10 Tips for Teaching Your Kids About Sex

by | May 21, 2019 | Uncategorized | 15 comments

Merchandise is Here!

We live in a world with such distorted sexuality that teaching kids about sex in a healthy way becomes challenging.

First there’s our culture which tells us that sexiness is all that matters–that sexual experimentation is part of figuring out who you are and being true to yourself.

But then there’s our Christian culture which too often makes sex itself seem shameful.

When I wrote an article after the Ashley Madison scandal broke, one of the points I made is that often in the church we inadvertently create someone with “split sexuality”, where sexual desire and spicing things up is seen as unChristian, and something which would defile the marriage bed. And so people are extremely uptight and chaste with their spouse, but then they have this reckless life with online porn or chats or even real life affairs outside of marriage. It’s just heartbreaking.

We had a great discussion on the blog last Friday when Lucy Rycroft shared her ideas for communicating about sex in healthy (and age appropriate) ways to preschoolers. Today I’m going to continue that conversation with my own thoughts, looking at teenagers!

Here we go–teaching kids about sex, so they grow up with healthy sexuality.

I’m going to present these in age order–what you focus on when they’re younger, leading to what’s important when they’re older. But really–it’s all about relationship, openness, and honesty!

Teaching Kids about Sex: Raising kids with a healthy view of sex

1. Use the real words for body parts

When we don’t use real words for things, we give the impression that “This is something bad.”

But if, when they’re young and they’re learning words, you use the right ones (even if you also have short forms for them), then you teach them, “there’s nothing weird about this body part.”

That’s hard to do if saying the word “vagina” out loud sounds WRONG. You may have to train yourself to do it. Practice in front of a mirror! Seriously, when I started doing the sex talk with my husband at marriage conferences, I had to learn to say the word “orgasm” in front of an audience. It was odd. But I did it! And you can learn to say the word “penis”, too.

Right up there with being open about the words is being okay with nudity–in context. Until kids are about 3 they really don’t understand nudity and it’s no big deal to see parents naked. After that, you really should cover up with the opposite sex. But I’ve known girls who were mortified to get changed in front of their sisters or their mother, and grown women who were mortified to get changed in front of their daughters. We need to get over that. Modesty is healthy and good in context, but if we’re ashamed of our bodies when there’s no reason to be, that’s a problem, too.

2. Recognize that people express masculinity and femininity differently

Don’t be hard on your boys if they don’t want to play sports, and don’t be hard on your girls if they do.

When we set up rigid rules for what “being a girl” is or what “being a boy” is, we may give kids the impression that we think there’s something wrong with them if they don’t fit. Your child was created in God’s image; don’t make them fit a mold. That’s a recipe for sexual confusion and shame.

3. Monitor their Media Use

There is no reason that elementary school aged kids or junior high kids should be seeing media with sex in it or with confusing sexual messages. And high school kids should be careful, too. A movie like The Notebook, for instance, which has little nudity in it, is still highly erotic in the scene where the couple first makes love.

Now, you can’t control everything your teenager sees, as I wrote in in a previous post about my daughter admitting that she watched Vampire Diaries before God convicted her. But we can be super vigilant with our younger kids.

And setting up filters on the computer to make sure that they don’t see porn inadvertently is really important, too! Covenant Eyes is a great way to do that; you get 30 days free to try it using the code TLHV (for Bare Marriage)!

4. Don’t Avoid Questions About Sex

Kids are going to naturally want to ask questions. But if we give the impression that we really don’t want to talk about that, they may stop asking. And you want them to learn from you! So when they ask, just treat it like you would any other question. You don’t have to drop what you’re doing and sit down on the couch for a heart to heart. You can just keep on unloading the groceries and chatting, or keep on doing whatever you were doing when the conversation started. Keep it natural!

