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Pressing Through Your Fears to Teach Your Teen About Sex

Talking about sex may be the most difficult conversation you’ll ever have with your children, but it may be the most powerful.

By Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Where is the best place for your children to truly hear a godly perspective of sex? It had better be at home!

Why would we want them to learn about this sacred aspect of marital love from anyone else?

Talking about sex may be the single most powerful way you have of stepping into the lives of your children. It also can be the most difficult.

Talking about reproduction and the most intimate nature of what it means to be a man and a woman is not like discussing tomorrow’s math test or last night’s ball game. When you dare to broach the subject with your child, you communicate, “You are important enough to me that I will risk talking about this uncomfortable topic.”

Because you’ve had this conversation, your children may feel it’s safe to talk about other intimate issues with you. It has to be a relief to share this part of their lives with someone they can trust, their parents.

Press through your fears

One survey reported that when children were asked how they learned about sex, one percent said from their church, three percent from their father, seven percent from school, 12 percent from mom, 28 percent from the media, and 49 percent from peers.

Even if your children do not want to talk about sex, press through your fears, inhibitions, memories, and embarrassment. A few minutes of blushing, stammering, and clammy hands will deepen your relationship and could literally save their lives.

If you have been faithful in appropriately teaching them from an early age about sex, you will be tempted to relax when they get older. But kids need moms and dads who stay involved in their lives all the way through their teen years by breaking the silence and discussing matters of human sexuality and sexual response. And if they have already passed puberty, remember that it is never too late to initiate conversations. They may not act like it, and they won’t say so, but they are feeling insecure, maybe even frightened.

Do you recall how you felt as a teenager? Teens need to have Mom and Dad come beside them and say, “There are some things I wish I had told you earlier, but I want to tell you now. I want to be a part of your life as you go through what can be some very confusing years. I want to be there for you. I don’t want to leave you with your peers or by yourself to deal with this issue.”

Step into their lives

One mistake parents often make in this area is feeling like they can only talk about sex at prescheduled appointments with their children. But it’s better to view sex education as another one of those ongoing training opportunities for shaping their attitude toward life. If you’ll watch for them, you’ll find many opportunities for instructing, asking questions, and correcting. And then it won’t feel quite so awkward.

I remember an incident where I took a risk to show my daughter my concern and to pass on a lesson about how males should treat females. It was Rebecca’s first year in junior high. She came home from school one day really discouraged because a boy was making comments about her figure.

I said, “Really? What’s his name?” Rebecca gave me the name—we’ll call him Tim. “What’s Tim’s phone number?” I asked.

“I don’t have it but I can get it,” she said. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to call him.”

She was amazed. “You’re going to call Tim?”

“Yeah. I’m just going to call him and have a little man-to-man chat.”

Rebecca pondered that for a few moments and then her face beamed. I think she actually liked the idea that her dad would seek to protect her.

When I called, Tim’s grandfather answered the phone and asked, “Why do you want to talk to Tim?”

“Well, I’ve got a matter of concern for him,” I said. “He is making some comments about my daughter.”

“Well, let me go get him.” But first Tim’s dad came to the phone and asked, “Why do you want to talk to my son?”

“I’m not going to be mean to your son,” I replied, “but he is making comments about my daughter’s figure. I just want him to know this is not the way he should be treating a young lady.”

Apparently that met with the father’s approval. “Hang on a second. Here, Tim, talk to this guy.”

Tim got on the phone and I said, “Young man, I’m Rebecca’s dad, and I want you to know I don’t appreciate your comments about her body. I don’t think this is how you should be treating a young lady, and I would like for you to respect her dignity as a woman. I would like for you to stop teasing her about her body.”

Rebecca came to me later and said, “Daddy, thank you for making that phone call.”

Now, that call didn’t take much time. But it made a statement to Rebecca about her dignity as a young woman. And down the road when she was older and I needed to talk to her about limits in her own life, I had some relational capital to draw upon. She choked down my admonitions because she knew she was loved by a daddy who cared enough to protect her.

Sex education is about more than sex

When teaching your children about sex, help them to understand that sex education involves more than an explanation of human reproduction. Of course, they need to know the biological basics. If you’ve never had a good, explicit discussion of human reproduction with your children, do it now. But even if you’ve done a great job of instructing them about the biological facts of sex, you need to finish the process with moral training.

Of all the discussions we had in our family about sex, probably 95 percent of them concerned character issues. We had discussions about God’s purposes for sex … the importance of sex and marriage … why you should wait for marriage before you have sex … how to avoid situations in which you are tempted … how different types of media shape our thoughts in this area … the types of movies to see and avoid and why … how to respond when someone challenges your convictions … and many other topics.

We found that the issues surrounding human sexuality, such as self-control and obedience to God, are the foundational character qualities all parents want to build into their teenager.

Ultimately sex education is character education and training. That’s why the best person to educate and train your children is you!

Adapted from Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years. Copyright by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.

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