If you don’t feel like reading you can watch me sit in my kitchen and talk to you. Just scroll to the bottom of the post and enjoy the video. The written content below is almost identical to what’s in the video, so you won’t miss a thing either way.
There are two topics that we make really weird for kids. Death is one. Sex is the other.
It’s weird because these are things that kids have been exposed to in one way or another, throughout all of human history. In some cultures, kids are still exposed to both on a regular basis.
It’s only in very recent times that we’ve moved these things in the shadows.
Let’s take death for example. A few years ago I had appendicitis. No big deal. I went to the ER. They confirmed what I suspected. I went into surgery and I was home that evening. My sons never thought any more about it.
Here’s how that would have gone just a 100 years ago, and throughout all of human history. Daddy’s tummy hurts… daddy’s really sick… daddy’s in and out of consciousness, daddy’s saying goodbye. Daddy’s dead.
Children saw family members die suddenly from unexplained diseases. Siblings, friends, and parents all could be perishing quickly, with everyone aware and watching.
Death and sickness weren’t (and aren’t in many places today) hidden away in hospitals, convalescent homes, or ambulances. They happened regularly because they were a regular part of life.
When it comes to sex, think for a moment about all of the livestock that kids have seen mating throughout the centuries. Remember, this has been the norm for 99% of kids throughout history.
People have survived by growing food and breeding animals. Kids all the way back to Cain and Able have watched the piggies actually playing piggy back.
Kids have seen the mammal’s penis go into the mammal vagina. They saw later when the baby piggies were born. Or the puppies, or the pony, or the lamb.
No one ran to shelter the eyes of the children. “It’s too terrible! Protect the children!”
Spectators were probably happy to see their livestock mating. “Look kids! More bacon! More wool! More money!”
Since these things weren’t hidden from kids (and aren’t hidden from any child who still grows up around livestock), they would naturally figure out how things worked and how their bodies would eventually be used to make human babies.
It wasn’t sensual. It wasn’t shameful. It wasn’t secretive.
It was a part of life.
It’s Still a Part of Life
Last week Natalie and I told our 8 year old son that women have eggs and men have semen.
He’s pretty squeamish when it comes to the human body and any bodily functions, so his response to this information was the funniest thing we’ve seen in a long time.
This was one of many conversations that we’ve had. It just happened to be the most technical one.
When putting his trampoline together a few weeks back the instructions mentioned “male” and “female” parts. My temptation was to distract my son somehow, but even as my mind went racing, I went ahead and pointed it out.
“Look Bubba, it says to put the male end into the female end. You know how we can tell which is which?”
And I proceeded to explain a little more,
“It’s just like the connection a daddy and mommy make when they’re making a baby.”
Then we moved on. I didn’t stop what I was doing. I didn’t make it complicated, I didn’t take more than 30 seconds.
Now you’re wondering, “Wait I thought you were going to tell me to never have “The Talk” with my kids, but you do it all the time!”
That’s actually my point.
You should never have “THE BIG TALK” with your kids because you should always be having smaller talks with your kids.
The Classroom of Life
My 5 year old doesn’t know everything there is to know about the water cycle, but I have taught him that water goes up and then rains down. He’ll forget even the basics, and I’ll tell him again. That’s all he needs to know right now. He doesn’t need all of the details yet.
Life gives us all kinds of opportunities to explain things to our kids as they age. It’s not an advanced concept. It’s just called “parenting.” Our kids’ learning should spiral up, and be age appropriate.
We do this naturally with everything except for death and sex.
We put so much pressure on ourselves when it comes to teaching our kids about sex. “Is this the right time? How about now? Are they at the right age? What if it’s too soon? Are they ready?”
We get easily overwhelmed and we do nothing. We think we’ve got to do the job all at once, so we put off this important responsibility.
Think about how impractical it is to teach our kids about sex in a single conversation.