And then just answer what they’ve asked. You don’t have to answer more than they want to know. Be age appropriate (kids should know the mechanics of sex at about 8-10; girls should know all about puberty and menstruation by 10 for sure; boys should know by 11). But they can know things earlier than that. Kids will naturally ask what that tampon is, for instance, and you can give a quick answer when they’re five, and a longer one when they’re 9.

One thing: have a back-up plan if they never ask. My youngest daughter asked like crazy from the time she was young; my older daughter didn’t ask at all. I had to sit her down at 10 and tell her everything. I was waiting for questions that never came.

If you’re looking for how to have those conversations more naturally, please think about picking up The Whole Story, our puberty course that moms can share with daughters or dads can share with sons (or we have help for single moms in the boy’s version as well!). It’s a series of videos done by my daughters Rebecca and Katie for the girls, and Sheldon Neil and my sons-in-law for the boys, which tells them about sex, puberty, and everything in between! It’s not a replacement for you; it’s a resource to help get those conversations started.


Are you terrified to give your kids “the talk?”

Last year we created The Whole Story for Girls–an online video-based course that helped moms tell their daughters about sex, puberty, and growing up.

And now the boys’ version is live!

Your kids need to talk about this. And they need to talk about it WITH YOU.

Let us start those conversations, so you can finish them!

5. Don’t Be Afraid of Your Kids Knowing You Have Sex

Your kids, especially when they’re teens, will figure out that you still have sex. That’s okay. They don’t need to hear it in detail, but if you say, “everyone in their rooms by 10 because parents need our time alone”, they’ll figure out why.

That’s healthy.

Don’t be so paranoid about your kids knowing anything that you avoid sex altogether. Kids will sense that you’re uptight about it, and you’ll give the impression, “this is something to be uptight about.

6. Gross Out Your Kids

I created this graphic years ago, and it went viral on Facebook then.

Now over 10,000,000 people have seen it.

I think it speaks for itself.

Kids need to see you expressing affection. Sure, they’ll say, “ewwwwww” and “that’s gross!”, but you’ll teach them: “marriage is fun! Sex in marriage is fun!” If they never see you being affectionate at all, you’ll give the impression, “marriage is where sex goes to die.” And then why in the world will they want to wait until marriage for sex, when marriage has lousy sex?

Be Great Parents. Gross Out Your Kids!

Can you help me keep this going? Just click here to share this on Facebook, too! Or click here to share it on Pinterest!

7. Keep Talking–about Everything

Just keep up a conversation with your kids all the time. Be vulnerable to them (while still being appropriate), and they’re more likely to be vulnerable with you. Share with them the things that you worry about. Apologize when you’re wrong.

A teen won’t just talk to his or her parents about sex if they don’t feel like they have a safe, close relationship. So keep talking. Don’t overschedule your life. Go for walks with your kids. And then, when they do have questions, they’ll talk to you!

8. Be disappointed FOR your child, not disappointed IN your child

When your child messes up, you’ll likely be angry. But we should raise our kids so that our main priority is their well-being, not how their behavior reflects on us.

If your child lies, yes, you’re disappointed in them, but you’re primarily disappointed for them. You wanted more for them: a rich life where they don’t have to worry about guilt and where they can be a blessing for those around them. Once they start lying, they become smaller people, and it causes stress. It builds a wall between them and God. And you don’t want that for them.

When they understand that you want them to do the right thing because you love them and want the best for them, that’s a different feel than “I don’t want to be disappointed in you.” That’s important an important distinction, because as they become teenagers and they start to have relationships with the opposite sex, if you want them to keep talking to you, they have to know it’s safe to do so. And they’ll know that if you teach them, “I want the best for you because I love you.”

9. Don’t talk about purity like it’s something that you lose

Never, ever say “stay pure until you’re married.”

That gives the impression that once you’re married, you lose your purity.

We need to start telling our kids, “seek after Jesus! Pursue purity by pursuing Jesus.” And you know what? People who had premarital sex can be pure because they know Jesus, and people who are single and virgins can be impure because of their thought life.

