Talking to kids about sex and purity can be awkward and stressful for all involved, especially the first few times. I mean, it seems like only yesterday that the kids were knee-deep in Barbies and Ken dolls. Now you have to talk about what happens if and when those two hook up.

A few things I’ve learned about setting up the conversation with your kids about purity and sex:

This isn’t one-and-done: You’re going to have this conversation about eleventy-billion times with your child. Get used to it. You get Extra Super Parenting Points for having it early but will lose all of those – and your child – if you do it once and never again.

Training your kids to stay pure is like training them to ride a bike: it didn’t happen at a workshop or seminar. It took time, patience, grace, and courage. They will fall down and get hurt, but as long as you’re there to show them how God’s spirit will help them stay in balance, they’ll cross the finish line.

Start small: As tempting as it may be, don’t try to cram an entire sex ed class – or a whole divinity school study – into your first sex and purity conversations. Keep the concepts simple: “God has an amazing plan for our heart, soul, and body. He wants to help us keep all of those pure for those we love, because He loves us so much.”

Make it personal: It’s easy to reduce this most intimate of conversations to a rote and sterile recitations of do’s and don’ts’. If you’ve struggled in this area, or made decisions that you regret, share that. It’s ok to show your weakness because that’s how God shows His power (2 Corinthians 12:9).

You don’t need graphic details – just the basics will be enough at this point. If you clearly and honestly share how God’s Word has helped you and why you think it’s so important for your child to follow His teachings, you’re significantly ahead of the game. Avoid resorting to threats or ultimatums; you might gain his compliance but will never truly cultivate his conviction.

In this same vein, share how other Biblical leaders have carried this same cross. My favorite is David, who still had God’s heart even though his human one was filled with lust and pride. David walked a hard road, I believe, so we could learn from him and not have to make the mistakes he made.

Listen well: More than anything above, the greatest gifts you can give your child your open ears, soft heart, and shut mouth. Be ready and willing to simply listen to her not just for what she says, but the emotions underneath her words. This skill of Active Listening can keep the lines of communication open in even the most tense and critical moments. Just ask the cast of Everybody Loves Raymond, who devoted an entire episode to its effectiveness.

With time, prayer, and patience, you can help the seed of God’s Word sink deeply into the good soil of your child’s heart…and not have to worry about what Ken and Barbie may be teaching them.