when is the right time to talk to your kids about sex?

It’s a question often wrestled with by parents and leaders, when is the right time to talk to kids about sex?

The answer is simple.

The right time to talk to your kids about sex is just before they hear it from someone or somewhere else.

That might not be the answer you were hoping for. In fact, that probably opens up more questions than anything. How can you know when they’re going to be exposed to content on television, scribbled on a bathroom wall, stumbled across on a computer or device, conspiratorially whispered about amongst friends at a sleep over, or joked about in a locker room? It seems impossible to predict, and therefore difficult to pre-empt, but it is undeniably the ‘best time’.

The power of first exposure.

Our brains are wired to attach knowledge about a subject to the person who first introduced it to us in an informative or useful way. So, whoever first exposes us to information is solidified, subconsciously, in our minds as the expert on that topic. We are far more likely to return to that source if we find ourselves needing more details or, if we get data from an alternate source, we are likely to come back to the original source to verify or test it.

What an incredible opportunity that presents as parents or people of influence in the lives of young people. If they are introduced to concepts of sexual biology, reproduction, arousal, intimacy, consent, masturbation, boundaries, gender, safety, identity and responsibility by you, they are more likely to see you as a source of useful information and understanding on these topics. How much more preferable is it that YOU be in this position of influence than a child’s school friends, bus pals or anything that might spew out of a television or smart phone?

This doesn’t completely address the question of timing, but I believe it ought to create a sense of urgency and boldness driven by the value of equipping our young people to adequately navigate their own sexuality, understanding and expression in a highly sexualised culture.

“I don’t want to talk to my children too early because I don’t want to introduce them to concepts before they need to be … and I don’t want to arouse their curiosity, which might lead them to further (potentially unhelpful) exploration.”

This is a hybrid of commonly expressed concerns by parents when wrestling with decisions around timing.

The myth of early exposure.

It goes without saying (which generally means it needs to be said!) that when we reference ‘early’ conversations (as in, prior to when they might otherwise be exposed) those need to happen in age appropriate and ongoing ways.

It’s not just ‘the talk’ it’s a lot of talks. It’s a continuing conversation. Any thoughts you have, as a parent or leader, of having one conversation that articulately (and in completely non-awkward ways) covers all of the necessary topics and concepts your child needs to successfully land them in sexually educated, adjusted and healthy adulthood need to be banquished! Sorry! 😉

In light of this, any topics you broach ought to be couched in language and cover information that is able to be helpfully processed and absorbed by the individual child. It will be different at every stage of development, but it will most likely be different from child to child. Their level of maturity, sensitivity, social awareness, personal experiences, personality and intellect will all impact what they need to know and what they are able to absorb.

Tips

  • You need to talk about everything in order to be able to talk about anything. Developing a relationship of open dialogue with your child (about Minecraft and puppies and football teams and complicated school/friendship dramas and …)  will grow their confidence that you are someone they can trust to handle conversations about particularly uncomfortable or uncertain topics.
  • Ask your child to ask questions – and then ask more questions. “What do YOU want to know? What do you understand and what more can we learn about together?” Respond to only the questions that are asked and check understanding as you go. “Does that make sense? Does that settle what you were thinking about?”
  • Capitalise on ‘teachable moments’. Interact with books they’re reading or things they see on television – “Why do you think she/he reacted like that?” If your child says or does something that indicates a wrong understanding (like the Gr 5 child wrestling with a peer in the playground I overheard exclaiming “stop it, or you’ll catch puberty!”) or an awareness or exposure to something – speak to it, ask about it, clarify it.
  • Act normal! Even if you don’t feel normal, ACT IT! It is counterproductive to try and explain the ‘naturalness’ of sexuality and intimacy while you stumble over words, don’t look anyone in the eye and scurry off as soon as there’s the slightest break in conversation. So …
  • Practice! Practice what you might say, what words you might use, how you might describe certain acts, attributes or attitudes. Read articles or listen to speakers who can help you develop your language – it will help your child as well as increasing your confidence.

The myth of aroused curiosity.

Curiosity only exists in a void. It’s true, right? You are only curious about what you don’t know. Speaking about pornography or masturbation isn’t a guarantee that your child is going to go off and explore that more for themselves. They are far more likely to if there’s a gap in their understanding. If they haven’t asked the questions that they still have or if they haven’t fully understood what you’ve explained.

