Q: Do you have any advice for a parent of a pre-teen who’s trying to gear up for “the talk” about sexuality and “the facts of life”?
A: It’s good to hear you’ve been giving this some thought. Too often children hear about sex from everyone but their parents, and a “pre-emptive strike” can give your child a healthy view of sexuality that will stand up to distorted perspectives coming from other sources.
There’s no fool proof formula for carrying out this assignment, but we’d suggest keeping the following principles in mind:
- Giving a child facts about reproduction doesn’t rob him of innocence. A school-age child who understands the specifics of sex, while seeing it as something that, in the proper context, both expresses love and begins new life, retains his innocence. But a child who knows very little about sex can already have a corrupt mind-set if he’s been exposed to it in a degrading context.
- Don’t try to tell your child everything during a single marathon session. Details should be shared gradually over a period of several years.
- If your child asks questions you can’t answer, don’t become flustered. Be honest, and then do some research. You’ll gain far more stature in your child’s eyes by showing candour than by bluffing.
The overarching theme of your discussions should be the importance of respect — respect for our bodies, the wonders of reproduction, privacy in sexual matters, and for the well-being of others. Along with providing the correct names and addresses of body parts, the mechanics of intercourse and the process of fertilization, you’ll want to emphasise that sex between one man and one woman, maintained within a marriage relationship to which both are committed for life — is not only the right context for the expression of sex – but the safest and most pleasurable.
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