Let’s not tell kids that once they’re married, they lose their purity, as if they’ve lost something precious. Our purity is in Jesus, not in our virginity. Getting married doesn’t rob you of purity, and being a virgin doesn’t guarantee your purity. We’ve gotten into some really sloppy habits regarding “purity rings” which stress virginity rather than a love of Christ.

10. Rules matter less than relationship

What about having rules like, “no dating until you’re 16”, or “no texting a girl until you’re 15”, or “no kissing until you’re married.” Is that useful?

I do believe in kids not dating too young, and I do think that having rules like “no alone time with someone of the opposite sex when you’re under 16” is a good rule of thumb. Kids who date early tend to also get involved sexually much earlier, and there really is no good reason to have a boyfriend or girlfriend at 14.

My girls couldn’t date until they were 16, but they also decided on their own not to date in high school at all (here’s Katie’s video on Why I’m Not Dating in High School).

At a certain age (I’d say 16 in general), I think kids need to make decisions on their own. In my daughter Rebecca’s book Why I Didn’t Rebel, she pointed out that one of the problems with having a set of rules that kids follow is that they can take the all-or-nothing approach: If you say, “no kissing until you’re married”, and then they kiss someone at 17, they may think, “I’ve lost my purity”, so there’s no point in trying anymore. That’s one reason that kids with strict rules often end up engaging in more risky sexual behaviour.

It can’t be about rules; it has to be about your relationship with them and their relationship with God. It has to be a decision they make on their own because of their desire to follow God. And there’s nothing wrong with standards, by the way–if God’s the one who told you to follow them. But setting up strict rules, in and of themselves, doesn’t protect kids sexually. It’s only “walking by the Spirit” that works. Instruct your kids on how to make good choices; don’t just forbid them from making bad ones.

To sum up: teaching your kids about sex is all about having an open and honest relationship with your kids, and modeling yourself that you’re not ashamed of sex in its proper context.

That takes some work–you need to get used to being comfortable talking about it. You need to get used to your kids knowing things about you. But it’s really worth it! We don’t want to raise kdis who are ashamed of their bodies, ashamed of sex, or scared to ask questions.

So remember–The Whole Story is a great way to have these conversations with your teens and preteens! It starts those conversations, so that you can continue them. And it makes it much less awkward to talk to your kids about difficult things because it’s younger people in the videos mentoring your kids.

Check out The Whole Story now!

Let me know in the comments: What do YOU think is the best method of teaching kids about sex so they have a healthy view of sexuality? Which one is hardest for you?

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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. Andrea

    Please also train yourselves to say “clitoris” out loud to your children. That one might take extra practice, which in and of itself explains why there are so many sexually frustrated Christian women. “Vagina” will teach your daughters where babies come from, but not where pleasure comes from.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Good thoughts!

      • MY

        I grew up in purity culture and struggle to teach my daughter different ly. She wants to dress crop tops and twerk because her friends do, and I’m not sure how to teach her differently and why it’s better to not do these things as a follower of Jesus. Any tips?

  2. Lisa V in BC

    #9 – Don’t talk about purity like it’s something that you lose
    Never, ever say “stay pure until you’re married.”

    What do you think about using the word “chaste” instead of “pure”? As in, “Stay chaste until you’re married.”

    I have told my son that the best way to behave with a girlfriend is to honour God and her by giving her nothing to regret or feel shame about when she gets married, whether or not she marries you. And at the same time, that ensures you have nothing to regret or feel shame about when you get married. This shows true love & respect for your girlfriend as well as her future spouse and yours!

