Children are learning about sex from their schools, but their education isn't complete.
I'm a bit of a renegade when it comes to talking to kids about sex. My oldest is 12 and has known about sex since I explained it to him when he was about eight. He'd come home from a visit with his father (my ex-husband) and declared that he "might be getting a baby sister." I figured that was as good an opportunity as any to elaborate clearly on sex. I'd already been talking to him for a few years about "appropriate touch" and what to do if he found himself in an uncomfortable situation with an adult, so the discussion about sex seemed like a logical next step.
Some of my friends thought I was crazy. They thought he was too young to be told so much about sex. I believed, though, that it was better to error on the side of clear information than to trust his "education" to his own imagination, society or to the various shenanigans happening around him.
It seems the whole issue of sexual education causes angst for many parents. Some parents actually appreciate that the schools cover it, sparing them from embarking into such awkward discussion with their pre-teen. And then there are parents, particularly Christians, who are against what is taught in the schools about sex, yet simultaneously neglect initiation of discussions with their children at home. What a conundrum. We don't want the "system" telling them about sex and we don't want to do it either, leaving them few alternatives but to navigate the waters on their own. Is it any wonder so many teens are having sex?
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not overly enthusiastic about what is included in many "sex education" programs, such as in-depth explanation of various birth control methods. Who can forget the uproar several years ago when some high schools wanted to distribute condoms? Clearly not a good idea, if you ask me.
What saddens me more, though, is that there are not more parents talking to their kids about sex. When kids do hear from their parents on the topic, particularly within Christian homes, what they often hear is an emphatic over-simplified "don't do it." Valid message, yes. But incomplete message at the same time. When all kids hear is "don't do it," there is not balance in helping young adults understand what is so great about sex within the context of marriage. I have spoken to many women who, as teenagers, were blasted so often with the "don't do it" message from their parents and ministry leaders that they struggled with sex once they were able "to do it" when they were married. "How do you just flip a switch?" One woman asked me, explaining the challenge of suddenly trying to enjoy something that for so long was painted as dirty, sinful and off limits.
Why do parents struggle with talking to kids openly and thoroughly about sex? Statistics would tell us that many believers were not virgins when we married, which presents a bit of a dilemma. How do we possibly explain the blessings of waiting until marriage to have sex if we ourselves didn't heed such warnings? My answer to that is to be honest. Share with your kids why you wish you would have waited. Your vulnerability and realness speaks much clearer than lofty platitudes.
Is it embarrassing and awkward to talk to your kids about sex? Well, sure. But what is your goal? To stay in your comfort zone or to help your kids understand authentic sexual intimacy? One way to get past the awkwardness is to throw a bunch of light on it instead of pretend like it doesn't exist. It's okay to say, "I'm a little embarrassed talking about this, but I think it is important we talk about it anyway."
And please can we let go of the myth that kids just need a "one time" talk? When was the last time you were able to talk to your kids once about anything and have it stick? If kids are to understand what healthy sexual intimacy looks like—and the benefits of keeping it within the sacred covenant of marriage—then they need a lifetime of genuine and age-appropriate dialogue with adults they trust. Even then, there are no guarantees. But I would rather bank on the outcomes from lifelong authentic dialogue than from a "one time" sex talk.
God in His divine wisdom created sex, not just for procreation, but also for pleasure (lest we not forget that orgasm was part of His design... the clitoris serves no other purpose but sexual pleasure for a woman). The community of faith should really be a forerunner in teaching kids about sex. If more Christian parents would courageously begin lifelong dialogue with their children about healthy sexual intimacy, just think of the impact on society?
Sexual education. The debate rages on about what should and shouldn't be taught in schools. All the while, parents hold within their homes the opportunity to educate in a way that equips their kids to understand not only the consequences, but also the blessings of authentic sexual intimacy.
My 12-year-old rolls his eyes a bit when I initiate a discussion about sex. I'm not deterred though. I think one day he'll be a well-adjusted confident husband who understands the sacredness and gift of sex. And my future daughter-in-law will thank me. Sounds like a better vision than just leaving his sexual education up to the system or society, don't you think?