Tips

  • Ask comprehension questions “Can you tell me in your own words what I just explained?”.
  • Encourage active listening “Nod at me if you are following but stop me if I’ve said something that was a bit weird or confusing.”
  • Plan a follow up chat. “That seems like enough for now. How about we check in later once you’ve had a chance to process that some more?”
  • Monitor your child. If they have been disturbed or discomforted by what they’ve heard you might notice that in their behaviour, body language or responses.

What do you think? What have you found helpful or unhelpful in your own experience? What further information or discussion do you require to help you keep this conversation going (or to start it!)?

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talking with your kids about sex

Where did you learn about the birds and the bees? Do you remember your parents giving you “the talk”? Did most of your learning come from friends, the graffiti on toilet cubicle walls, movies and TV, or maybe your best friend’s super-cool older siblings?

One of the most significant areas of discipleship and leadership we offer our children is in the area of sexuality and relationship – and yet, they can be some of the most awkward or feared conversations of all.

Here are some thoughts to consider – part of a broader conversation that I host with parents – to help empower you for this potentially uncomfortable yet intensely important aspect of your parenting role.

1. do the personal work 

Each of us has a unique perspective on the topics of sexuality and relationship that is heavily influenced by our own life experience. Our ability to lead children in healthy and helpful ways is impacted by the degree to which we have reviewed and processed our own upbringing and history.

If you were sexually abused or mistreated you may pass on fears and stigmas that are unhelpful. If you have had negative experiences or made significant mistakes in your own past, this will impact how you approach these topics with your child. If you have had a sheltered or extremely conservative upbringing you may pass on uninformed opinions or ideologies. If you had multiple relationships or sexual partners, if you were a pregnant teenager (or made a teenager pregnant), if you had an abortion, if you had early exposure to pornography, if you’ve struggled with sexual addiction … all this and more SHAPES your perspectives, understanding and feelings about sexuality and relationship.

In humility, parents must to do the work of review. We are doomed to either repeat the actions of our own parents or react to them (and do exactly the opposite) – for better or worse – unless we stop and review what that looked like and make sober decisions about its validity or usefulness. Our own experiences can be redeemed when we allow them to inform and educate others to make better choices.

2. know where you’re headed 

What do you hope for for your kids? What do you understand of the goal or intent of their sexuality? What type of relationships do you hope they’ll experience? How do you want them to perceive their own body and manage it? What empowerment or wisdom do you want them to be armed with? What situations do you want them to navigate intelligently and safely? How do you wish them to honour and respect others?

Knowing where you’re headed makes the pathway there more clear and more intentional.

The more ‘simple’ outcomes of saving themselves for marriage or protecting themselves from abuse or regret are a starting point, but there has to be more to your focus than that. Beyond the messages of “don’t” and “no” we have to endow our children with a sense of the beauty and joy that sexuality and relationship are designed to bring us and others in our world. Part of our created design includes this aspect of our beings and, as such, it is more than just a set of rules and guidelines that will help our children navigate the murky waters of culture and desires. It is a well shaped understanding of who they are, what God has in store for them and how they might ensure they are experiencing the fullness of His intent.

3. talk, don’t have ‘the talk’ 

It may be stating the obvious, but you’re not going to get this done in one conversation. It doesn’t matter how good that conversation is, how long it goes for or how many incentives are offered with it. One chat over milkshakes is not going to cover everything, it’s not going to accommodate for changing needs and cognition with age, it’s not going to give opportunity for all questions to be asked or all teachable moments to be explored. This is an ongoing conversation. Sorry for those of you who thought you were done! 😉

Make the most of opportunities that present to continue to shade in the big picture understanding you desire your kids to have. Ensure that each time you do talk about these kinds of topics it is left open-ended – ‘we can talk about this some more whenever you want’ or ‘if you think of other things later, be sure to come and ask me’. Engage with TV, media, overheard conversations, events in your family, song lyrics and the like to leverage opportunities to know where your child is and to keep the dialogue happening.

For some tips about talking to your kids about porn – check out this article  For further development of your awareness and language check out this site Fight the New Drug.

