This weekend, I had discussion about condoms with someone who said, “I got them at my daughter’s high school. They have a bowl of them in the nurse’s room.” I must have had a funny look on my face because she immediately follow this up with, “I agree with them giving them out! She’s just going to do it anyway. Better safe than sorry.”
I’m going to tell you folks, my heart broke when I heard that. The discussion stayed with me for a few days, as I mulled over the things I knew and believed, and my own internal debates over the years as I have progressed from engaged mom to engaged Christian mom.
Th is what I came to realize:
- For those of us who parents before we became Christians, and who were also sexually active before marriage, there is a kind of difficulty. You don’t want your child to make the same mistakes you did, but you do want them to have a healthy sex life. You don’t want to share the intimate details of your bad sexual choices, but you do want to be honest. Many of these parents probably feel, as I once did, that anything less then endorsing what you yourself did is hypocritical.
- For new Christian parents, this is a huge dilemma. You want your child to make good choices, but as she’s getting older, you’re uncertain how to proceed. And maybe in the past you’ve said that extramarital sex, as long as your partner is not married and ….<insert justification here, i.e., you’re “in love”) … is ok. Besides, you did and you turned out fine. Let her live her life. Perhaps you don’t really see your past actions as sins (yet).
- For more learned Christians, your mind is made up and you want to re-teach the errors you taught in the past, but you are uncertain how to do that. What do you say about a past that didn’t leave you too scarred but God convicted you was a sin?
Whew. Ok, I feel like I’ve been through each and every stage of this but NOW I feel like I’ve come out on the right side of what I should be saying and doing to help my children.
The Problem With “She’ll Do It Anyway”
I realize that we live in a scary and challenging world. It’s pulling your child from every direction and, in fact, they are getting terribly mixed messages: “Wear plunging necklines” vs. “Breastfeeding in public is disgusting.” “Don’t overindulge or drink & drive” vs. “nothing that happens to you while you’re passed out drunk/high is your fault.” “Look sexy and provocative and flaunt it!” vs. “men are pigs for lusting women.”
And here’s another: “I want my daughter to be safe, secure and empowered” vs. “but when it comes to sex, she’ll do whatever.”
I am NOT telling you to avoid teaching your child about birth control and sex. My mother left this out as she was raising and it hurt me in many ways. I made some really poor and stupid choices. God must have been watching over me, because I made it out of my youth unharmed and unscathed, although with an unhealthy attitude about sex. So PLEASE DO teach your child about sex and birth control. It’s an important responsibility.
What I AM telling is you to teach your child your values. You must. For those of you who are on the fence with this topic, I want you to go back in time and imagine your mother tosses condoms at you, saying, “Well, I know you’re going to have sex anyway, so here.” And maybe she did do that. The question is, How does that make you feel?
What we say is not necessarily what kid’s actually hear. I know if Mom had said that to me, I’d have felt like she just gave up on me. I can imagine kids – boys AND girls – thinking any of these things:
- “Well, then I can do anything I want.”
- “Cool, no rules for me.”
- “As long as I have a condom, I’m protected all the time from everything.”
- “So then it’s true, I have to have sex to get anyone to like me. Even Mom agrees.”
- “Sex is part of growing up.”
You’re probably thinking, “My kid knows better.” And I hope he or she does. But even though it was forever ago, I remember being a teen. I remember my immature thought patterns, mixed up with my hopped up hormones. I thought all the wrong things at the least provocation from anything my parents said. My mind was expert at twisting anything to support either my desires or my low self-esteem – sometimes both.
The fact is, this sentence is defeatist parenting. You’ve decided that you have zero impact on the actions of your child at this age and in this time, and so you’re just giving up.
Conquering Defeatist Parenting
If this is you, I don’t want you to give up so quickly as you raise your child. I hope that this helps you. Here’s a few things you should consider before you endorse anything sexual for your child.
Kids Are Listening To Us
The old saw says that kids don’t listen to their parents, but that’s just not true. They do listen and value your words. Even if they rebel a bit, most eventually come back to the wisdom you taught them.
That is, if what you are teaching them IS wisdom, if it’s honest and it’s not contradictory. As a Christian, my wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit and Scripture. And I can only teach what I know, understand and believe. Do I mess up? I sure do, but I am grateful that I have given my kids the basic tools to learn about their bodies and safeguarding against inappropriate advances even if they struggle to communicate.
Don’t Fool Yourself
While it’s fine to believe that right precautions can protect your child from the consequences of sex, there is still great risk associated with it. After all, condoms break, birth control pills can be missed, IUDs fail, and the HPV vaccine* doesn’t even cover every sexually transmitted type of HPV, much less other STDs. And that doesn’t even cover the poor choices a growing mind can make, particularly if they are under the influence of drugs, alcohol or that old teenager enemy, peer pressure.
Fix Yourself First
Before you talk with your children about sex, first you need to get right with yourself. Of course, if you are a Christian, you need to confront your past with God’s wisdom. Just because you sinned before you came to faith, or even after, doesn’t mean that God cannot make it right or correct your wrong thinking.
