Almost every night, I am the last one to say goodnight to my children. I consider this a special privilege, one that I don’t take advantage of as much as I should. It is a great time to have meaningful, in-depth conversations. If I have to be honest, this time is often rushed. I get them tucked in, say a quick prayer, and move on to the next one. With 4 young kids, bedtime is the finish line to a busy, tiring day. Some days, the last thing I want to do is answer another question from an inquiring mind.
One ordinary night, as I was leaving my boys’ bedroom, one of them casually asked, “Dad, what is sex?”
What the what??? Too soon!!! Noooooo!!!
My little man was 8. He had decided his summer reading would be the Bible. My wife and I were thrilled. What could be the harm, right? What possibly could go wrong with that?
I told him, as calmly as I could, that sex is what happens when babies are made. He thought for a moment, then wrinkled his face in obvious confusion. I asked him where he had heard about sex, and he told me he was reading Leviticus.
And you’re still awake, I thought?
“It says not to make sex with animals.”
Make sex with animals. Make sex. Don’t laugh. Keep it together. You’re the adult.
“Well, that’s a pretty smart thing, don’t you think? Could you imagine what would happen if we made sex with a donkey? That would be a pretty funny looking baby.”
That was funny, kid. Please get it. Please laugh. Don’t ask a follow-up question.
Confusion subsided. More man-animal combinations were offered. Silliness ensued.
For real though, in all the silliness and laughter, my actions were intentional. I had decided long before that conversation took place how I would act in that situation. Obviously I didn’t know where or when I would get asked that question, but I knew it was coming eventually. I knew that no matter what, I would answer as honestly and plainly as possible given the age and maturity of my child. That’s all we can do, really. Be honest with them.
But wait, Jay, I thought this was a technology blog. Why are we talking about sex? Where’s the part about my computer?
I get it. But the reality is, the way our kids deal with and learn about the subject of sex can have a huge influence on things like self-image, pornography, and addiction as they get older. If we don’t talk with them, their friends and the world certainly will. And all the parental controls in the world won’t help at that point.
All that said, I have a few tips for parents who haven’t had the chance to talk about sex with their kids.
It’s coming. Decide ahead of time how you will respond. Talk with your spouse so you are both on the same page. Again, you may not know the context in which the subject will be presented, but you can decide now to be honest and be open. And for crying out loud…don’t use childish names for body parts. Part of being honest with them is calling things what they are. You can’t mix messages. It will only confuse them later.
Answer Their Questions
That’s obvious, right? Not so much. Often times, as adults, we want to fill in their knowledge gaps. We do it with everything else. After all, it’s our job to educate them about the ways of the world. With this, I think it’s better to listen carefully to the questions they are asking. Ask clarifying questions if necessary. Answer only the question they are asking, and leave out the rest.
In my opinion, the best way for a child to learn about sex is from those that care about them the most. I’ve read studies that say the first time someone hears about sex is the most impactful. I surely don’t want my kids hearing things that aren’t factual before I’ve had the chance to impart truth. I think it’s better to walk with them into the subject, shaping their thoughts before the world gets its claws set.
All in all, the way you approach this subject with your kids can impact their entire sexual future. That’s seems like a lot of pressure to me, but it’s so important! Our children deserve our best, no matter how uncomfortable we may be.
For you seasoned parents, I’d love to hear about the first time your kids mentioned sex. How did you handle it? Would you change anything? For those not yet in that stage, what are you doing to get ready? Leave a comment below to join in the discussion.