I have three teenagers at home, and l just want to start out by saying that I can’t offer you a magic conversation or a 3-step guaranteed process for your kids to grow up with a healthy and biblical view of sexuality. 

My husband and I are learning as we stumble along. I’m certain my kids don’t know everything they should know, and they likely have unresolved questions.  

But I can tell you that in our imperfect parenting, we have to talk to them. Parents, we must be our kids’ primary source of information and instruction about sex. And we should also be aware of and authorize other sources of input in their lives (like youth leaders, older Christian friends, good books, blogs, etc.).

Be aware

First, some stark realities to give us a feel for the situation:

  1. Many Christian parents have a distorted view of sex. 

Just because we’re believers and have a decent marriage doesn’t mean we look at sex through a healthy, biblical lens. And we simply cannot communicate what we don’t know or give correct instruction without the right information. 

Our children will not consider something beautiful that their parents see— 

  • as dirty
  • as a tool for manipulation
  • as a means of selfish pleasure or
  • simply as a conjugal duty. 

Our attitudes as parents are more contagious than our words. Many factors impact our perspective on sex, and we often don’t recognize deeply rooted thoughts and attitudes in our hearts and minds until we have kids that start asking questions. 

So, if you were abused as a child— or grew up in a home where sex was taboo or dirty— or you fell into sexual sin as a teenager— or you and your spouse have struggled with sex as a married couple— any of these things and more will have affected your view of sex. 

And even if you never breathe a word about any of these things to your children, they will pick up on your perspective.

Our attitudes as parents are more contagious than our words.

2. Sex is God’s good invention.

This is our starting point, the main truth that should impact our view of sex (and how our kids understand sex). 

The perfect and all-wise Creator God has designed man and woman to be united in marriage, and— in that context only— to engage in a sexual relationship that reflects the intimacy that Christ has with His church. 

I would dare to say that no married couple can have a truly biblical perspective on sex in this day and age without a diligent effort to study His Word on the subject and thank Him for it. 

The words that we use to reference any sexual issue should reflect biblical ideas and values. Our goal as parents should be that in our children’s minds the idea of sex is primarily related to God and His Word, and not to the world. 

The problem is that most parents don’t think this way, so it becomes very difficult to communicate a faithful portrait of sex to our kids. 

3. The world aggressively communicates with our children about sex. 

No matter what kind of school or church they attend, our children will have friends that talk about sexual topics from a young age. Even before the internet age, a lot of us learned about sex on park swings or seated on neighborhood sidewalks. We must start talking to our kids before we really think it’s necessary.

Besides this, many of us are allowing the world to mold the minds of our children by giving them access to television, Netflix, YouTube videos, or video games with sexualized content. When we do this, whether by lack of oversight or on purpose, we communicate a passive approval of what is happening on the screen. 

Our children should know that we really care about what they are seeing and listening to because we care about how they think and what they believe. 

Be intentional

In light of these realities, here are several suggestions for proactive parenting about sexuality: 

1. Study about sex in the Bible and read good books about it.

The general attitude towards sex in the Bible (Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Hebrews 13:4) is a positive one that encourages speaking about the topic shamelessly and openly. Choose books centered on Biblical truth with a Gospel-centered focus such as Paul Tripp’s Sex in a Broken World

Your greatest tool to be able to speak comfortably and spontaneously with your children about sex is a rich confidence in God’s design informed by diligent study. Don’t place too much confidence in your own wisdom and life experience. 

2. Create an environment of communication in the home. 

Invest time and effort in engaging your kids in open, relaxed conversations about all kinds of topics. 

If your children are still young, you have time ahead of you to create this type of open, honest environment in your home. This will be key in creating moments to talk about sex openly, and it will help your children naturally seek you out for answers to their questions. 

If your children are older, it’s never too late to start opening lines of communication with them. Remember that our children’s perspective on sex or any other topic will be the result of a cumulative effect, so we need a long-term perspective, a commitment to persevere in the practice of compassionate and direct communication. Take advantage of every opportunity for open communication!

Our children’s perspective on sex or any other topic will be the result of a cumulative effect

3. View scandalous behavior as an opportunity. 

Every parent knows the panicked feeling of finding their 2-year-old daughter undressed and playing and laughing with her 3-year-old boy cousin (or some other similar situation). These types of scenarios can be very upsetting, especially for a mom, but they don’t need to be. 

We obviously want to avoid this type of conduct, but it is also an opportunity for instruction about her body and why God created certain parts. In the same way, when a 6-year-old boy suddenly starts saying he thinks he should be a girl, he doesn’t need panicked parents. He needs beautiful truth from God’s Word about his design and his Creator.

When your 12-year-old daughter comes home shocked, telling you about her friend that confided in her about abuse she was suffering, it’s an opportunity for instruction on compassion and caution. 

When your 11-year-old son talks about a television program all his friends are watching or websites where his classmates say you can see interesting videos of women, it’s an ideal opportunity to investigate together about the content of those things and discern what’s good and bad about them. 

This opens the door naturally for a discussion about pornography, about how a Christian man should view women, and about what God’s perspective is on women and their bodies. There’s no need for panic, but we should fall on our knees and cry out to God for the wisdom we need. 

4. Focus on God’s goodness and man’s sinfulness. 

Whether you’re teaching your 4-year-old about why he shouldn’t allow anyone else to touch him in certain places— or answering a biology question in fourth grade— or explaining to your daughter what the news announcer meant when he referred to a “rape”— or helping your teenager with his pornography struggle— or exhorting your children about why they should wait to have a sexual relationship until they’re married— the focus should always be on God’s good design, and the fact that sinful man will always use God’s good gifts for selfish pleasure. 

In this way we can preach the Gospel even through conversations about sex. 

God has used these years of parenting teenagers, and the many challenges they have brought, to shake up my assumptions and deeply rooted struggles about sexuality. I have come to understand my lack of wisdom, and that has sent me to my knees pleading for God to have mercy on my children and show Himself in all His glory to them, so that they will desire Him more than anything else. I pray the same for you!