By Aaron Wilson
The thought of talking to their kids about sex makes many parents anxious—but evading the subject isn’t the answer, says Dr. David Prince.
“Children are going to have conversations about sex and sexuality,” says Prince, pastor at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, and assistant professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“The only question is who’s going to initiate those conversations.”
Prince and several others addressed the topic of sexuality on a panel titled “The Birds and the Bees” during the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s recent conference in Nashville.
Here are five tips to help parents as they teach sex education to their children.
Talking about sex with kids isn’t a one-time event, suggests Barbara Rainey, author and speaker at FamilyLife Today.
“It’s a process,” she says. “If you can make it a natural part of conversation, it’s easier because you talk about it all the time.”
Prince encourages families to read through the Bible together and to talk about sex at least as often as the topic appears in Scripture.
“If you’re reading through the Bible together as a family, you’re going to come to issues of sex and sexuality and are going to get asked questions,” Prince says.
Instead of avoiding these parts of Scripture, parents can use these passages to jump-start conversations about sex informed by God’s Word.
Use real terms
Prince also encourages parents to avoid euphemisms when discussing sex with children.
“I don’t think we help ourselves when we talk in language that isn’t real,” he says. “I don’t use the phrase ‘the birds and the bees’ when talking to my kids about these issues.”
Dennis Rainey, author and president of FamilyLife Today, agrees.
“You’ve got to call it what it is,” Rainey says. “Body parts need to be called what they are.”
Prince warns parents to avoid speaking half-truths in an attempt to dodge difficult conversations about sexuality.
“When you answer questions, you always say something true,” he says.
“That doesn’t mean you say everything you can, but it also means you never say anything that’s not true just to put them off for a given time.”
Prince says this often satisfies the curiosity of the moment, giving parents other opportunities to address issues in more detail down the road.
Don’t expect to be perfect
At one point in the panel discussion, Dennis Rainey asked the audience how many of them would like their kids to have the exact same sex education and presentation they received. In a room of thousands, only three raised their hands.
He says that illustrates just how imperfectly most of us find out about sex.
The idea of having “perfect sex talks” with kids can be paralyzing to parents. By having more realistic expectations of how conversations might go, Rainey encourages parents to be relaxed but intentional.
You don’t have to say it perfectly, he says, noting it’s fine for parents to fumble through talks as long as they’re engaging their kids.
Celebrate the goodness of sexuality
“The culture thinks it tells a very high narrative about sex and that the church has a low one,” says J.D. Greear, pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
“But Paul shows the opposite,” Greear says. “The biblical view of sex is extremely high—something that represents one of the most beautiful symbols of the Christian life.”
Talking about sexuality as a gift from God and not treating it as taboo can help properly frame conversations with kids, said panelists.
“It doesn’t start with talking about the specifics of intercourse,” Prince says. “It starts with telling kids, ‘God made you a gendered image bearer, and that’s a good thing.’”
AARON WILSON (@AaronBWilson26) is associate editor for Facts & Trends.