    Until my kids are 16, we’ve put some guidelines around what they are and are not allowed to do – no going to movies or hanging out alone & any time spent together should be with the intent of doing something, not just hanging out… ie. play board games, learn a song on the piano together, volunteer somewhere together, take a course together etc. They’ve also been told that public displays of affection (PDAs) can make friends uncomfortable and their friends shouldn’t have to feel like they’re chaperoning them! We also give friends’ parents and youth leaders a heads up so that they’re keeping a little bit of a closer eye on them 😉

    It’s hard when we don’t see anything wrong with holding hands at this age (under 16) but know that remaining chaste until marriage gets harder the longer they go out & the earlier they begin the PDAs!

    • Lisa V in BC

      I should say, “Until they are at least 16…” My hope is that they’ll choose to continue following these guidelines, but know that they need to buy into them on their own rather than see them as a set of rules!!

      We’ll also be going through “The Whole Story” with our kids! Can’t wait!

      • Anonymous

        Chastity is really something we’re called to our whole lives; it’s about only having sex in the correct context. When you’re single, that means no sex. When you’re married, that means only having sex with your spouse. So we could say, “Be chaste always.” Though I think I prefer, “Do all things unto the glory of God,” since God cares about more than just sex. 🙂

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Absolutely agree! I’ve been thinking we need to bring back the word Chastity a lot lately.

        • Lisa V in BC

          Thanks for the clarification!! That totally makes sense and I love “Do all things unto the glory of God.”! 🙂

  3. Phil

    I like trapping my boys on the boat to have heart to heart or sex ed etc type conversations. They have no choice but to listen and it goes quite well cuz we are fishing. The biggest challenge I have with my oldest as he thinks he knows it all cuz he heard it in bits and pieces from me or school. So at home I often get resistance. On the boat I at least get a decent conversation – mostly one sided but yet no resistance….

  4. Amanda

    How about, if you’re not married don’t have sex and make that clear to your kids? Lots of divorced or widowed parents have to set the example themselves.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great point, Amanda, that I didn’t even list! Thank you.

  5. anon..

    Modelling to your kids is absolutely key
    The challenge with simply saying ‘don’t have sex if you’re not married’, is that at the age where they begin showing interest in the opposite sex, they are teenagers. This means a boatload of ‘variables’ suddenly become part of the ‘equation’ making it pretty complex.
    We have several teenagers, and while they are overall great kids, love the Lord and are respectful to their mom and I, they are most definitely no longer in the ‘just do as you’re told’ phase of their lives. Accurate information, and safety in dialogue allows them to learn to decide what God would have them decide. They trust Him, and they trust their parents.

  6. J. Parker

    Love #8! Given my bad past, I could never tell my parents about my struggles, because I was sure they’d be disappointed IN me (hey, I was disappointed in me). Maybe I sold them short, and they would have reacted differently. But if we make these conversations more common and comfortable, then our kids will know our hearts in these matters—and they can come to us for advice so they won’t mess up and comfort/healing after if/when they do mess up.

    One thought also about not changing in front of other women, including female relatives. I have never felt comfortable doing that and don’t to this day—not because I’m ashamed of my body, but it feels very privately mine.

  7. Joe Caveman

    While I don’t have kids, these seem like sensible, useful tips, so thank you for the effort you put into compiling and explaining them. I’m curious about something you mention toward the end of the first tip, though. Why exactly do you consider it inappropriate for children to view nudity of family members of the opposite sex once they turn three years old? Northern Europeans commonly see all of their siblings and parents naked in the family sauna up until they turn ten or so. What demonstrable harm do you think this does?

  8. Undisclosed

    Wow. So much. My mom handled the whole subject woefully inadequately. I was also quite convinced most of my life that my parents never ‘did it’ and that it might even be not possible for them (hugely obese) and if they did, that was a super gross thought I banished forever. I didn’t know foreplay existed outside the ‘steamy novels’ until this year. I’ve never been comfortable with my body and am not sure I will be, but I guess my little progress is good. I got one of those stupid purity rings, in front of a dozen people at my birthday party, after never having more than a couple minute puberty talk… never been able to talk about it until this year. Trying, hard. Maybe I’ll get there by the time my kids need me to…



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