4. help your child translate culture 

We live in a highly sexualised world. It’s not sensationalising to make that observation, it’s just how it is. In fact, it is so sexualised we can often be immune to the various ways overt or distorted sexuality permeates our culture.

Rising proliferation and exposure to pornography has changed the water line and we are now soaking in a highly ‘pornified’ environment that requires our intentional identification and rejection. In sociological circles, pornography is considered to be the number one sexual educator of our children. Young people are being exposed to pornography often before they’ve had their first crush or their first kiss. Pornography has continued to become more and more violent and aggressive and less and less (if it ever were at all) reflective of intimate, romantic, private expressions of love.

This article draws attention to the pornography inspired images that are common-place in marketing and advertising. A walk through a shopping centre or a flick through a mainstream magazine will see multiple examples of these images. This website Collective Shout promotes advocacy around issues of objectification – it’s useful for raising your awareness as well as empowering you to be part of the response.

We need to help our children reflect on the things they see around them and to decipher the messages they are being sent and whether or not they are to be accepted or rejected. At age appropriate levels it may be as simple as wondering aloud with your child as to why a lady might look so unhappy in a picture – do you think she is having fun, do you think she is liking what is happening to her? To observing in more mature ways the submission-dominance interplay, the perception of a model as an object more than a person, the idiocy of a promotional picture that has no point of reference to the product or service it is purporting to promote.

***

This is a teaspoon of thought from an ocean of ideas, understandings and considerations that we need to continue to drink from – but it’s a start.

ASK THE QUESTIONS … what do you struggle to help your children understand? What approaches have you tried that you’ve found successful? What resources have you found useful?

5 things every kid needs || nosey parents

#5 nosey parents

Every parent will know that the way kids and teens relate to their parents ebbs and flows throughout their life. 

There may be times when children are clingy and needy; they don’t like to be away from their parents. At other times kids seem so independent a parent can almost feel redundant. There’s the “please don’t make me kiss you” or the “drop me off around the corner” phase. There are times when you are the source of all knowledge, power and entertainment and the times it seems you can know, say or do nothing of value. 

When it comes to raising children in faith, regardless of what your child may think they need or want from you – every kid needs nosey parents – at every stage. They need parents who are interested in their spiritual condition and concerned for their spiritual development. 

To this end, parents can 

  • Develop a faith-culture at home 

Deuteronomy 6 encourages the incorporation of learning and sharing of faith into the normal practices of home life – eating together, bedtime routines, and the regular comings and goings of life. Just as you would expect your kids to engage in routines such as brushing their teeth, expectations around faith practices communicates high value. 

  • Know the questions your child is asking 

And if they’re not asking any – ask some of your own. Stories shared about interactions had with friends, news and current events, or movies and TV shows, are all opportunities to know how your child sees the world and where God’s perspective shapes that view. Are they caused to question God? Do they understand His heart towards people or circumstances? What do they know of His power and activity in the world? 

  • Recruit others to shepherd and invest in your kids 

Know the names of your child’s ministry leaders – know even more than that! Know the leaders your kids love and why. Help the leaders know your child and your family better. Encourage those who have an influence in your child’s lives and champion them as your most powerful allies. 

Ministry leaders and other parents can also be a rich resource for you as you navigate difficult topics or responses to behaviours and attitudes. 

  • Know what they’re learning in faith groups and activities

If you get the “nothing” or “I can’t remember” answers when you ask your kids what they learnt at youth or kids ministry go directly to the source. Ask the ministry leaders what discussions and activities were part of that week’s session. You can still demonstrate trust in your leaders while also having a high expectation of communication of topics, intentions and responses. 

** A note for ministries and leaders …

You can train your parents to be nosey. Firstly, by your responses to their inquiries. Any sense of reluctance to share or a lack of knowledge will communicate to the parents that their inquiries aren’t welcome or they are asking for something that you can’t give (which is concerning!). When you welcome and engage with parental inquiries you grow their confidence to ask and your genuine intent to partner with them. And secondly, by answering the questions they should be asking – even if they’re not. Offering information to parents about what you’re observing of their children in your ministry or in their faith development, builds their confidence. Sending emails or “take-home” sheets that empower parents to connect with their child on the topic or story of the week is a great resource. 