Yes, I said “wrong thinking.” For years after becoming a Christian, I struggled with my past with my husband – before we were married. I always looked at what, when and how we did what we did as female empowerment. It’s a hard myth for Christian women to break, but God broke it in me. Only He can change your mindset on sex. Now I know that those things I did were wrong, but I equally don’t have excess guilt about the things I didn’t understand were wrong at the time. God can do all this work in your heart if you let Him.
How To Do Honest Talk
You may be thinking, “But I did it before marriage. Am I supposed to lie to my kids?” Hold up, there. First of all, you and your husband keep your sex life private from your kids, right? How is this any different? You don’t have to give the kids your lexicon of premarital sin, but you can choose to select key turning points, truths learned, or any overarching “wrong thinking” you had.
Secondly, this is a good opportunity to teach your kids a few key things:
- Human values are not necessarily God’s values. Just because a things “feels” right doesn’t mean it is. Christian kids need to know that only God can teach them right and wrong …through the offices of their parents at first, then through others, through Scripture, through trials, etc.
- We all make mistakes. I hate to break it to you, but your kids already know you mess up plenty. Just the other day, Amelia told off her dad for saying a bad word – respectfully, I might add. He couldn’t fault her for that. So if you think you can’t admit your mistakes to your kids, think again. They already know you’re a sinner.
- Change can happen. We teach our kids about Jesus and how to be more Christlike, but only God can make that happen. And that’s the point – God CAN make that happen. The world teaches that people can’t change (I’m looking at you, troll song from “Frozen“). And I’m not saying our nature or design fundamentally changes. We all have sin nature, saved or unsaved, and we all are designed with certain talents and traits that God gave us. But hearts CAN AND DO change, when Jesus comes into your life and still more as you grow in Him.
- God’s design for sex. You can use your failures to highlight how and why God gifted humans with sex (because it sure is a gift!!) and how to move forward on the right track, even if they have started off on the wrong foot.
Resources for Teaching About Sex For Christian Parents who Are Struggling
I’d LOVE to tell you I have this all worked out and have taught my girls how to karate flip anyone who tries to put a hand up their skirt, but I’m still working on conveying this all to kids who struggle with communication and behavior. That said, I do my best. A big part of all this are the resources I’ve used over the years for my kids. Here are some tools that can help you (these are my affiliate links):
- More Than Just the Talk: Becoming Your Kids’ Go-To Person About Sex is hands-down the first guide you need, no matter where you are in your struggle. It covers uncomfortable topics with an encouraging “You can do this!” perspective. Read my review in “How to Talk to Your Child With Special Needs About Sex.”
- This book is for young adults. You may want to read it and pass it along to your older child:
The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating
- Raising Girls of Faith: Sex, Virginity and “Waiting“: This blog post shows how I’m teaching my kids. Want a tool you can use to do a Bible study on sex? I found these very effective, with big, clear images and all examples from the Bible. My kids totally got it but targeted for kids ages 6-10:The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality
There are more books in this series. For kids ages 8-12:
Changes: 7 Biblical Lessons to Make Sense of Puberty
And for ages 11-14:
Relationships: 11 Lessons to Give Kids a Greater Understanding of Biblical Sexuality
- Passport2Purity® Getaway Kit by FamilyLife – Version 3 is a series of CDs for you to listen to with your children. Read my review. It’s designed to be used during a long car trip with kids of one sex.
- And here are all my posts on raising disabled daughters through puberty in one place.
Healing Resources for Adults
Now if you yourself are struggling with sex and discovering how it can be pure, I also have some grown up recommendations:
The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex: (And You Thought Bad Girls Have All the Fun) covers all, and I mean ALL, the questions and adult woman is afraid to ask about sex and God. Actually there are one or two things I don’t agree with, but overall very good. Read my review.
And if any Christian woman out there is troubled still by “50 Shades of Gray”, OR thinks it’s “OK” as a guilty pleasure, please read Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart. Read my review.
Your Child’s Values About Sex Rely On You
Here’s the thing. The enemy totally wants you to have a defeatist attitude. He is counting on you saying “better safe than sorry” and avoiding the hard discussions with your child – and by hard, I mean not just sex, but also rape, date rape, porn, abortion, sanctity of life, etc.. Your job is to teach your child values. It’s not easy – it’s frightening and challenging, but it’s your duty.
If you don’t teach your child what’s right, the world will quickly and convincingly run in and teach what’s wrong. That is exactly what happened to me, and it caused untold sin and pain. (No, I’m not blaming my mom. I was a smart kid but I used it to pursue the world’s truth.) That’s true if you have a boy or a girl, if your child is disabled or gifted or neither, if your child can talk wisely or not speak at all.
*We don’t endorse this vaccine, nor any other and encourage parents to do their own research on the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, over and above what doctors and government agencies tell you.