Talk to Them

“How do babies get in mom’s tummies?

I was under the dining room table cleaning the rug. My husband was in the bathroom replacing electrical outlets. Children don’t premeditate these loaded questions…they simply ask what’s on their minds. This child is old enough to need more than a simple answer but not quite old enough to handle all the sensitive information he was asking to be given. Even with such a casual question, my response was crucial and would quietly set the precedent for the rest of our conversations regarding sex.

“Well. Let’s get your daddy and talk about it.”

Most of us go into conversations about sex with our kids assuming a heightened sense of awkwardness. Is there a more uncomfortable topic for parents? Instilling a healthy view of sex is not an easy task given the exposure our children have at young ages to sexual matters. Sex sells everything these days — underwear, beer, cologne, sports, clothing, hamburgers, cars. Our children are exposed to sex through an array of underlying and covert messages and they are curious…two very good reasons to take our son’s casual invitation to give wise council very seriously. Going into conversations about sex with a mindset toward awkwardness puts parents at a disadvantage. We know more than they do. It may seem awkward, but the more comfortable we can appear as parents, the more comforted our children will feel.

Small details are important when approaching a talk about sex. I sat next to him on a bench rather than next to my husband. It was a gesture he probably missed, but I was trying to communicate that we are on his team — we want to help you understand this, not to lecture you as if you’ve done something wrong in asking. We didn’t shut the door and we didn’t make an unnecessary production about our conversation. The goal was to communicate that talking about sex is as accepted as talking about the basketball game after school or what we are doing on Saturday evening. We didn’t speak in hushed tones or use diagrams. We just sat down and tried to answer his questions.

Some kids from school had been talking about how one girl and one boy were going to walk to McDonald’s after school and “do weird stuff”. My hunch is that he had heard more, but he wasn’t comfortable sharing too much out of apprehension for how we might respond. What will they say if I ask about this? Am I going to be in trouble? Disarming their fears is key. Getting on their level and seeing where they are coming into the conversation helps tremendously. What had he heard? What are kids saying? What sparked this question from a boy who seems only to care about skateboards, Star Wars and Legos? My husband took the lead because he knows infinitely more about the guy side of sex than I do. I was present and involved, though, again to communicate that the topic isn’t something to be ashamed of or hide. He explained sex, semen, ejaculations, and some of the things boys experience when they hit puberty. We kept the conversation as light as we could without being silly. We told him it was fine if he laughed because laughter can sometimes help us through uncomfortable situations. We also used anatomically correct names for the body parts we mentioned. It wasn’t a heavy conversation, but we did communicate that our topic is something we need to respect.

Our overarching theme was that sex is good and beautiful and a gift God intends for a husband and wife. We told our son that he doesn’t even really need to worry about all the complicated stuff (he had a hard time understanding sperm) until he is getting ready to be married. We made no exceptions for anything outside of sex between a husband and wife. We never once said that sex was bad, dirty, or gross. My husband and I were not guided well as teenagers regarding sex and we’ve spent years climbing our way out of those pits. We want to avoid setting our sons on the same path in their marriages.

Our parting words for him were full of love and encouragement. There isn’t anything he can ask us that we won’t at least try to answer. He never needs to be embarrassed by something that happens to his body or by telling us his feelings about girls. If kids are saying things at school, we want to hear about it; chances are those kids don’t really know what they are talking about anyway. Some families aren’t as comfortable talking about sex and we want our boys to come to us first so we can give them correct information. We offered help and an open door to talk about things again. And then, we went back to what we were doing. My husband went back to the outlets and I continued cleaning. There was no need to let him know we had just discussed one of the most dreaded topics of parenthood.

We cannot afford not to talk to our boys about sex. Turning playground talk into true wisdom is the challenge in front of us. Being aware and attentive to the seductive messages our kids receive through media and the culture at large is healthy, proactive, intentional parenting. We have to cherish each opportunity our children give us to talk and be thankful we aren’t having to ask for opportunities yet. I want our boys to grow up and have wonderful physical relationships with their wives. Building their character through providing a rich knowledge base, patiently and gracefully with much understanding, is our call and privilege.

“Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching, show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” Titus 2:6-8

“The best thing we can do for one another is to exchange our thoughts freely; and that, after all, is about all.” — James A. Froud (English historian)

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