Alicia, * a teenager, says: “Sometimes I’m just curious about something regarding sex, but I feel that if I ask my parents questions, they’ll think I’m up to something bad.”
Inez, Alicia’s mother, says: “I would love to sit down and talk with my daughter about sex, but she’s so busy with her own life. It’s hard to find a time when she’s free.”
TODAY, sex is everywhere—on TV, in movies, and plastered all over advertising. It seems that the only place the subject is still considered taboo is in conversation between parents and children. “I wish parents knew how nerve-racking and embarrassing it is to talk to them about sex,” says a teen in Canada named Michael. “It’s easier to talk to a friend.”
Often, parents are just as reluctant as their children to broach the subject. In her book Beyond the Big Talk, health educator Debra W. Haffner says: “Many parents have told me that they bought their child a book on sexuality or puberty, left it in the preteen’s room, and never discussed it again.” Haffner says that the message to children is clear: “We want you to know about your body and about sex; we just don’t want to talk to you about it.”
If you are a parent, you need to take a different stance. Indeed, it is crucial that you personally talk to your children about sex. Consider three reasons:
The sexual landscape has changed. “There is no longer the quick definition of sex—a husband and wife having intercourse,” says 20-year-old James. “Now, there is oral sex, anal sex, cybersex—even ‘sexting’ over the phone.”
Your children will likely be confronted with misinformation at an early age. “They will hear about sex as soon as they start school,” says a mother named Sheila, “and they will not get the viewpoint that you want them to have.”
Your children have questions about sex but are not likely to initiate a discussion with you. “Frankly, I have no idea how to start a conversation with my parents about sex,” says 15-year-old Ana from Brazil.
Really, talking to your children about sex is part of your God-given responsibility as a parent. (Ephesians 6:4) True, it may be awkward, both for you and for them. On the positive side, though, many youths agree with 14-year-old Danielle, who says, “We want to learn about sex from our parents—not from some teacher or TV program.” How, then, can you talk to your children about this important yet admittedly awkward topic? *
According to Their Age
Unless they live in total isolation, children begin hearing about sex at an early age. Even more disturbing is the fact that in these “last days,” wicked men have advanced “from bad to worse.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 13) Sadly, many children are exploited by adults for perverted sexual purposes.
It is therefore important for you to start educating your children while they are still quite young. “If you wait till they’re nearing their teens,” says a mother in Germany named Renate, “they may not want to speak openly because of the inhibitions that come with puberty.” The key is to give children information that is appropriate to their age.
Focus on teaching the proper names of the sex organs, and emphasize that no one should touch these organs. “I started teaching my son when he was three years old,” says a mother in Mexico named Julia. “Just knowing that teachers, babysitters, or older children could hurt him concerned me very much. He needed to know how to protect himself from strangers.”
TRY THIS: Train your child to respond firmly if anyone attempts to play with his or her sex organs. For example, you might teach your child to say: “Stop that! I’m going to tell on you!” Assure your child that telling is always appropriate—even if the person promises gifts or makes threats. *
For primary-school children:
Use these years as an opportunity to add to your child’s knowledge gradually. “Test the waters before having a talk,” recommends a father named Peter. “See what they already know and whether they want to know more. Don’t force the discussion. It will likely come naturally if you regularly spend time with your children.”
TRY THIS: Have frequent, short discussions instead of one ‘big talk.’ (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) This way you will not overwhelm your children. Furthermore, as they grow up, they will have the information they need in accord with their maturity level.
Now is the time to make sure that your child has sufficient knowledge of the physical, emotional, and moral aspects of sex. “Boys and girls at my school are already hooking up,” says 15-year-old Ana, quoted earlier. “I think that as a Christian, I need sufficient knowledge about the subject. As embarrassing as sex may be to discuss, it’s something I must know about.” *
A caution: Teens may hold back from asking questions because they fear that their parents will suspect them of improper conduct. That is what one father named Steven found. “Our son became reluctant to discuss sex,” he says. “But later we found out that he felt we were suspicious of his behavior. We made it clear that we were not discussing these subjects because we suspected him of anything; we only wanted to make sure that he was equipped to handle the bad influences around him.”
TRY THIS: Instead of confronting your adolescent with direct questions about a particular matter regarding sex, ask how his or her classmates view the matter. For example, you might say: “Many people today feel that oral sex isn’t really sex. Is that how your schoolmates feel?” Such indirect questions are more likely to get your adolescent to open up and express his or her own views.
Granted, talking to your children about sex may be one of the most awkward parenting tasks you will face. But it is well worth your effort. “Over time,” says a mother named Diane, “the awkwardness fades, and talking to your child about sex can actually become a bonding opportunity.” Steven, quoted earlier, agrees. “It becomes easier to discuss awkward topics like sex if you establish a routine of being open about whatever subjects present themselves in the family,” he says, adding: “The awkwardness never completely goes away, but open communication is the lifeblood of a healthy Christian family.”
^ par. 3 Names in this article have been changed.
^ par. 11 This article will address the need to talk to your children about sex. A future article in this series will discuss how to impart moral values in such discussions.
^ par. 19 Use chapters 1-5, 28, 29, and 33 of Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volume 2, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, to have discussions with your adolescent about sex.
ASK YOURSELF . . .
Read the following comments received from youths around the world, and then ask yourself the accompanying questions.
“My parents tell me to read articles dealing with sex and then approach them if I have any questions. But I wish they would talk to me more about it.”—Ana, Brazil.
Why, do you think, is it important to do more than simply give your child material to read?
“I know so many twisted things about sex—things that I think my father has no clue about. He would be horrified if I asked him about it.”—Ken, Canada.
What fears might your child have about talking to you regarding his or her concerns?
“When I finally got the courage to ask my parents a question about sex, they replied as if accusing me, asking, ‘Why would you ask about that? Has something happened?’”—Masami, Japan.
When your child asks you a question about sex, how can your reaction either open the door for future discussions or close it?
“It would help if my parents would reassure me that when they were my age, they were asking the same questions and that it’s normal for me to ask questions too.”—Lisette, France.
How can you put your child at ease, so that he or she will feel more comfortable talking to you about sex?
“My mother would ask me questions about sex—but in a pleasant tone of voice. I feel that this is important, so that a child does not feel as if he’s being judged.”—Gerald, France.
What tone of voice do you use when talking to your child about sex? Is an adjustment needed?