Rite of passage parenting: The birds, the bees and ohhh me!
A man was helping one of his cows give birth when he noticed his 4-year-old son standing at the fence, wide-eyed. The man thought, “Great. He’s only 4, and I’m gonna have to start explaining the birds and bees. No need to jump the gun—I’ll just let him ask.”
Afterwards, he approached the little boy. “Do you have any questions?”
“Just one,” gasped the still wide-eyed lad. “How fast was the calf going when he hit the cow?”
I wish all questions were as easy to answer.
Most parents dread the idea of having “the talk” with their children. They ask me questions like these: “When do we begin to talk to our children about sex?,” “How much do we tell them?,” “How can we keep our kids away from sexual messages?” and more.
When it comes to talking to their children about sex, parents need the wisdom of Solomon, the boldness of Daniel and the patience of Job. Many of us parents have trouble with this topic because we grew up in a more innocent time. When I was a boy, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo slept in different beds, and when she became great with child, no one was allowed to say the word pregnant on television. Sexuality wasn’t openly discussed, plastered on giant billboards or streamed across the television screen every 30 seconds.
But times have changed. Thanks to the Internet and other high-speed means of communication, we find our children exposed to sexual content early on. Not since the days of Sodom and Gomorrah has a generation seen so much so soon. So how can you prepare for your children’s questions about sex?
First, talk to them early and often. It’s never too late to begin discussing the things in their world. When talking about this topic with your children, avoid slang or street jargon. Use the proper names for body parts. Give straight answers to straight questions. And when your child asks a question concerning sex, recognize it as a God-given opportunity to communicate His perspective.
Second, especially as your children get older, answer these questions as a team. If possible, both parents should sit down together to discuss sexuality with their children. A father should explain to his daughter that men are aroused by sight and why the way a girl dresses can affect young men. A mother should explain to her son how the monthly menstrual cycle affects a woman’s body and emotions. This approach gives a child a healthier self-image and a more well-rounded view of sexuality.
Third, take the initiative. If you’re waiting around for the big day of the father-son or mother-daughter talk, you’re already too late. Starting at an early age, my wife and I had progressive talks with our sons about this important topic. When they were 5 years old or so, we discussed correct terms for body parts. At around age 7 to 8, we talked about how babies were created and born. By 9 to 11 years, we discussed the fact that sexual feelings are normal and natural. By 12 to 13, our sons understood that they must take responsibility for their own sexuality. My wife and I also took advantage of opportunities as they arose. Rock Hudson’s death from AIDS, for example, gave us the opportunity to talk to our sons about homosexuality.
In other words, our discussions didn’t take place all on one day. We had many days of talking about different aspects of sexuality, each building upon the other.
Fourth, model a healthy attitude about sexuality. While growing up, many of us heard the message that sexual intercourse was bad or dirty. But God created sex as part of His plan for populating the Earth and for giving a husband and wife intimate pleasure. Children need to see their parents holding hands, hugging and being affectionate. Sex only becomes cheap when exercised outside of God’s holy purpose and plan.
Fifth, use God’s Word to guide and guard your children’s sexuality. You won’t find a better sex education manual. The Bible is filled with stories of people who paid a price for sexual impurity: Samson, Solomon, David and the woman at the well. As you discuss this topic, take time to read 1 Thess. 4:1-8, Eph. 5 and Heb. 13:1-4. As your children mature, help them to develop a written biblical standard for their sexuality.
When it comes to sex, your children will get information from somewhere. Make sure they feel free to get it from you.
Now, let me see—how fast do you think that cow was going, anyway?