Parents – what ways have you been “nosey” in your child’s faith development? What have you found most or least successful?

Leaders – how have you encouraged “nosey parents”? What successes (or failures) have you had in this endeavour?

5 things every kid needs || think orange 

#1 a really big God

#2 someone else

#3 another voice

#4 uncommon sense

#5 nosey parents 

how to fix your church 


When your children or youth are reluctant to go to church things can get hard. (Read more – against their will

If you’ve elevated and communicated the value of church attendance, negotiated and threatened your lips off and offered bribes of every incentive you can possibly imagine but are still struggling to get buy-in from your kids – there’s only one thing left to do. 

You need to fix your church

You know the old adage about not just identifying the problem but being part of the solution? Yeah, that. It’s time to roll your sleeves up and get involved in fixing your church. 

It may seem like a big challenge (depending on what your church dynamic is like) but it may take less than you think. Here are some low output-high impact first steps. 

  • Show up yourself

Passionate, genuine, supportive and committed people who show up regularly and consistently make every/any church better. Whether your attendance almost doubles the size of the congregation or fills one of 60 rows, every person who shows up contributes something vital to the dynamic of a gathering. 

It may seem a little arrogant to assert that your very presence could improve your church – but flip it over and consider what would happen if everyone thought their attendance didn’t matter and didn’t show up!

And as a side note – not surprisingly, your kids won’t be passionate about attending a place that you are not demonstrating a passion for. If your attendance is more about a week-by-week decision based on feelings and schedules rather than an anticipated fixture in your weekly rhythm you undermine the integrity of your desire to see your kids engage. 

  • Serve. 

There isn’t a church in the world with the budget to professionalise all aspects of church life. And even if finances allowed it, it would not reflect the church as Jesus declared it or as Paul and others advocated in the New Testament. 

Pretty much every service your church provides is possible because of the contributions of “someone” like you. “Someone” with skills, time, talents, heart and availability to serve one another – and the desire to see needs met, people connected, God encountered and disciples developed in a variety of ways for a diversity of people. 

The only way your family benefits from corporate worship, generational ministry, events, and shared faith experiences is because “someone” serves. “Someone” gives their Friday night or their Sunday morning over to teaching and leading – in music and word. The building is physically ready and you are welcomed because “someone” comes early to prepare for you. Small groups happen because “someone” opens their home. Morning tea is served because “someone” sets up the urn and packs away afterwards. 

Again, if everybody thought that they didn’t need to contribute you would show up to a very different kind of service, in a very different physical space and ultimately be paying for some very expensive psychiatry bills for your burnt out Senior Pastor! It’s not rocket science. You need to give something for the system to work. 

Side note – your child is much more likely to feel connected to a faith community when they experience a sense of ownership and purpose (true for you too). Serving is essential for fixing your church

  • Influence the influencers. 

All people thrive under the intentional investment, discipleship and encouragement of others. In any church environment there are going to be specific people who have influence over your child/ren. They may be positional influencers – those with the title of “leader” or “coordinator” in specific departments or ministries. They may be proximity influencers – those they’ll serve next to or find themselves spending time with. Or they’ll be influencers by personality – that cool young adult that everyone gravitates to or the super caring and connected person whose name your kids remember and repeat most often. 

If you want to spend your fixing energy wisely, direct it to the influencers. If, by your investment, care and counsel, you can help an influencer flourish you will be influencing your own kids through them. You will be making the church a better place for them (and others in kind) to connect to and thrive in. 

Invite your kids’ youth or kids ministry leaders for dinner or to birthday parties and basketball games. Host their groups in your home. Pray for them. Know them well so as to be able to assist them best. 

You can fix a lack of leadership or develop the competency and confidence of leaders by your intentional encouragement and support of those who God has appointed and who stand to impact your child’s sense of belonging in a faith community. 

***

Again, they’re simple steps but also essential. I am constantly surprised by the number of people who will speak of their disappointment in them or their families not finding a place of belonging, connection or support in a church community and they haven’t tried any of these fixing tips. They’re certainly no guarantee that your child will grow to love God and church – but their absence has a far greater likelihood of assuring the opposite.