How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex: Before Puberty (Ages 9-11)

This post is Part 3 of the blog series: How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex. Learn more about the series.

Part 3: How to Talk to Your Kids Before They Reach Puberty

What should you address with your child before they reach puberty? Due to the varying ages of development for each child, parents should consider what and when their child is being exposed to information from other sources (e.g., school, peers, etc.) and disciple accordingly.

Children in public school will be exposed to this content through videos in 4th through 6th grades. If your child is in public school or interacts with children who are, it may be wise for you to address these topics so they hear from you first. Keep in mind the average age a child is exposed to pornography is 10 years old.

By the time a child enters puberty, they are physically capable of reproduction and should be empowered with a mature sense of that change in their life with the biblical knowledge to understand how it impacts their choices.

Issues to Address

  • Reinforcement of principles from the previous stage of development[1].
  • Puberty and how boys’ and girls’ bodies naturally change in preparation for reproduction.
  • Specifics of sexual intercourse and how a new human is created at the point of fertilization and then develops and is delivered, including anatomical names such as: sperm, egg, erection, uterus, menstruation, implantation, embryo, fetus, etc.
  • Implications related to premarital sex and the risks of unintended pregnancies[2]
  • Implications related to pornography and lust[3]
  • Implications related to same-sex attraction and the role of repentance to Christ’s teaching as well as the witness of Christians[4]
  • Standards for a spouse and purpose of dating[5]

Critical Information to Know

This is a pivotal time when a child is observing the compromises made by parents, adults, and peers around them, comparing what they’re told with what is lived out. The average age of children when first exposed to pornography is 10 years old. And pornography is not just an issue for men. Girls have become just as susceptible and exposed to pornography.

The dangers of pornography are more than masturbation, sexual promiscuity, or violence against women. Pornography, like other addictions, is a form of conditioning, wiring the brain to view sex as consumerism. Instead, sex is a gift for mutual intimacy between a husband and wife. It glorifies God and strengthens the health and covenant of marriage. A child’s curiosity and the misinformation they absorb from all around them is at its peak, so initiating conversations early and often is vital.

Scripts for Conversations

As you reinforce truths from previous discussions, ask your child to describe what they have understood about God’s creation, marriage, sex, and when life begins so they can practice articulating their convictions and ideas.

When discussing puberty, start by referencing how a father shaves his beard or a mother shaves her legs. Try using this language:

“As humans grow, our bodies change. Boys and girls grow more hair on their bodies and their skin changes as well usually producing acne, or pimples, from the oil that builds up. Because boys and girls are different, there are other changes as well. Girls’ breasts start to grow, and boys’ testicles drop. This stage of your life is called puberty, and your body begins to produce more hormones which prepare you to become an adult.”

Allow this conversation to lead towards discussion related to menstruation and the changes happening in a boy’s body. Children will benefit from learning about puberty related to both genders although it's not necessary to share all the details.

While reinforcing discussions related to sexual intercourse, utilize this opportunity to connect a child’s understanding of sex and what you’ve told them about puberty to how menstruation works related to reproduction. This will set the stage for future conversations related to premarital sex, unintended pregnancy, and abortion. Ask the question:

“What do you think happens to a woman’s body if she doesn’t get pregnant?”

This is a great opportunity to instill in a child the miraculous nature of motherhood and child-bearing only given to women.

As you help your child understand puberty and sex at a more sophisticated level, introduce how men and women are attracted towards one another. Explain how we must honor one another and the design God has for marriage and families in order to avoid premarital sex, unintended pregnancy, pornography, and lust. This should not be a fear-driven discussion as if to say, “If you get pregnant, we won’t support you.”

Elaborate on why premarital sex, pornography, or unintended pregnancy are undesirable by asking:

“What would make a great husband/wife? Who do you hope you will marry some day?”

Highlight standards such as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and not being “unequally yoked”, a strong work ethic, integrity, etc. Then juxtapose these standards with the choices to have premarital sex or to compromise on waiting until marriage.

If you had sex before marriage, be honest without feeling the need to share all of the details about your experiences. Reinforce God’s desire for sex to bring more freedom and intimacy to a marriage rather than being a testing ground to lead towards someone to marry. Remind children God does not seek to shame us towards repentance, but is kind and patient speaking truth so we can approach men and women who make those choices the same way.

Children have access to pornography through smart phones, television, and other devices at home, school, friends’ homes, libraries, etc. Parents cannot be diligent enough in both monitoring and protecting their children from pornography; however, a parent is limited in the capacity to eliminate all risks. A child will typically allow themselves to be overcome by the temptation to view pornography.

Parents should set up safeguards, but realize if a child, young adult, or parent wants to see pornography, they will find a way. Simple safeguards such as time limits on devices, consistent communication with other parents and teachers regarding expectations, and keeping computers, televisions, and phones out of bedrooms, including the parents’ bedroom, helps establish norms for where and how the family utilizes technology.

Parents should make their children aware of what pornography is, how it’s accessed, and why it’s damaging for them to see. When sexually explicit images are on television, parents can change the channel and identify what is wrong with that image by stating:

“It’s not appropriate for children or adults to watch that. It’s on television because when we see things that are enticing, we often want to see or buy more of it.”

An illustration like candy may be helpful as long as parents can connect the point that candy can be good in small, infrequent quantities whereas pornography in any quantity or frequency is both wrong and harmful.

Children will have picked up on the presence of same-sex couples on television, parents of children at their school, or other situations. Don’t shy away from their questions and ask your child questions to help them clarify biblical and compassionate answers to those who struggle with or are given over to same-sex attraction.“What does the Bible say about that?” “How could two men or two women have children?” “How can we respond with grace and truth to those men or women?”

Resources

Read the rest of the series:
Principles | Preschool | Before Puberty | Before Age 15 | Situational Issues

Footnotes

[1] Deuteronomy 5:29 – “Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!”

[2] Exodus 20:14 – “You shall not commit adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7:8-9 – To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Hebrews 13:4 – Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

[3] Job 31:1 – “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?”

Matthew 5:28 – “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

1 Corinthians 6:13 – “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

[4] Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

Romans 1:21-2:1

1 Peter 3:15 – But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

[5] Proverbs 31:10-31

Ephesians 5:25-30

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