Talking to your kids about sex and puberty is awkward.
It just is. It’s talking about something that is highly personal–really the most personal part of your life–with your children. It’s that moment when your children go from being naive to understanding a lot about how the world works. And you don’t necessarily want to think about them that way.
That’s exactly why we created The Whole Story: Not So Awkward Talks about Sex, Puberty, and Growing Up, our online video-based course that takes your children through everything they need to know about sex and puberty. The cool part, and the absolutely unique part of our course, is that the videos for the kids are hosted by young mentors. My daughters (aged 20 & 22 when they recorded it) tell the girls are all the facts of life, and Sheldon Neil, a television host from Crossroads TV, along with my two sons-in-law (both 24) talk to the boys. Then discussion questions, activity ideas, and more help parents continue that conversation.
This week I’ve wanted to help all of us get better at promoting a healthy view of sex in our society, especially focusing on how parents can be equipped to do this well with their teens. We looked first at confronting our own issues around sex and our own experiences with puberty. We talked about how to really listen to our kids. And we talked about how to stop inadvertently causing sexual shame.
Now, for our last challenge, I want to have a bit of a rah-rah moment.
Mom and Dad, you’ve got this.
You really have.
No one knows your children like you do, and because of that, no one is better equipped to talk to your own kids about sex and puberty than you are.
And you are not alone. God wants you to do this well, and He is going to help you to do this well! He cares about you, He cares about your kids, He wants all of you to thrive in your current and future relationships. You can do this well. God has called you to parenting; He will not leave you now.
Doing this well, though, does not mean that you aren’t nervous.
Doing this well does not mean that it isn’t awkward.
Doing this well doesn’t mean that you won’t trip over your words, turn a little red, or take a while to think of a good answer to a question.
Doing this well doesn’t mean doing this perfectly.
Doing this well simply means doing it.
It means showing up and having the conversations.
So many parents avoid those conversations, assuming that the school will teach your kids what they need to know. If it’s taught by health teachers, then it won’t be as awkward, right?
I’m not so sure. After all, you know what’s really strange? Acting like sex is no big deal, which is the way the schools often teach it. That’s what makes kids mortified.
When a school shows pictures of the male and female anatomy in a mixed grade 6 or 7 classroom, or asks grade 7 students to pass around a condom to put on a lifesize replica of a penis (which is what happened to my daughter Katie’s friends ten years ago now), that’s mortifying. Schools try to break down kids’ natural and good modesty, because they believe that it’s modesty that is keeping kids from having conversations about safe sex. But that lacksadaisical attitude–see! This is normal! Everybody’s doing it!–will scar a child far more than a mom or a dad who wants to sit down, in private, and maybe with some ice cream, and explain “this is what is happening to your body and why.”
Maybe, instead of being so scared about awkwardness, we should embrace it. We don’t need to pretend like it’s no big deal.
After all, your children know that this is awkward! It’s not a big surprise to them. And if you act awkward, it will not scar them for life. In fact, if you talk about the fact that it’s awkward, and talk about WHY it’s awkward (maybe share some of the memories that came to you from our Day One and Day Two challenges), your kids will feel closer to you because they know you’re being genuine and authentic. You’re pulling the curtain back and letting them in, and they know that you’re doing this because it’s important and you care. You’re willing to risk something of yourself, and that matters to a child.
Will they try to rush through the conversations? Some will, some won’t. Will they ask questions? Again, some will, and some won’t.
But what your children will know is that you are willing to talk about this stuff. They will know more about you and understand more about what things were like for you as a teenager. And so they will know that you are a safe place.
A Special Note for Single Parents
If you’re a single mom raising a boy, or a single dad raising a girl, the puberty and sex talk can seem even worse. Are you even equipped to have those conversations with your child?
Obviously it’s great if you can pull in an aunt or an uncle, or a close family friend. But I think your child still needs to hear from you. They still need to know that you want to talk to them and be involved in their lives, even if they hit puberty and they’re not a kid anymore. They still need to know that they can come to you–in fact, it’s even more important that they know this, because kids of single parents often feel as if they have to grow up way too fast. Let them know that you’re still their parent, and they can still rely on you.
That’s one of the reasons we’re so excited about The Whole Story, actually. If you’re a single mom of boys, you can let Sheldon tell them all that stuff about erections and wet dreams and masturbation and porn and girls, but you can still be there to keep those conversations going, without having to be the one to explain it yourself! It’s our prayer that this is a great resource to equip single parents especially to guide their opposite-sex children through puberty, and still keep the lines of communication open. And we’ve tailored the questions and activities just for you, too!
Here we are talking about a question we had recently from a single mom:
For All of Us: Can The Whole Story Help with the Awkwardness?
That’s what we’re here for! We’re here to make it less awkward. But you can’t eliminate the awkwardness entirely! And that’s okay. If you find yourself so nervous that you don’t even know how to start the conversations, let Rebecca and Katie or Sheldon, Connor and David do that for you. Then you can use the discussion questions to keep that conversation going!
Or are you worried that you’ll forget something important (kind of like I forgot to teach Katie how to shave, so she totally cut herself up)? The course covers everything they need to know, from body changes to sex to hygiene to how to handle the opposite sex and peer pressure, at age appropriate levels. But then you can be the one
Or if you think your child would just enjoy hearing about all of this from someone who is more like a mentor or an older sibling, that’s what we can give you. We’ll tell the basic facts, and help your child navigate through, but then you get to join in and make sure that your child knows The Whole Story–the way you want it told. The activities and checklists help you personalize the messages just for your child.
Talking to your kids about sex and puberty will always be at least a little awkward. But that doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun, and memorable, and actually bonding.
That’s our prayer for The Whole Story. And I hope that’s what you experience, too!
Read the rest of the Healthy Sex Conversations Series:
- Thinking Back to Your First Lessons about Sex
- Identifying the Emotions You Associate with Puberty
- The First Rule of Talking to Your Kids about Sex and Puberty
- Why It’s OK to Be Awkward Talking to Your Kids about Sex and Puberty (This one!)
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