This post continues our series on talking to your children about marriage and sex. As we discussed in the previous post, specific topics that need to be addressed should be introduced incrementally.
One way to begin this incremental process is to talk about modesty. Granted, each family will likely have its own particular view of what is modest, but all families interested in following biblical principles will be concerned about modesty. Modesty, like all other guidelines, must be rooted in biblical soil to effectively point your children to Christ. In I Timothy 2, modesty is tied to a lifestyle that is appropriate for those who worship God. Paul is, in effect, stating that modesty is consistent with moral purity and marriage. Thus, when you instruct your young children to dress and act with modesty, you should also connect this standard to loving God and preparing for marriage. Even with very young children you can explain that there are certain parts of the body that are special and reserved for one’s husband or wife alone.
The same way of thinking also applies to physical contact and affection. Affectionate physical contact is special. While is it good and appropriate for immediate family members to show physical affection for each other, it should be stressed that even this contact must be done with modesty in mind. Affectionate contact that includes kissing, touching and holding beyond the standards of biblical modesty set by your family is to be reserved for marriage. Aggressive, consistent teaching in these two areas–modesty and physical contact–will prepare both you and your children for the more intimate details required when discussing the particulars of sexuality.
Because of the overt sexual themes of our culture, talking about specific sexual sins at increasingly younger ages is essential, though perhaps regrettable. Gay marriage, oral sex, hot bodies and similar expressions are now a part of daily life and conversations. Terms such as these may appear in commercials or news programs at any time during the day. Your elementary school children will hear them at school, on the play ground, or even at church. As a parent, you must make it your concern to know what your children are hearing when you are not around. This is not as difficult to do as you might think. You can talk with teachers who teach children the age of your children and find out what they hear being discussed. Ask older siblings or children in your church what things are being discussed by children similar in age to yours. Listen carefully to the conversations your children have with other kids. Find out what TV programs and movies your children’s friends are watching and watch them yourself occasionally. Listen carefully to your children and encourage them to discuss with you the things they see and hear. By being faithful in this area you will learn what your kids are being exposed to. This will tell you what you need to address with them, and when. If your eight-year-old child is hearing about oral sex (and he very well may be) he needs to hear from you how he should process this information. If you have been careful to talk about biblical guidelines for modesty and physical contact, you will already have a context for this discussion. You can then say that oral sex is a form of kissing that is inappropriate outside of marriage, and it is unwise for your child to be a part of conversations where this is talked about. This discussion also connects to the topic of friendship: What is pleasing to God in everyday life? With whom should we spend our time? To whom should we pay attention? This is a necessary application of following the directives of Deuteronomy 6:4-7. Your goal here is to have your children arrive at the point where the instruction of Proverbs 6:20-24 becomes reality for them. These two passages are two sides of the same coin. On the one side, you want to be talking to your children about God in everyday life situations. The other side of the coin is for your children buy into your teaching so that it speaks to them when you are not with them. This process is what I mean by an incremental approach. But there does come the time when you will begin to bring all of these things together in a more intentional (though still ongoing) conversation about sexuality. For most children, this intentional phase should occur between ages 10 and 12. Because of the ubiquitous sexual bent of our culture, it would be unwise to wait longer than this time frame if you want to have credibility with your children. The intentional discussion definitely should occur before the onset of puberty for both boys and girls. It is not a good thing for children to begin to experience biological changes in their body and not have a biblical, loving context in which to place them. This time frame means that you should prepare for a number of intentional discussions about sexuality and marriage, taking place over a period of a few months. These discussions would then form the foundation for future talks about sexuality and marriage with your children until they become married. The topics you want to discuss in these intentional discussions would cover:
Understanding that puberty is part of God’s plan for preparing for marriage.
The anatomical changes that occur with puberty.
How these changes are preparing the body for sexual activity in marriage.
Modest, discreet descriptions of what happens in sexual intercourse.
The role of sexual intercourse in:
Intimacy and pleasure
Expression of unity in the one flesh relationship
Worship of God
How loving and fearing God impacts sexual attraction
How to begin loving the husband or wife that God will bring in the future
Having intentional discussions about these topics will benefit you and your children as you live life for his glory and honor.
In the next post we will address some particulars about what to say in these conversations.