In this article, the second in my series on How to Talk with Your Child About Sex, we will discuss the importance of establishing a dialogue of trust with your child, and in particular, one that leads to confidence that when you, and God, say “no” to something that they want, there is a good reason for doing so.
Dialogue About Sexual Boundaries Is Important
Sex as God designed it was meant to be lived in the context of healthy boundaries — prohibitions before marriage and fidelity after marriage. Following God’s design allows a couple to experience the beauty of sex as it was meant to be experienced. Who doesn’t want their child to have every opportunity to experience the most and the best that God has to offer them?
When appropriate sexual boundaries are kept, your child will be protected from guilt, unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual insecurity that can occur from being compared to (or to comparing) past sexual partners and other emotional distresses that come with premarital sex. They will also experience spiritual rewards for remaining disciplined, having a marriage that is optimal for raising children, peace of mind, trust, and true intimacy.
If you really believe that God’s design for sex within the context of marriage can provide such protections and such blessings, why would you not be intentional about talking plainly about sex with your child? Because it’s embarrassing? Really, that’s the reason?
Let me assure you that your child wants to know. Your child needs and desires your wisdom. If you approach your child with love and confidence, your child will, in turn, understand that sex isn’t a dirty topic, but a Godly topic, and one that you care about deeply. The truly embarrassing thing that can happen is waiting until it’s too late and your child ends up missing out on a truly remarkable blessing.
Waiting is Realistic
As a parent, one of your priorities in this area is to help your child understand that “waiting” until he/she is married to have sex is realistic. Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean that they have to. Just because they feel like doing it doesn’t mean they have to. Having sex is a choice — a choice where a decision of “no” is possible.
The challenging part is getting your child to believe that “no” is possible and helpful. Start teaching your child that “No” is a loving answer as early as you can. Look for opportunities to show how you use “no” as a means of protection and provision, just as God says “no” to us in order to protect and provide for us.
Sure, no one, especially a child, really likes to hear “NO” when they want something. But teaching your child that “No” is often a better answer than “Yes” is possible and it can start very young. Talk with your child about the fact that when you say “No” it’s for one of two reasons: you are protecting them from harm or you are providing something better for them.
For example, when our child reaches for a hot stove, we shout “No!” Why? Because it is the loving thing to do — we don’t want our child harmed. When our child tries to ride in a car without a seatbelt, we say “No.” Why? Because it is the loving thing to do — we don’t want our child harmed. Saying “No” is often the way that we protect our child.
At times, we say “no” because we have something better in mind for a child. A few years back one of my daughters was invited to a sleepover at a friend’s home. She desperately wanted to go. However, we had a surprise trip to Disney planned and would be leaving the morning of the sleepover. My daughter had no idea of the surprise. There were a few times that week that my daughter “whined” about missing the sleepover, protesting with the familiar “it’s not fair.” But, we said “No” because we had something better in mind for her. And, when the day finally came, and she was overjoyed with the blessing of a trip to Disney, we were able to discuss how sometimes parents say “no” because there is something better that we are providing. It’s a lesson that she has carried into other moments of our telling her “no”, including in our conversations with her about sex before marriage.
It’s not enough to just say “because I said so” when we tell our children “no.” Take the time to explain to your child that you are saying “no” because you are protecting him/her or because you want something better for him/her. If you start that conversation when your child reaches for the hot stove, you will have a lot easier time when the conversation turns to matters of sexual intimacy.