Because I talk a lot about sexuality (in specific, how not to talk about purity), I often get asked lots of questions surrounding these topics. Among them is the question of how to handle sex education.
It is my genuine conviction that sex education is the sole responsibility of the parents and should be taught by them in every instance where it is possible. I have many reasons for this, the simplest being that the education needs to be tailored to the child’s needs over a period of years. Sex education is not meant to simply be one conversation, but an ongoing dialog with your child. Here are some of the things that I believe are essential to a holistic approach when teaching sex education.
#1 Start Early
By this, I don’t mean explain sexual intercourse in graphic detail to your preschoolers, but do lay the foundation for future conversations early. You can do this by teaching your child about their bodies and the anatomically correct terminology for their body parts.
#2 Don’t Let Fear Rule
It isn’t bad to be embarrassed when talking about a topic as sensitive as sexuality, but don’t allow fear to silence you or to cause you to put up unnecessary, excessive rules with your child. Being silent because you believe your child will hear about sex from someone else is, quite honestly, bordering on neglect. They may hear about it from others, but that won’t necessarily come with factual information or any Biblical boundaries.
On the flip-side, it is detrimental to create so many boundaries and rules for your child out of your fear that they will mess up. I believe that legalism is driven out of parental fear and the opportunistic nature of Satan, and purity culture is just one example of that.
#3 Be Honest
I cannot count the number of instances that a peer or acquaintance has found out that a parent lied to them about waiting for marriage to have sex. Often the parent lied because they believed their child would be more likely to engage in sex outside of marriage if they knew that their parent had, but in hiding the truth, they added to the likelihood that their child wouldn’t trust them going forward.
You don’t have to divulge your sexual history to your child, but don’t lie to them about it. By telling the truth, you are empowering them to make good decisions based on fact and, sometimes, a parent’s past mistakes.
#4 Be Factual
When I was a child, I had a lot of false information about sex given by authority figures. This includes, but isn’t limited to: believing that you could get pregnant by sleeping in the same bed as a boy, or french kissing. Rest assured when I say that as a naive homeschool girl, I believed the second for far longer than I should have.
Even though it is tempting to tell your child tall tales, do not do it with sex. It can break down their trust and discourage them from relying on you for the facts.
#5 Set Biblical Boundaries
Children need boundaries. They might not seem like it but, given the appropriate ones, they will thrive. God knew this when he created boundaries surrounding sex. A crucial part of sex education is teaching children these boundaries and, more importantly, the reason why they are there.
Minding sexual boundaries should come out of us wanting to follow God’s commandments because of the unconditional love He has shown us in Jesus dying for us. They aren’t to be mean or to spoil our fun, they are there because God, in His infinite wisdom, placed them there.
#6 Distinguish Social Mores and Parental Preferences from a Biblical Command
Something I have seen a lot of in my upbringing and experience with spiritual abuse is parents passing off their rules for God’s will. This is a dangerous practice that will hinder both your relationship with your child and their relationship with God.
Never letting a couple be alone together in any capacity (including cellular communications) is a parental rule, not mandated by God’s word. Make sure to distinguish between social mores, parental rules, and God’s word.
#7 Enlist Help When Necessary
Not everyone remembers what it was like to be a preteen going through puberty, so it is only natural that you might be concerned about gaps in what you are teaching your children during those times when it comes to sex ed.
Full disclosure on this one, I am an affiliate for this, but I recommend enlisting help with things like Sheila Gregoire’s new course called The Whole Story. She created it with her two daughters and it covers a lot of topics that are helpful during puberty like periods, boys, sexuality, and bullying. There is a younger course for moms and their 10-12 year old daughters and an older course for moms and their daughters in the 13-15 age range as well.
And if you need any help learning how not to talk about purity, you can always have me come talk at your church. 😉
#8 Model Unconditional Love
While setting spiritual and physical boundaries is important, it is also important to remember that your child, like you, is a sinful human being. Do not expect them to fall short (that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy) in some way when it comes to sexual immorality, but do not allow that to upend you and see them as a disappointment. What is of ultimate importance is that they know that you love them unconditionally, just as God does.
#9 Don’t Enable
Demonstrating unconditional love doesn’t just mean accepting sexual immorality. It also means occasionally exercising tough love and providing earthly consequences for sinful actions. This may involve saying, “You won’t be having pre-marital sex under my roof” and then enforcing it by kicking an over age child out, or it may mean something like church discipline for repeated unrepentant sexual immorality. Real loving relationships include steering people back to Jesus when they’ve gone astray.
#10 Teach Them Where Their Worth is Found
The most important aspect of the spiritual side of Christian sex education is to teach your child where their worth comes from. The world and sometimes even the church tells them that it is found in their sexuality. This happens in two ways. The first is by way of the secular rating system that establishes a “Sexual market value” to people based on their appearance. The second is through bad analogies in the church to describe sexual transgressions as an identity for people like “chewed in gum,” spit in water,” and “de-petaled flower.”
Your identity and your child’s identity is not found in what has or hasn’t been done sexually, it is found in what Jesus has done for all of us. His death and Resurrection are what defines who we are and what we are worth: priceless Children of God.
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