The cold and blustery conditions outside this morning as I write this post remind me of one of the most memorable and precious times I’ve had as a father. It was 14 years ago when my now 21-year-old son was 7. We were living in Springfield, Missouri in a house that sat perched on a hill with a long driveway leading up to it. 12 inches of snow had fallen the night before preceded by rain, leaving a thick layer of ice underneath the snow.
Our job that day, and for the two days after that, was to clear our driveway. Schools and businesses were closed so we had a rare and unique opportunity to hang out together for hours. I felt this was the perfect time to introduce my son to the wonderful and mysterious subject of sex. My own father had neglected to have these types of conversations with me and I was determined to take this initiative with my kids; not a one-time talk, but rather, an on-going dialogue for the rest of their lives. So, as we embarked on the long and tiring task of clearing that driveway, I began to unfold the story, the wonder, and the biology of sex to my son.
I explained to him that God speaks about sex positively and frequently from Genesis to Revelation beginning with our creation as sexual beings (Genesis 1:27), and that God blessed the sexual union between a husband and wife from the outset (Genesis 1:28; 2:24). AtpureHOPE, we sum up the meaning of sex as “The Four P’s” which may help guide your conversations. I would also encourage you to study these and other verses related to sexuality.
Pleasure – Yes, we need to inform our kids that God intended sex to be pleasurable (Song of Solomon 7:6-10).
Procreation – God blessed the sexual union of a husband and wife and instructed them to be fruitful and increase in number (Genesis 1:28).
Protection – Ongoing sexual intimacy between a husband and wife strengthens their relationship and guards against temptations outside of the marriage (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
Proclamation – Fidelity in marriage proclaims the faithfulness and steadfast love of Jesus for his Church (Ephesians 5:25-32). The story of sex is ultimately the story of God’s love for his people.
It is always fascinating to me as I tell that story of my conversation with my 7 year old the reactions that I get. Some are appalled that I would start so young. Others, as if to acknowledge their identification with my story of not having had these conversations with their Dad, affirm that they wish someone had talked to them that early.
I do not claim to know the best age for you to begin having these conversations with your kids, I just know that too many of us either wait too long to start or never start at all. So, I would like to suggest some helpful tips to inspire you to jump into this topic:
1. Be Proactive. Ask yourself this question: “When does our culture begin talking to our kids about sex?” Sex education is happening today with my kids and with your kids. We can either make the choice to join in on the conversation or let the culture do all the talking.
2. Be Intentional. These conversations rarely just happen. These conversations are rarely comfortable. We must make a plan and be willing to engage with our kids purposefully when it comes to their sexuality and God’s “better story” of sex.
3. Be Available. We need to become our kids’ go-to person when it comes to questions about sex. Kids are curious and they will get the answers they are looking for – would you rather be that person or leave it to their friends, the media, or Hollywood? Let your kids know that they can always ask you any question, that they will never be in trouble for asking you questions, and that you will always be honest with them.
4. Be Vulnerable. So many Dads hesitate to talk with their kids about this issue because of shame or guilt over their own past sexual mistakes. Many Dads fear this question from their kids: “How did you do, Dad?” It has been helpful to share with my kids that I made some mistakes. There are some things that I did that were wrong and led to consequences and pain in my life that I want to help them avoid. I also serve a Redeemer, who forgives me and restores me. Our love for our kids motivates us to guide them to learn from our mistakes and to let them know that if and when they make mistakes that God is a God of forgiveness and grace and that he redeems and restores! 1 John 3:3 tells us that he (Jesus) is the one who is purifying us. If we have a relationship with him then it is he who will make us pure.
5. Be Persuasive. Our culture tells a story of sex to our kids. It is estimated that our kids are subjected to 14,000 sexualized messages every year from various media sources. Our culture is loud and persuasive when it comes to telling their story. We must counter that story with God’s better story: his story of sex.
Dads, be encouraged! You have what it takes because God has given us his Holy Spirit who will help us have these conversations. You have the better story to tell. Tell it loudly, tell it often and tell it with confidence. We need this generation to embrace God’s story of sex and it will only happen if we step up and engage our kids in these conversations.
Check out purehope.net for more ideas or to download a free copy of our booklet: Parenting in a Sexualized Culture.
Dan Martin is the Director of Parenting for pureHOPE and speaks to thousands of parents every year on the topic of biblical sexuality and how to equip kids to pursue purity amidst a sexualized culture. Dan and his wife, Kathie, live in the Dallas area and have three children.