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When Parents Talk with Their Kids About God's Design for Sex

Updated: Feb 14


Family Talking

Last fall, I invited parents to share what they are experiencing as they try to raise children to follow God’s design for sex. In other words, what really goes on in homes that try to be proactive?


The stories shared below are from families who have had discussions about God’s design for sex with their kids. These accounts give us a window into what it looks like when parents open the door to talking with their kids about sex.


The Families

Over half of the families who responded were homeschooled families, but we also heard from families who send their children to private Christian schools and public schools. All who responded are Christian parents.


The Responses

I am giving you the unfiltered responses we received from parents. In some cases, I occasionally add text in [square brackets] to clarify what the parent has written after contacting them to be sure I understood what they were saying.  


Please let go of any judgment that may arise. The parents are just trying to figure this out, like you. The kids you will read about are being influenced by culture, even when homeschooled, just like your kids are. These responses give a glimpse into the reality families face today.


Question: When it comes to guiding your children in the area of God's design for sex, what are you facing as a parent that you did not expect or did not expect this soon? 

Answers:

  • What I did not expect was the number of close friends of mine, even some that have mentored and discipled us in our faith, just giving their kids phones without restrictions at 13-15 years old. Repeatedly, I have been told they are doing this because they want their kids to learn how to use it while still under their roof. I did not expect so many parents to be proud of the fact that their kids are able to quickly swipe past [sexual] content when it comes up on their feed. Kids are being so desensitized to porn. I didn't realize that I would have such a starkly different view of what even qualifies as pornographic content compared to other parents. 

  • [As a result of these conversations with my kids] I saw a new confidence in my oldest daughter that wasn’t there before.

  • First, we never thought we would be dealing with exposure to pornography when our son was twelve. As parents, we kept putting off talking about sex with our son who was probably appropriately curious at that age. After learning of his exposure, we did not expect dealing with the consequences would take years to recover from, especially for our teen son who struggles with talking about his feelings/emotions.  

  • Honestly, I expected most of what we are seeing our boys come in contact with since my husband was one of three boys also. What I didn't expect is to have lost the bond we had when they were little, that allowed them to ask all the questions and for us to have deep conversations on a whim. Somewhere in the time between 4th grade and Middle school they don't want to talk anymore. I didn’t expect that happening as quickly as it did.

  • I thought we had covered porn and masturbation and the devastation it causes, and I thought we had a good working relationship that our son would tell us if and when it came up (since he had once before) so I was surprised when we found out he had begun looking at porn and masturbating. Since discovery, we have had really good talks and great learning opportunities. I am not sure how we could have better prepared him, and yet his first instinct was to hide. So it felt like I had failed him. 

  • My son switched from thinking girls are nasty and saying ewww… to really openly and boldly saying he is flirting with girls. He calls it “Rizz” and said he views it as a sport that is not that serious. I want to help him see the danger associated with that train of thought and the increased chance of falling prey and not maintaining a level of holiness. I wanted him to be honest, but it was hard to hear his honesty because I wanted to ensure his thoughts and behavior were God-honoring.  

  • My daughter got her period for the first time. I was shocked and not sure how to respond as a father. Glad I was able to tag, and my wife took the lead.  

  • My young son [did not own but] had access to a cell phone with no restrictions. He fell prey and searched for nude butts of women.  

  • I did not expect the exposure to be so early, especially with “innocent” apps. Our son was exposed to [sexualized] images at seven years old on a popular shopping online app.  He would ask to see the app to buy cards, but at some point, he began to see [sexualized] images. We were baffled when our algorithms started changing knowing that neither one of us were searching [the things we were seeing come up in our apps]. A regular shopping app turned into a semi-porn app right before our eyes.  

  • Hearing my kids talking about “balls” and laughing at phallic-shaped items. Wouldn’t say I’m surprised, but maybe didn’t expect it quite so soon [age seven].

  • We were sending our kids to a private school and imagined that gave our kids some kind of buffer from sexual content, but that did not protect them. 

  • My oldest son was introduced to pornography by a neighbor next door at age ten. Instead of feeling we prepared well, we found ourselves responding after the fact and thinking, “Oh, snap, we’re late to the game!” My encouragement to other parents is to address it earlier than you think, which we have done with our younger two.


Question: What is a question your kid asked, or that has come up that you felt unprepared to answer or respond to? 

Answers:

  • My 15-year-old recently had a friend who was given a phone one year ago. Within a few months, this friend has shaved her head, started dressing like a boy, and has become outspokenly pro-choice and pro-transgender. While my daughter, husband, and I have had many conversations about abortion and transgenderism, I was unprepared how to navigate my daughter's questions of how to talk with her friend about these areas. 

  • This answer is not so much something my kid asked that we felt unprepared; rather, we were unprepared for how we would react as parents when first learning about our kid's exposure. Looking back, our reaction made our son feel like [it was his fault he had been exposed] and this led to feelings of shame.

  • Why is flirting wrong? What’s the harm in it? It’s just a sport; what’s the big deal?

  • Once we opened the door to the conversation, I expected some weird things to come up and they have come up. My kids asked about sexual toys and sexual games they had heard other kids mention. My daughter keeps asking about what would make a girl pregnant. Discussions about masturbation. This established a whole new trust that my kids feel comfortable asking questions about sexuality. We tell our kids, to have these questions is not sin, it’s curiosity, and that’s okay, especially if you bring it to us.


