5 Principles for Parents to Convey when Talking about Sex
The GOV team has a lot of experience ministering to people. After 12 years of equipping parents to convey a healthy message of sexuality to their children and speaking to youth about the same topic, we’ve learned a few things. One of those things is that a message about healthy sexuality goes a lot further when it comes from a larger context than just sex.
Sometimes when people come to GOV events for youth, they are surprised by the fact that we don’t spend the whole time on the more technical things like boundaries in dating or the danger of STDs, etc. It’s not that we don’t think that information is necessary, only that there is other information that is more pertinent to grasp first. Focusing on the technical details of what you should and should not do instead of grasping the larger picture first is kind of like drilling the entire rulebook into a little leaguer before he or she even understands the purpose of the game. If a coach were to do this, the poor kid probably wouldn’t want to play baseball by the end of it. If nothing else, he or she would choose NOT to play under the watchful eye of that coach.
Sadly, I think this happens more often than we care to admit. We spend so much time drilling the rules in that we fail to help kids understand the bigger, more glorious picture. You see, the bigger picture contains the reasons one would want to abide by the rules in the first place. Isn’t that what you want to communicate to your kids, Mom and Dad? Don’t you want to tell them the whole truth of God’s great design?
Below I’ve listed some principles we seek to convey when we speak to youth about sex. I hope they are useful to you as you speak to your own children.
1. God is a good father – Something that parents inherently understand is the desire to see their child succeed and experience the very best life he or she can have. In all the hundreds of parents I’ve ministered to over the years, I can’t recall a single one saying “Yeah…I just really want my kid to have a crummy life.” If we, as sinful and flawed people, feel this way about our children, imagine how God feels about us. Sometimes we fail to remember that God is so incredibly FOR us. He’s not sitting back waiting for us to get in trouble and foul things up so He can swoop down and discipline us. Instead, He’s actively working to help us and guide us. This applies to our sexuality as well. He wants us to experience the very best when it comes to sex, which is why He gives us guidelines surrounding it.
2. God’s design is very good – Despite popular opinion that has historically circulated in the church (and especially in western culture), sex is good. Sexuality is good. The desire to experience sex has been built into us by God. There is nothing shameful or wrong about this desire. The way He made men and women to be different is good. If you look into the brain chemistry that happens when a man and woman have sex, you can see God designed sex for marriage. The beautiful thing about teaching children about sex in our day and age is that science is starting to catch up with the word of God, and we are seeing why God gave us the guidelines He did in His word.
3. You have an important calling – God has a specific job for you to do in this life. He doesn’t waste a single life and He’s not partial (IE: one person’s calling isn’t more important than another person’s). What you do MATTERS. What you do with your sexuality MATTERS and affects whether or not you are able to fulfill your calling – more than you may realize.
4. You are not what they say about you on MTV. And neither is sex – there are a lot of messages directed at kids (especially teenagers) that essentially tell them that there is no way they’re going to be able to control themselves. So they might as well do what feels good. Furthermore, sex is nothing special and EVERYONE is doing it. If we can deceive ourselves into thinking that sex can be casual and it’s not that big of a deal, we are severely selling ourselves short. Sex is a big deal – God designed it that way and deep down everyone wants it to be that way – so when we treat it casually, we are missing out on the original intention behind it. It’s like settling for a pineapple-flavored piece of candy when we could have had real pineapple instead. We need to tell our kids not to believe everything they hear and see! More importantly, we need to teach them how to recognize when the enemy’s trying to deceive them.
5. It’s not a one-shot deal – Doing things right in the area of sexuality is not a pass-fail test. If you “mess up”, you’re not condemned; you can turn around from your choices and choose again God’s direction. When Christ died on the cross for us, He died for all our sin – including sexual sin.
One final note about that last principle: I know it’s tempting to leave that one out when you talk to your bright-eyed adolescent who has no sexual experience. There is the fear that they will hear everything you’re saying about God’s design for sex and then go “Well, I guess I have room to screw up here” as soon as you mention that last one. But this would be immature thinking on our part. It does no good to tell kids about sex and then cause them – by omitting this part – to think if they don’t get it right they’ll end up damaged goods. Sexuality is complex. Kids need to know there is grace and that yes, this is a big deal, but they also have a very big, able God who is willing to help them navigate. The last thing you want is for your kids to make decisions about sex out of a mindset of fear. What you want instead is to equip your kids with the truth and have them make decisions out of love and wisdom.
– Megan Briggs