TALKING TO KIDS ABOUT PUBERTY SERIES: What Did You Think When You First Learned About Sex?

by | Oct 22, 2018 | Uncategorized | 13 comments

What were your first impressions when you heard about sex? Let's learn to talk about sex well with our preteens and teenagers!
Merchandise is Here!

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:

Reader Question

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:

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Phil

    I often share about my first sexual experience being when I was 7 and another older boy who was 13 cohercing me into touching him. Weirdness is what comes to mind. But today I want to share something I have never shared out loud or in this case writing. Before my father passed away he was laid up in bed. I had just gotten out of the tub and I was naked. I was called into my parents room and told whatever I forgot to do I had to go take care of it now! I dont know what it was but it was on the first floor. It is the first time I knew something was not right about being naked and I should be clothed before having to trapse through the house to do some chore. Essentially I was forced to do so through threats of punishment etc. So my childhood never started off with the right messages about sex or being a sexual being and continued into adult hood. Here is my bible verse from this morning: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6. NIV.

    • Phil

      I want to also add that when you find the truth for me it took a lot of hard work and practice and persistance to replace the lies. Sometimes just small peices at a Time. It comes from talking about things in the light if the truth with others and listeneing to others in the light of God. I have 2 examples. In the last week I have written here about my parents 2 times now. If I ever used the words my parents together in a sentence I certainly can’t remember. It has been very healing. Last night my brother and I were talking: my mom had given me something that was my fathers that doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. my brother said well you didn’t see that activity- what you saw was Scouting and fishing and you nailed it. I always tell people I don’t remember much about my father but apparently I do. This again is God speaking through my brother and providing me with healing words. This is how it works for me

  2. Flo

    I was wondering about the questions that you asked, Sheila, and I think that for me this happened later in life. Namely, during my previous marriage. It taught me the lie that I should be fine without sex, that I should strive towards a life where sex is secondary to everything else, where I should strive for success in all other fields but do fine without this one. And this is a lie that I still have hard time replacing with the truth…

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes! So true. Sometimes the lies that we believe are from later in our lives. And whenever we see lies, we do have to fight them.
      I think what makes the lies from our puberty years so powerful, though, is that they’re much more tied to our emotions, because it’s the “first” feeling that we have. And we have to figure out how to process these emotions, too.

      • Flo

        Yes. Intimacy issues are so frustrating, because one can see where they come from, one can see how they impede living life to its fullest, one can try to fight them, but they are very difficult to overcome, as they are deeply encrusted feelings!

  3. Cara

    I don’t really remember what *I* thought (I was told by a friend when I was around 6) but 2/3 of the kids I’ve told so far (I have one to go) have said “that’s really weird”. 😂😂 it is!!!!! When you take away the hormonal desire etc that’s so weird that people would do that. Lol
    (I did explain that they would not feel this way eventually) and we are very open and they are encouraged to ask me **gasp** ANYthing. (And there have been some doozies)
    I was somewhat raised in the purity culture and I didn’t struggle with thinking sex was bad. I guess those that taught our youth group did a good job of emphasizing it was good for marriage and bad before?!

  4. Nick Peters

    I have Aspergers as does my wife. My Dad told me about it and I remember not seeing what the big deal is. Porn was never really an issue for me. I was excited about sex, but more in an academic sense as a Christian apologist. I’ve been a nerd all my life and I guess I figured nerds just weren’t that interested.
    Then I got married.
    Yeah. That thing about a guy thinking about sex every seven seconds? I wonder why it takes some of them so long. I love my wife. She is beautiful and awesome and I am glad I waited for her. One of the first things people learn about me is that I love my wife. That’s really great for me.

    • Phil

      Hi Nick – I just wanted to commend you for being brave and sharing your challenges here. I struggle with bipolar which has been kicking my butt the last 2 days. I have had 2 irritible moments of minor effect that I was able to keep in check and I feel like I am in a fog. Regardless I am in good spirits and I wont let it get me down. I can tell that you really like Sheilas post. Take care.

      • Nick Peters

        I do. If you can find my web site, which can be done by finding my name, I try to have one episode every April on Autism Awareness. Last April I had my own wife beside me. It was quite a great episode.

        • Phil

          Cool. ill check it out

  5. Rosie

    I think the first time I learned anything about sex was in school biology lessons when I was 11 or 12. As far as I remember it was just treated biologically, like learning about breathing or eating, which at that age was probably a good thing. I do remember my father testing me on my biology homework that week and saying something like, “And have they told you that it feels great?”, which completely grossed me out.

  6. Freeagain

    My experience with sex was a negative one. I won’t open up here about everything but the earliest memory I have is doing sexual stuff with a young girl. I was just a young boy 10 year tops but maybe younger. It’s all blurry but I have a scenario burned deep in my mind. This was one of many things that filled me with guilt and shame when it comes to sex. I still wonder where I learned the things I did. This was long before porn became accessible and I can’t remember have seen much nudity except from some book I had find once. But I knew what I was doing. I sometimes wonder if someone did something to me because my sexuality has been messed up since I was a kid. Always been obsessed with sex. And getting drawn to weird things. I don’t think I want to know if something happened to me, I guess it would fill me with more shame and guilt.
    Things are better know. Although I still struggle with some perverted desires. Thankfully They are fading away.

  7. A Caring Mama

    I’m a 50+ mom of an older teen girl and have had a great deal to overcome in the area of past sexual trauma, which happened to me as a young person and also as a married woman. However, I have always been open with her about body topics, function, etc., and have answered any questions without shame or embarrassment the best I could from the start (at an age-appropriate level), because this seemed right to me. This helped a lot till puberty actually came and she went through a stage where she didn’t want to talk about it or ask any more questions. I haven’t given up, because I was raised in a very uncommunicative and unloving, prudish household and I only found out about sex as a young teen when it started to happen to me. That sounds hard to believe, but it’s true. I was so naive that I thought my boyfriend and I had invented what we were doing. I won’t share details, but it didn’t end well emotionally or physically, and my early experiences started me on a road of seeking the warmth, love and affirmation that was missing in my life, mistakenly believing that if I would give sex (however painful and scary it felt) it would result in lasting love and things would get better. I wasn’t promiscuous but I did have more than one sexual relationship prior to marriage (every time I hoped it was the real thing and my heart was broken) and also I have struggled with vaginismus for my entire life, even after learning a lot more about sex and my body. I’m immensely thankful for all you and your team have provided, Sheila – it’s healing for me as a woman and so helpful for me as a parent. I still have a long way to go, but what you have provided is making it possible for me to progress at last.


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