I wrote a post a few months back about being the kind of mom your kids can turn to with their questions about sex.
In it I told a bit of our family’s dynamic, that we’re all pretty open talking about sex in our home. And that I even gave my oldest daughter, Rebecca, a “honeymoon package” with lube and condoms the week before her wedding.
A few commenters took me to task on Facebook for that, and several asked how Rebecca felt about that.
Since Becca has written here before, I thought I’d ask her to do so again! Becca’s going to let you know what we did to make talking about sex a little less awkward for her. Let’s go!
When I was ten, my mom told me about sex.
I thought it was really weird. I had a hard time looking at my mom for the rest of the day.
For most of my friends, that awkward silence didn’t stop. They just never felt comfortable talking to their parents about sex–it was way too weird.
That wasn’t the case for my sister and me. Sure, it was awkward for a while, and it wasn’t like I was jumping to talk to my mom about sex. But when it came up, it was easy to talk to them. When I was 15, my mom and I talked about how sad I was that one of my friends had gotten pregnant. In grade 11, my mom and I talked about what I should do when I learned that one of my friends was in a dangerous sexual relationship. At 20 when I was getting married, my mom handed me a bottle of lube and a box of condoms in a “honeymoon package.” Sex was just another part of the conversation.
Unfortunately, not many kids are as comfortable talking to their parents about sex as I was. But it wasn’t all luck-of-the-draw with my family–my parents did some specific things that made our conversations about sex a lot more natural and a lot less cringe-worthy.
The conversations weren’t forced
I have heard so many horror stories of how my friends were told about sex as pre-teens. The formal sit-down “sex talk” where mom or dad tells them exactly how it all works where the kid wants nothing more than to just run far far away. And they really just don’t want to talk about sex ever again because it was just so awkward.
Now, I did have a sit-down “sex-talk,” but it wasn’t forced. My mom took me on a weekend trip when I was ten and we did all sorts of fun things, like go yarn shopping, get ice cream, and explore the university campus where she and dad had met. And at night we sat and listened to a CD course all about puberty and sex. But it was part of a larger weekend that was fun, and sex wasn’t the only thing I was learning about. We also talked about periods, crushes, and other fun things like acne and cramps. Yes, it was very awkward. I still remember just feeling so shocked when I learned, “he puts what… in… where?!” But it had a natural build-up after talking about puberty, and although I was uncomfortable, I didn’t feel like I was forced to be part of this awkward situation. It was just the next part of our weekend.
My sister’s “sex talk” was different. She just asked mom out-right one day, and so mom told her. She’s naturally a bit more brazen than I am. I needed a weekend away. After the first sex talk, though, the conversations were pretty much all initiated by us. Our parents never made us talk about sex if we didn’t want to. Instead, they let us come to them.
My parents didn’t expect us to have a hard time talking about sex
The reason they were able to let us come to them is that they knew that if we had questions, we would ask. Our family is very open about everything, not just sex. And that’s key: you can’t expect kids to want to communicate about sex if your family isn’t good at communicating about other things, too. We knew we could go to our parents with our questions about sex because we could go to them about everything else. So it was natural that we would go to them because that was our routine already.
We talked about a lot of hard things in our family. We talked about grief, about loss, about theology, about substance abuse, and it was all just very normal to be open about these kinds of things. Of course, we also talked about the fun things like our friends or funny videos. But since my parents knew we would come to them with our questions, there was no need for them to worry we wouldn’t talk to them about sex, too. So they waited for us to come to them.
My parents weren’t embarrassing about sex
Yes, my mom handed me a gift bag with condoms and lube in it a few days before my wedding. But she didn’t hand it to me in front of everyone at the house, my future mother-in-law, or my friends. We went out to the car alone and laughed about it together. It wasn’t some huge show, it wasn’t a spectacle. It was like an inside joke between the two of us.
Parents often try to compensate for the awkwardness of talking about sex with your kids by being very loud and boisterous about it, like they’re trying to convince everyone it’s not awkward. Spoiler alert: that doesn’t work. It’s just really embarrassing for your kids.
I had it rough in this area–my mom was a public speaker and author about Christian sex.
Everyone knew that my mom was “the Christian sex lady.” And I got teased about it every now and then. But my mom didn’t make the teasing worse by how she acted–she didn’t joke around with my friends about it, and didn’t advertise the fact that she spoke about sex. She wasn’t ashamed about it, and didn’t try to hide it, but just made sure it wasn’t the center of the conversation for our sakes.
The main trick for not being embarrassing is to have those boundaries. My mom knew that around my friends was not an appropriate place to talk about sex or that side of her job. When I was getting married, she didn’t joke about the honeymoon in front of my friends who may have been more uncomfortable about it than I was. She had boundaries and that helped minimize the embarrassment.
There was never shame surrounding sex
When my parents talked to us about sex, it wasn’t a lecture on why we shouldn’t do it. It wasn’t a lecture on why it was bad, or why it can screw up our entire lives. A lot of Christian kids get this message–you don’t have sex because it’s bad and you don’t want to become impure. Our parents never took that approach. Instead, sex was just another part of life. And like all things in life, there is a right time and a wrong time to do it. Driving is a part of life. It is wrong to drive when you are 13. Sex is a part of life. It is wrong to have sex when you’re not married. But it wasn’t presented as unforgivable, and our virginity was never called “our precious gift.” Sex was more presented as a very good thing that could be unhealthy if you do it too soon. But there were no scare tactics, no shame tactics–just the facts. And a lot of grace.
This mindset really played itself out in the kinds of movies and TV shows we could watch.
My parents were very clear that there was some kinds of sex that were bad, and some kinds that were not. Sex in marriage is not bad. It’s always bad to watch explicit sex scenes, of course, but they were much more lenient when it came to letting us watch movies with sexual content between married characters versus between non-married characters. The same way we were allowed to see the violence in The Lord of the Rings, but not in horror movies. In one, it’s good fighting evil; in the other, it’s just evil and terror for terror’s sake.
Now, we never watched super explicit sex scenes in movies. But our family in general had a very clear mindset that “sex is not bad–it’s just sometimes very unhealthy and can cause brokenness if done in the wrong way.” So if my parents had forgotten about a sex scene in a movie, they didn’t freak out. They just apologized, and we continued with the movie. It wasn’t shameful, it wasn’t a scandal, and it wasn’t a big ordeal. It was just another matter-of-fact conversation.
I think the biggest mistake that parents make when it comes to talking about sex with their kids is that they blow it way out of proportion.
Sex is just a part of life. Yes, it’s a very important part of life, but when you make it a bigger deal than it has to be, or get spooked yourself when talking about it, kids can become really uncomfortable. And it makes sex seem shameful. Making sex into a huge, scary monster makes us kids a lot less willing to talk about it openly, or ask you our questions. Because we don’t want our parents to be disappointed in us.
Instead of worrying about it too much or analyzing everything to death, just talk about it. Just be open and honest and give your kids a safe space to come and ask their questions. And they’ll thank you for it in the end.
Now, what do you think? Can you make sex more natural to talk about with your kids? What’s your biggest takeaway? Let’s talk in the comments!