When and How to Start
The topic of sex education has been heavily debated over the last few years. I live in the province of Ontario in Canada. The [2014-2018] government in our province introduced a sex education curriculum that was highly controversial for a variety of reasons. The [2018-current] government has recently made decisions to reverse the sex education curriculum to an older version – also a controversial decision. At the heart of the debate is who, what, and when our kids should be taught about sex and sexuality.
For me, this issue is far older than any particular sex education curriculum. I really believe if you are a parent, you need to take the primary responsibility for teaching your children about sex and sexuality. I have had many fathers come up to me and ask when and how they should start. There are many layers to this conversation, but today I want to look at this question.
1. Whether or not you realize it – You’ve already started.
From the earliest stages of your child’s life, you have started to communicate about sex. The words you use to describe their body parts is communicating about sex. The way you relate with your spouse or with other people are also communicating messages about sexuality. The movies you watch and the websites you visit – your kids are also watching (even if you don’t think they are).
It is important for parents to discuss the message about sex they want their lives to communicate. If you are Christian parents, it is even more important to discuss the message God wants your life to communicate. The Bible teaches sex is a beautiful gift from God as an expression of intimacy between a husband and wife. The human body is wonderfully made – every part of the body. These messages are a good place to start.
2. You have competition for this message.
Your children are surrounded with opportunities to be exposed to sexual messages. When your children turn on the television, walk through the grocery store, or open a website they can be exposed to sexual messages. The curriculum of the school your children are attending will also influence their thinking. According to a recent article from the Huffington Post, children on average are first exposed to pornography by the age of 11. A Statistics Canada report released in 2017 said that 8% of Canadian adults (12% of women) experienced childhood sexual abuse. All of these realities communicate messages to your children.
3. Try and stay one step ahead.
When our children were attending elementary school, there were two playgrounds. The older children (Grade 6-8) played on a different playground than the other children. I became a student of what the school would teach our children, and I became a student of when kids are usually exposed to more explicit sexual conversations. The two playgrounds became a defining moment for us.
We wanted our children to formally know about sexual intercourse and conceiving of babies before they reached the “older kids playground.” We did not want them to find out about sex from some student in Grade 8 who knew nothing themselves.
4. Be prepared.
You may be asked questions by your children before you are ready to start the conversation, so you better be prepared.
My wife and I took a trip to Las Vegas a few years ago. As we were walking down the Las Vegas strip one night, there was a family walking in front of us. In the evenings, there are people handing out what look like hockey or baseball cards to everyone. Except they aren’t hockey or baseball cards – they are cards promoting escort services. One person actually put a card in the hands of a young boy in the family in front of us. Mom took the card away immediately, but the son asked her, “what is an escort?” Her answer, “ask your father.” Dad was not ready for this.
I recognize most people won’t bring their children to Vegas, but these conversations can happen before you want them to, so always be ready and be honest.
5. Be honest in an age appropriate way.
When it came time to have the conversation with our kids, we were honest with them. We did not go into every explicit detail, but we gave them the truth about how the mechanics of sex work. We told them this was God’s gift for a married couple – that it feels great and that it can result in a baby being created.
Yes, my kids were pretty grossed out when they found out how they came to be a person. I took responsibility to talk to our sons and Shannon talked to our daughter. I probably did not do it as well as I could have. When I spoke with them, I was driving in a car on the highway going 100 km/h plus, just so they couldn’t escape. We were just convinced we wanted to set the tone before others could.
Teaching your kids about sex is something to take seriously. Sex is a powerful part of the human existence. It has the potential for much harm or much good – and God wants us to honour Him with our bodies. There are various Christian books you can search for online that will help you communicate in age appropriate ways. Don’t let others set the standard – it can be awkward, but it’s worth you taking the lead.