How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex: Foundational Principles

About This Resource

We're encouraged you are choosing to equip your children through issues related to sex. This resource is designed to be useful at all different stages of a child’s development, so you can revisit it over the years to disciple your children as they grow.

This resource is a five-part series:

Each section includes appropriate language according to your child's age, critical information to understand before teaching your child, scripts for parents to guide conversation on each issue, additional resources, and scriptural references.

We pray this serves you well as a comprehensive resource when talking to your children about sex. If you have any questions or suggestions, please email parenting@watermark.org or visit watermark.org/parenting for more resources.

Section 1: Foundational Principles

As parents discipling their children in topics related to sex, they should reflect and align their own sexual experiences and convictions with God’s design for marriage, sex, and the family. Whether a parent was raised in a Christian home or not as a child, humans are sinful and prone to dismiss God’s promises and warnings in order to test what the world offers. Where there is opportunity to utilize a parent’s experience in thinking or acting out of step with God’s truth, parents should model repentance and humility so children can identify with mutual submission under God.

Establishing a Biblical Worldview

God’s purpose was good when He created mankind as male and female with a physical attraction towards one another and when He created sexual intercourse, and reproduction. Actually, it was very good[1]. Nothing was withheld because God’s design was perfect. He intended for men and women to marry, have sex[2], and lots of it with no shame attached[3]. In this design, humans would multiply with sex, sex would enable freedom and intimacy in marriage, and children would be a reward and a blessing[4].

When sin entered the world, it brought about death, subversion, and separation from God and His purposes which only God could restore through Jesus Christ[5]. This brokenness is what puts the Gospel of Christ in the center of our lives, including our sexuality, parenting, and families. Throughout the Bible, mankind, in our sin nature, perverted God’s design for marriage, sex, and the family through lust, divorce, prostitution, rape, homosexuality, gender inequality, child sacrifice, and more. It was Christ who not only dignified women with respect and corrected misunderstandings about divorce but also re-established the value of children.[6]

The Bible is our guide for matters pertaining to sex and parent’s thoughts and experiences should be informed by its content[7].

Tone, Timing & Environment

If parents struggle to speak soberly about details related to reproduction or sex in general (i.e., every conversation is awkward, squeamish, or turns into giggling or glossing over significant details). Try practice those conversations with a spouse or in front of a mirror. While conversations related to sex can be tense, the tone is set by the parents[8]. Relax and provide direction for children with a willingness to acknowledge the shame related to the subject, even as they explain the absurdity of parents not discipling their children on these issues.

Both fathers and mothers need to be able to have this conversation with each of their children. They should be able to articulate the gift sex is to marriage, and that it is a regular healthy aspect of marriage, not a taboo topic. Mothers are likely more adept to address specific issues with their daughters, and fathers with sons. Single parents may engage a teacher, mentor, or family member for help. However, due to the frequency of these conversations, mothers and fathers need to be able to address issues with their children of the opposite sex.

Prayerfully consider what topics and details are appropriate for your children at depending on their age (0-5, 6-9, 10-15). Keep in mind that suggestions made in this resource for the age appropriateness of certain topics may need to be addressed sooner or later depending on your circumstances. As a general rule, parents should aim to be the primary source and initial point of information for children. If parents do not disciple their children in topics related to sex, then their peers, television, school, or other sources will. Err on the side of over-sharing when a child is younger so clarification or correction can be made from those experiences when a child is older. Parents can expect to revisit topics 3-4 times before a child grasps them. It may not always be dinner conversation material, but it should be a topic parents are readily available and able to address.

Children may begin to understand sexuality and to explore their sexuality as early as two years old when they begin potty training. The average age children are exposed to pornography is age 10. While many children begin the normal exploration of sensation of their genitals before age 7, masturbation to reach orgasm may begin as early as ages 9 to 15. This does not insinuate every child is exposed to pornography or masturbates at these ages, but rather provides some parameters for when children start experiencing these issues.

Be aware and diligent in creating boundaries and helping a child process what they see and think as they grow. Parents should model healthy boundaries for their children in their affection towards one another in public while maintaining appropriate privacy when having sex. The situational issues section can help parents address a child after being exposed to pornography, sexual abuse, etc.

Discussions do not have to be long and drawn out. Teachable moments may arise while watching television, listening to music, or a thought spontaneously comes to mind while driving. Take advantage of every opportunity. Parents should seek to be clear and can conclude conversations with, “What questions do you have for me?” This reminds children their parents are the first and best source of information on sex and other topics of curiosity.

In the next section of this blog series, we'll be discussing specifics based on the age of your children. We close this series with advice on handling specific situations that your children might face.

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

Footnotes

[1] Genesis 1:31 – "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day."

[2] Genesis 1:27-28 – "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.' "

[3] Genesis 2:23-25 – "Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed."

[4] Psalm 127:3-5 – "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."

[5] Genesis 3; Hebrews 10:1-14; Romans 5:8 – "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

[6] John 4:1-26; Matthew 19:14 – "but Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'"
Luke 9:48 – "and said to them, 'Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.'"
Luke 17:2 – "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin."

[7] 2 Timothy 3:16 – "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness"

Hebrews 4:12 – " For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

[8] Proverbs 1:8-9 – "8 Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck."


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