Before you talk to your children about sex, there is a large obstacle to not overlook.
Every parent, including myself, has their own sexual baggage. Quite often, parents have never worked through their own sexual past, which creates a wall to speaking calmly with their children.
It is difficult to remain calm when your own past surrounding sexuality has unresolved feelings.
Here are a few real examples from parents:
• A mother remembers being sexually objectified in rude ways by boys in school when she was in Junior High.
• A father remembers teenagers telling him sexual jokes when he was in grade school leaving him feeling confused but also curious.
• A parent remembers wondering what sex was at age 10 and looking it up on the computer only to be exposed to pornography.
• A parent was sexually abused or experimented sexually as a child and was left with a lot of sexual anxiety and confusion.
• A parent accidentally discovered masturbation fairly young and developed a compulsive habit, which they were ashamed of but also afraid to talk about with anyone.
Having a history similar to one of these would understandably harbor all kinds of anxious feelings when considering talking with their kids about sex. In fact, it would be understandable if such a parent felt something quite similar to trauma while trying to have those conversations.
In such a case the child would notice their parent’s demeanor of the topic and feel afraid themselves, making the conversation unhelpful.
Steps to Take to Overcome:
1. Talk Through Your Past
A very good first step is to practice discussing your past with a therapist, your spouse, or another parent. This helps you lose your fear of the topic.
Talk through the things you experienced and heard related to sex and how that impacted you.
The point is to work through your fears about the subject of sex as well as people knowing your own past. All of us made mistakes with our sexuality, so we might as well start admitting to safe people.
If you discover you feel traumatized telling your story, you may want to seek out a counselor to help you resolve some of your trauma before trying to talk with your child about sex.
2. Talk About Feelings
I do not recommend using sex as the topic of your first personal conversation with your child. That will not end well for either of you. It takes practice talking about personal things to get good at it and you don’t want to practice with the hardest personal topic of all!
I recommend starting off by talking about feelings. There are hundreds of resources to help you, so you don’t have to figure out what to say.
Even if your child is a teenager and you realize you are late to the game talking about sex, I would still start with feelings. Give you and your child time to get used to personal conversations before getting to the big guns.
A resource to guide your conversations is: Family Integrity: Emotional Resilience.
3. Talk About God’s Design
Once you and your child are used to talking about feelings and emotions, you can start talking about sex. However, don’t start with things like pornography or masturbation.
That is getting the cart before the horse. Your first conversation about sex should not be about how sex goes wrong.
Instead, your first conversations should be about what God designed sex for in the first place. Start with what is sex supposed to be like, not how can it be twisted.
Remember that it was God who created sex and sex is an excellent thing. If sex is good, you can talk about it openly with your kids.
There are a lot of resources for this as well, each aimed at what kids of different ages need to know at their current age. Here are a few to get you started.
Preschool: God Made Your Body, by Jim Burns.
Ages 6-9: How God Makes Babies, by Jim Burns.
Ages 10-12: The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality, by Luke Gilkerson.
Ages 13 and up: Honest Talk: A New Perspective on Talking to Your Kids About Sex, by John Fort.
After these three steps, you can finally get to the more difficult conversations about sex.
Bottom line, you should not try to have the most difficult conversations about sex with your child before you do these three early steps. It prepares you and your child for the more awkward conversations and future conversations won’t feel quite as difficult.