“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
2 Timothy 2:22
When I taught 4th grade a few years ago, I was astounded to find that the 9 year-old boys in my class had already learned to make off-color jokes. My distress at this situation was only compounded by the fact that I was teaching at a Christian school! Although it was something of a rude awakening for me to discover that children are no longer quite as innocent as I’d previously imagined, I am glad that my eyes were opened sooner rather than later. The experience has caused me to think more seriously about how and when I will begin addressing topics of sexual purity with my children. One thing I know for sure is that my husband and I will need to be proactive in ensuring that our children learn about this issue from us long before their 4th grade friends have the chance to fill them in.
Author John Younts has written a series of articles on how and when to talk to your children about sex that I think is very helpful [Be patient with the links; the website is a bit slow]. In the articles, the author addresses “when to talk about sex and what specifics should be covered at what age, what sexual attraction is, and abuses of God’s provision for sexual activity.” Younts’s approach is drastically different from the old “birds and the bees talk” that many parents have used over the years. He advocates instead the importance of beginning to address the topic of sex and marriage when your children are quite young:
One significant responsibility of being a biblical parent is to anticipate the temptations and struggles that your children will face in life. Talk about sexual themes has become part of our cultural landscape…This cultural context means that you will need to talk with your children about sex and marriage earlier rather than later…Here is an excerpt from my book, Everyday Talk, that addresses the timing issue:
“You don’t have to begin talking about sex the way the world does. Graphic content and biological illustrations are not profitable for discussion about sex with your very young children. It is better to keep it simple and conceptual in the beginning. Tell them something like this: ‘Sex is something special that God created for married people. It is a way for mommies and daddies to be close and special with each other. Sex is a blessing because it is designed to help husbands and wives know each other and bring joy to each other…”
You’ll notice how Younts talks of teaching your children about ”sex and marriage,” rather than sex alone. He believes making this distinction is vital:
This, then, is where you must start in teaching your children about sex. Sex is not fundamentally a biological, physiological activity…Sexual activity is designed for a man and a woman who are obeying God in marriage in order to bring honor to his name. The idea that sexual pleasure is designed merely for self-interest is pagan at its core. It is dishonoring to God to talk about sex in abstraction from marriage. Sex is specifically designed for marriage and for nothing else.
Reading each article in this series has helped me to think through how I can best teach my children about the topic of sexuality in a way that serves them well and brings glory to God. As you know, I don’t even have any children yet, but with an issue this important, it’s never too soon to begin planning and praying. I hope you’ll take advantage of the excellent information provided in these articles. Raising children who will keep their hearts and bodies pure in this highly sexualized culture is a challenge, but because God is faithful and merciful, I believe it is still very much possible.
Since we’re on the topic of tough parenting issues, I thought you might appreciate some encouragement from Pastor John Piper on “Parenting with Hope in the Worst of Times.” Piper’s teaching has done more to help me develop an accurate view of the greatness of our God than perhaps any other teacher. Watch as he explains how understanding that no god is like our God will provide hope even when your family faces the most difficult of situations.
The following clip is just under 4 minutes, but you can watch the full video here.
Photo: Jessica Levesque