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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:

  • Part 1: Foundational Principles
  • Part 2: Discipling Your Children Before Age 5 Preschool
  • __ Part 3:__ Discipling Your Children Before Puberty Ages 9-11
  • __ Part 4:__ Discipling Your Children Before Age 15 9th Grade
  • __ Part 5:__ Situational Issues

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 disciple 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 (Genesis 1:31). Nothing was withheld because God’s design was perfect. He intended for men and women to marry, have sex (Genesis 1:27-28), and lots of it with no shame attached (Genesis 2:23-25). 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 (Psalm 127:3-5).

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 (Genesis 3; Hebrews 10:1-14; Romans 5:8). 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 (John 4:1-26; Matthew 19:14; Luke 9:48; Luke 17:2).

The Bible is our guide for matters pertaining to sex and parent’s thoughts and experiences should be informed by its content (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12).

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 practicing 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 (Proverbs 1:8-9). Relax and provide direction with a willingness to acknowledge how intimate the details of the subject are while juxtaposing how absurd it would be for parents not to teach their children about sex.

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