Please note: A practical list of tips can be found at the end of this post
Sex, there’s a topic parents want to avoid talking about to their kids… unless they’re those creepy parents who are way too open about it. Talking to your kids about sex should be a bit awkward because who wants to picture your child doing it. It’s like what child wants to picture their parents doing it? We know it’s natural and healthy, but it’s up there with knowing details of someone’s bowel movements. At the same time, talking to your kids about sex is incredibly important because it’s part of growing up (for both kids and parents) and can be a very bonding conversation to have. My sex “talk” was coming home at twenty-one years old after a date with my newly official girlfriend to find a sheet of Bible verses describing how lust is a sin. Not the most helpful experience. A friend of mine had it worse. On her wedding day, her mom gave her a bag from Kmart with lingerie in it – the classiest place to find lingerie – and then told her how it’s the wifely duty to have sex even though it’s not enjoyable. Ouch.
One of the worst places to get information on how to talk about sex is church because there’s so much fear and confusion about it. I heard a guest speaker say if you French kiss you’re having symbolic sex because the tongue is going in the mouth – lame! I heard another speaker say that making out is called Star Trek kissing because you’ll go places you’ve never gone before – lamer! The dumbest thing I heard was a youth pastor (in his forties) say that you should never touch a girl’s boobs because if you do then you’re going to have sex. How many married men are thinking, “Yeah, no, that’s not how it works or I’d be having a lot more sex.” It’s like sex makes Christians stupid… coincidentally, sex makes everyone stupid because as we get excited, the blood leaves our brain and goes down south making it harder for us to think properly. This, of course, means we need to have established boundaries in place for how far we go for when we are doing something to prevent us from going too far.
So how does a parent approach sex? Here’s the number one thing to remember: Sex is a gift from God that we need to respect. Sex is something that is beautiful and should be enjoyed in the proper context. The second most important thing to remember is God wants sex to be something that connects us to our spouse AND to Him. God doesn’t give us specific rules for how far we can go before marriage because we are meant to be talking with our partner and God about what is appropriate for us and our relationship. Every relationship is different and God wants our journey to find how far is acceptable for us to go as a way to grow closer to Him. (Just like parents need to be connecting with God for how they should best deal with each child and their dating relationships.) For instance, my brother and I had different ideas of how far we could go in our relationships (I preferred mine), and I would argue we were both under God’s blessing because we were connecting to God and our partners to know what was appropriate for us and our specific relationships. In the end, we both waited until marriage for sex, we just had different lines before and that’s okay.
The third thing that needs to be remembered is that how far a couples goes physically should be consistent with how emotionally connected AND dedicated they are with the wedding being the final level of commitment, which is celebrated with sex. Unlike TV shows that have couples doing it on the first date – the stupidest thing to do if you want a healthy relationship – using how emotionally connected and dedicated you are as a gage means at 15 you’re not able to be that dedicated (no matter what you may say) and should, therefore, be very limited to how far you’re going because you’re not getting married anytime soon. If you’re 25 and ready to grow up, however, that’s different. That being said you’re still not married, so you need to be careful.
Physical intimacy feels good and can be very tempting, but we need to be smart about how quickly we’re moving because each step takes away from the joy of the previous step. For instance, holding hands is super awesome until you kiss, and kissing is super awesome until you make out, and so on. Keeping things slower, helps us appreciate each step better, and from a practical side, being slow and getting good at all the little stuff will mean that in the long run we’re better at sex in the future because we’ll know what we’re doing and be good at it.
Saving sex for marriage was one of the greatest choices I’ve ever made. Being 35 and dating my wife for nine years, we were both very emotionally connected and dedicated, so we did more than hold hands, but saving sex for marriage meant that after all that time together we then had something special to experience with each other that we had never experienced before. Not only did it add to our sense of connection after our wedding, we now have incredible trust for each other because we proved how self controlled we can be. At the same time, doing physical things together also prepared us for when we got married, which meant we were comfortable with ourselves and our partner while couples who even save kissing until marriage are setting themselves up for a whole lot of issues (and it’s really awkward when their first kiss is at the altar).
BONUS: The number one rule I think ALL parents should have regarding intimacy levels for their kids is that it should not be easy. I hate when I hear parents let their kids have sex while they’re in the house together. Fooling around with your boyfriend or girlfriend should be something all parents discourage. Am I being a prude? No, I am just aware that it’s a lot more exciting having to sneak around to do anything than it is to be allowed to do it anywhere. Every kid should get the thrill of trying not to get caught. It makes intimacy that much more exciting and fun, which is one of the problems older couple’s experience – it’s no longer exciting and fun. No matter what your rules are on sex before marriage, we do a disservice to our kids to be “cool” and let them do what they want. Just like we do a disservice to our kids to be open about our own sex lives. Sex should not be a family affair.
- Have clear expectations (e.g. curfew, transportation, who pays for dates, where they can hang out, when they can hang out, alone vs. group time, how often then need friend time)
- Have consequences outlined (e.g. if you… we will…)
- Don’t overdo the rules, avoid repeating the same conversation over and over, and avoid rambling (i.e. a written list might be easier)
- Incorporate questions (e.g. If you date someone for a few years, do you think it’d be nice to have something new and special to share on your wedding night? Do you think it would help build trust if you could both wait? Do you think sex bonds two people or is it something casual you can share like a hug and not have attachments after? If you don’t save sex, is there anything else you can save as something special for your married partner? Do you think it’s easy to say no? It’s really hard isn’t it? If you can do it, do you think it’d be something you could be really proud of yourself for doing?
- Consider discussing 1 Cor 7:3-4, “The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.” (e.g why does Paul start with the husband? How different do you think dating was back then?)
- Timing is important (e.g. guys do better talking side by side like on a walk or in a car and consider when you’re less likely to get push back)
- Consider whether doing it as a family meeting and then individually or just individually
- Consider whether it should be one big conversation or multiple small ones and at what age(s)
- Live an honorable lifestyle to be good role model (e.g. my parents were amazing at this)
- Establish a safe person they can talk to outside of you (e.g. my older sister was a big help for me)
- Make sure they have a life (i.e. teens with things to do are less needy for love)
- Be a good parent (i.e. a daughter who feels beautiful because her dad has complimented her all her life can help her not need to find male attention)
- Help kids have a purpose (e.g. I had a comedy team, work, and sports)
- Help get your kids connected to a church group who aren’t all having sex
- Consider sharing a temptation you have to fight, so it’s not just “I’m fine and you’re screwed,” (e.g. food, people pleasing, laziness, etc.)
- Don’t make life too easy for them because too much time leads to more temptation (e.g. I had my first job when I was eleven)
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people (like me)