pregnancy. But, especially in early conversations about sex, the focus should be on honoring God’s design for sex (which involves waiting until marriage) and honoring other people.

Sixth, talk about common subjects that will emerge in their social spheres: either peer groups or school discussions. These subjects include contraception, pornography, homosexuality, and transgenderism. Remember your goal in these conversations is to invite future conversations and help your child navigate their social world. Unless your child is nearing 18 they don’t need to understand the role of sexuality on policy making in Washington DC. Political conversations will likely transform you into Charlie Brown’s teacher… “Wa-Wa-Wa.”

The questions your child is likely more interested in, because it has more ramifications for their day-to-day life, are, “What do I do if someone gives me a condom or shows me nude pictures on their phone? How do I respond if someone starts texting me about sex?” As much as you give them a protocol of response (i.e., talk to us as your parents), this is a prime opportunity to have a conversation (not monologue) about how easy it is for a bad situation to snowball because we’re afraid we’ll get in trouble so we start to keep a secret. The experience of fear and the power of a secret is what your son or daughter is going to feel in that moment. That’s what they have to navigate to make wise choices. So let that be your primary focus.

Other questions include, “How do I respond if one of my friends says they’re gay? What should I do if one of my classmates is getting picked on for dressing in the opposite gender’s clothes?” These conversations are pivotal points of discipleship in our day. Many young people leave the faith because they are told a friend they trust is a “dangerous person” because their friend gay or confused about their gender.

The day and age when can avoid these conversations and pretend our children can avoid these conversations is over. We are naïve and reveal ourselves to be out-of-touch to our children’s world if this is our approach. We need to be able to teach our children how to compassionately and authentically engage with people whose lifestyle doesn’t adhere to our beliefs.

We don’t have to compromise our beliefs to be nice, to help someone who is being bullied, or to be compassionate towards someone who is confused. We need to help our children understand the difference between being nice to someone and allowing them to impose their beliefs on us. These are life skills that our children will need for the rest of their lives. We need to value the opportunity to have these conversations rather than dread the discomfort of them.

This is where we realize it is the conversations that are uncomfortable, which are the ones where essential life skills are developed. We realize that we may have to grow alongside our children and model how to engage things we don’t understand while honoring our faith. As our children mature towards adulthood and engage with more real-life issues, this is what our relationship with them ought to look like.

I know we began this video by answering questions and ended it with raising questions. That is what parenting is like as we move from the pre-school years towards high school and college. In the early years, we teach our children “what” to think. In the latter years, we teach them “how” to think and begin to talk with them more as mentors than teachers. We’ve covered that span in this video.

That’s why along with this video I’ve included several resources that I hope will be helpful to you in getting a head start on some of the more difficult parenting conversations about sexuality ahead of you. But remember, the “win” is the next conversation with your child; each conversation should leave the open door and welcoming to the next conversation.