Usually we’re just thinking about it as an anatomical conversation, but that’s probably just the easy part. Don’t forget to teach about the biological, emotional, spiritual, pleasurable, and potentially sinful aspects of sexuality (all at the relevant times).
There’s so much to be said and so many questions to be asked.
If you’re waiting to have an 8 hour lecture day when your child turns 37 years old, you’re setting yourself up for a an awkward and confusing conversation.
You can relax though, and make the most of opportunities as they come. Build the house a little at a time, and keep communicating.
It’s All Good
I’m convinced that most of our hesitancy comes from a wrong view of sex. We forget that God invented it. Penises and vaginas weren’t the devil’s idea. God made them both.
You know what else He thought of?
And you know what He called it all?
Sometimes we think we know better than God and we’re too prudish to call sex “good.” We think we’re being holy and we’re just being ignorant.
If you’re trying to keep all sexual information away from your kids until they’re dead, I need to warn you about a particular resource that will ruin your plans.
It’s called the Bible.
The Bible gets very explicit at times. There are prostitutes, concubines, and God calls people “whores.” There’s also the Song of Solomon, which, despite modern readers only noticing the imagery of Christ and His Church, is full of sexual acts being enjoyed between a husband and wife.
The Song of Solomon is so graphic, that at one point in history, Jewish boys weren’t allowed to read it until they were 13. (Remember this important distinction- they weren’t sheltered from all sexual information, only from the description of a husband and wife engaging in sensual activity… until the ripe ol’ age of 13!)
It gets worse, though. Go check out Ezekiel 23:20. I’ll let you know now, you’re probably not going to want to stencil this one on the wall for your wife, and you’re probably not going to see it on a mug in Lifeway anytime soon.
God’s not embarrassed. God’s not worried.
We don’t have to be, either.
Having smaller “talks” along the way doesn’t cheapen sex in any way. It’s still special. It’s still holy. And it’s still a gift from God for husbands and wives.
What I’ve heard from others, and seen in myself, is fear.
We’re afraid that we’re going to awaken something before it’s time.
We think our kids are going to turn into porn stars if we explain to them why one ladybug is on top of another ladybug.
That line of thinking isn’t just a little irrational. It’s ridiculous, and it goes against everything we know about good parenting.
We DO know that they’re going to find their private parts. Just like you did. Just like I did.
We need to be careful not to associate their private parts and their sexuality with shame, secrecy, or sin.
We need to communicate with our kids that they were created by God and that He calls them good. Private parts and all.
If we create a culture of shame or secrecy regarding sexuality, our kids aren’t going to feel safe enough to talk to us. They’ll think “Daddy will get mad if I ask ______.” Or “Mommy will act weird if I tell her ______.”
“Before I Was Born” is a book that Natalie and I bought to help guide the conversation we just had with our 8 year old. We didn’t even show him the book, but it helped us to get over the weirdness that we were feeling.
“Before I Was Born” is for ages 5-8 and I’m thankful we got it. It’s pushing me to have more conversations that I would needlessly delay. “Before I Was Born” is book two in the “God’s Design for Sex” series that goes into the teen years. This series is designed to help us parents as WE teach our kids about this important part of their lives.
You may read the book word-for-word to your child (as it’s designed to be read), or you may choose to read it on your own, then deliver the information in your own way. Here are all of the other books in the series if you’re interested:
Book 1: Ages 3-5 “The Story of Me”
Book 2: Ages 5-8 “Before I Was Born”
Book 3: Ages 8-11 “What’s the Big Deal?”
Book 4: Ages 11-14 “Facing the Facts: The Truth About Sex and You”
I recommend you get your hands on good resources, but more than that, I recommend you have regular conversations with your kids.
What advice do you have for talking with your kids about sex? How are you handling this important topic as a parent?
Disclosure: The links to the books are affiliate links. This means that when you click and buy the item from the link I gave you, Amazon sends me an affiliate commission. The price you pay isn’t affected at all. If you’re not cool with that, just search for the books on Amazon and my dog will go hungry. You monster.