It’s time to talk about sex, puberty, and growing up!
I am so excited to announce, after a whole year of waiting, that the boys’ version of our Whole Story Puberty Course is here!
Last year we launched The Whole Story: Not So Awkward Talks about Sex, Puberty, and Growing Up. It’s an online video-based course that parents share with their kids to teach about puberty (and sex!). The girl’s version features my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. The boy’s version features Sheldon Neil from Crossroads TV telling your boys all the “facts”, and then my sons-in-law David and Connor sharing stories from their own puberty years, like fun “big brothers”. And then videos and audios give parents (including single parents!) pep talks, while print-outs, discussion starters, and mother-daughter or father-son activities help parents to continue the conversation.
And here we were, after filming some of it, just chatting about the need for it:
This week, as we’re launching the course, I thought I’d make a 5-day challenge for us to help us all handle these conversations (whether they’re with our kids or with others) better.
One of the reasons that this course is so necessary is because a lot of us find it difficult to talk to our kids about sex and puberty because we carry a lot of shame.
And it’s not just parents who find these discussions awkward, either! Many of us feel awkward even talking to our spouses about sex, or when we’re mentoring younger people, because it just seems wrong somehow.
And I think that comes first by identifying some of our own issues with sex and puberty.
I recently received this question from a reader:
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve felt validated through your words. Our sex life was such a struggle when we first got married thanks to the whole puritan view, sex is bad, sex is bad, sex is bad…NOPE, now sex is good. I was a WRECK about sex and my body did not respond in any way to sex. After reading your articles, I realize that I did have a physical issue as well. My doc at the time told me to see a therapist because it was all in my head; I was way too uptight about sex. NOT HELPFUL. My parents never talked to me about becoming a woman, sex, or anything. We never said the word. I didn’t have any advice for my honey moon and it was a very painful time for me, physically. Sex was not good. I lived in a very modest, prudish household, and I am still that way, if I’m not consciously challenging myself. I don’t want that for my children. I struggle with making sex a comfortable topic in our home. I have four children (we figured out sex at least four times, lol) and I don’t want them to have the same issues and hangups I have. Help me break that cycle. Your words speak to a deep place in my soul, and I often weep when I read your words. I feel validated. I feel uplifted. I feel encouraged. Keep speaking the truth to us; keep fighting to take sex back from the world and make it beautiful (and FUN!) again.
I love that!
So here’s what we’re going to do.
Each day this week I’m going to issue you a simple challenge to help you feel more comfortable talking about sex.
Often it’s just something to think about, journal about, or even talk to your spouse about on a walk tonight after dinner. But let’s deal with the roadblocks that we have seeing sex as a good, positive, intimate thing the way that God intended (and the way I describe in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex).
Many of us who work here at Bare Marriage shared on Friday about the worst parts of puberty for us. Often our shame about sex, and our inability to talk about it, stems from deep shame about our bodies, as if there’s something wrong with them.
What happens when a mom feels that?
When her son or daughter starts hitting puberty, she’s going to want to avoid it. She’s going to feel like it’s something to mourn. She’s going to feel like it’s hard to talk to her kids now, because she’s somehow sad for them, even if she doesn’t want to be. She’s going to think of something else to talk about every time it may come up, because she doesn’t want her child to feel the shame that she does, and the only way to avoid that is to hope that her child just doesn’t think about it much.
What happens if a dad grows up feeling very, very ashamed because when he was 8 he saw a stack of Playboy magazines, and felt aroused?
And then he grew up feeling like he was some sort of pervert. Now his son is 10, but how can he talk to him about the dangers or our pornographic society when he feels deeply ashamed himself? It seems easier to ignore it.
But that doesn’t work, because big changes are happening. And encouraging kids to hide those changes, ignore them, or pretend these changes don’t matter makes the child feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong with having an adult body and adult desires.
Likely we’d all agree with that. Our letter writer certainly would! She said that she struggles making sex a comfortable topic, but she also doesn’t want that for her kids.
But here’s the sad truth about parenting: Our kids tend to pick up on our own attitudes about sex.
Even if we don’t want them to, they tend to follow what our emotions are obviously showing, rather than what our words are saying. So it isn’t enough to figure out how to say the right words to our kids. We have to address our own emotions.
How do we change the way we think about something? We have to replace it with truth. And many of us think we have done that. Intellectually, we know that sex is a positive thing in marriage that should be celebrated. We know that our bodies are precious and made by God. We can likely even point to Bible verses that say such things (like Psalm 139:13-14).
But replacing it with truth doesn’t just mean that you ADD truth to the equation. It means you must deal with what’s there first.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says this:
2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
It’s not about just rejecting thoughts that come into your head and replacing them with truth; it’s about demolishing those arguments and pretensions first.
You have to face what’s already there before the truth can take hold. Unless you demolish those arguments–unless you face the truth about what you’re really feeling–those feelings will still have power over you. And that’s going to come out in how you talk about sex, especially with your kids.
So here’s what I want you to do today, your first day of your challenge.
Think back to the very first time you heard about sex, or the very first time you became aware of the fact that your body was somehow sexual. What were you doing? What happened? What is it a good experience, or a bad one? Try to picture that scene as much as you can, and walk yourself through it.
Let me give you an example. I had learned about sex before this, and I don’t remember being traumatized by it very much at all (I think my mom gave me a book, and it was fine). But I do have a vivid memory of the phone ringing when I was about 10, and answering it. A man was on the other end. I thought initially he was a friend of the family, but the first thing he did was ask me my name and my age. I told him (what did I know)? Then he started asking very sexually suggestive things. It was the first time I had ever heard of oral sex. I felt horrified and didn’t know what to do.
I felt so dirty, even though I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was even too scared to hang up the phone. But I can still vividly remember what room I was in when I got that phone call, what time of day it was, what I was thinking. It was my first real entrance into the “adult” world. And it felt really, really yucky.
Maybe you have a story like that that needs to be dealt with. Maybe you were younger than I was. Whatever it was, think about that story. Then ask yourself these questions:
How did this make me feel about sex or my body?
Did this make me believe any lies about sex? If so, what were they?
What is the truth that I’m going to believe instead?
Now tell yourself that truth. When we deal with those memories, we don’t have to feel stuck. That’s what I want for you this week! So join in for another four challenges to get you ready to embrace God’s truth about sex, puberty, and growing up.
Are you overwhelmed by the idea of teaching your kids about sex?
Let us start the conversation for you, and we’ll take care of the tough spots.
Check out The Whole Story: not-so-scary truths about sex, puberty, and growing up!
Anyone else willing to share their memory? What effect did it have on you? Let me know in the comments!
Read the rest of the Healthy Sex Conversations Series:
- Thinking Back to Your First Lessons about Sex (This one!)
- Identifying the Emotions You Associate with Puberty
- The First Rule of Talking to Your Kids about Sex and Puberty
- Why It’s OK to Be Awkward Talking to Your Kids about Sex and Puberty