Question: What is one of your greatest fears/concerns about the near future for your child in the area of sexual integrity?

Answers:

  • I am concerned with the tech illiteracy of parents. I see families afraid of legalism go the opposite extreme and allow no rules. I see families who watch only G or PG rate movies yet give their Jr. High kids a smartphone. I see them setting rules like "no phones in the bedrooms or bathrooms" and thinking that is enough. [As a kid] I was able to access pornographic content on a desktop set up in the middle of my living room in high school.

  • How my oldest will do when she goes off into the world.

  • That my son will never be able to share his struggles with us and that he wants to maintain an image that he is "good" to others.

  • [What they might do] once they are out of the house and making all their own decisions.

  • My son is a senior [and will go away to college] so he will be taking the reins in his purity journey, and it still feels like a lot to throw at him.

  • One of the biggest fears is having to watch them make their own decisions and fight their own battles in this area. As much training and preparation the fight is theirs and they have to know how to lean on God to help get them through. I pray and have faith, but know how real the struggle can be.  

  • Currently, our children do not have access to social media. As they get older more and more of their friends are starting to have social media and their desire to socialize virtually increases. My fear is when we no longer have control of what is on their phones (as an 18-year-old) that this world would suck them in and dirty their minds. 

  • Concerned about how to appropriately guide children around pornography concerns. Not afraid to talk about it, but was never guided well, so feel ill-prepared.

  • That they would turn to some form of pornography or sexuality as a reliever for the stress and hurts of culture. That my quiet kid will hide struggles rather than talk about it. That when they are older teens they will turn from what we’ve taught and get involved in sexual behavior. The challenges my kids face in the promotion of trans culture around them.


Question: Share a positive story or situation related to teaching your kids about a subject in this area.

Answers:

  • My 15-year-old has asked not to get a phone.

  • After reading Good Pictures/Bad Pictures my one daughter approached me (a few days later) to let me know she had seen pornography. [She had seen underwear models in Walmart and considered that pornography]. Even if what she saw was rather mild, I was really proud that she told us right away!

  • [Our son was exposed to porn early, and we’ve been working on helping him process that for some time.] Sometimes it feels like we are moving forward in slow motion, but the good news is that after three years, my son had a small breakthrough. He was able to share with me [that the way I reacted to his confession of viewing porn] made him worry that I don’t love him. [As much as that hurt to hear, I was happy he was able to talk to me about what he was feeling so we could work through it].

  • Anytime they come home and tell me they came across something that I have warned them about. I've seen pride in my son's eyes when they tell me they confronted other kids after hearing them joking about pornography or sexually objectifying others. I was so proud that they were spiritually and emotionally ready to take that kind of thing on. That’s a good feeling.

  • As sad as it may be when my teenage son struggles with pornography, it is a real blessing when he comes to me unsolicited and asks if I can help block or remove an app. I feel he both values my support and that he has a real desire to move away from porn.

  • When my wife approached our son because we thought he was seeking out sexual images, he shared honestly what he looked at. We shared honestly our heart's desire that he would protect his innocence. Not many 12/13 old boys would openly be able to have a conversation so candid about sex, porn, masturbation, and how God is involved in it all. This was a praise report that we all felt safe enough to share.  

  • We have an open-door policy when it comes to discussing sexual matters. We talk about it very nonchalantly, as we do not want it to be taboo in our household. We share age-appropriate stories applicable to things they encounter or could come across. 

  • We started reminding our son [age eight] that how he and I [dad] treat his younger sister gives her a framework of how she should be treated by other men in her life. I think it’s starting to set in for him, and I think she has a relatively good idea of a healthy relationship.

  • It’s not one story, it’s a trust. It’s my kids asking all kinds of questions about sexuality that comes from a comfort and trust that did not exist 4-5 years ago, before we started talking about sex. It is good to her them getting off their chest their own insecurities about body development, questions about sex, and so on. Having these conversations has opened up trust, comfort, and laughter about awkward situations and helped us grow and mature as a family.


What Have We Learned?

Here are four takeaways from these brave parents who were honest about what their families have experienced:


  • Sharing with your kids sooner is safer. This is more evidence that kids often get exposed to sexualized media, stories, and ideas much younger than parents expect. The parents who shared their experiences and addressed topics of pornography and sexual behavior early were more likely for their kids to come to them when they were exposed.

  • Kids will be affected by culture. Even in the healthiest home environment, kids are still affected by the culture around them, creating confusion and misinformed understandings about sexuality. Rather than worry about this, parents can be ready to discuss how their kids understand what healthy relationships and sexuality look like.

  • Celebrate the unexpected questions. When kids feel safe, they will ask questions about sexuality that may shock a parent. This is not something to worry about but to celebrate if it happens. These questions run through every kid’s head, but most take those questions to older kids or Google. If your child asks you a really awkward question about sex, that means you have made them feel safe enough to do so. That is a good thing!

  • The bond is the payoff. Families that talk regularly with their kids about sex experience more trust between parents and kids. The very thing that many parents fear will create strain between them and their kid—talking about sex—does the opposite; it creates comfort. Sex is very personal, and when we talk about personal things together, that creates a sense of bonding.


This is what it looks like when parents do talk with their kids about sex and pornography. It does get messy at times, but that is true of anything that is worth doing. All of these parents believe talking to their kids about sex is worth it.




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