Many parents feel awkward about broaching the subject of sex with their children. Even when they try, they are sometimes at a loss as to what to say. Consequently, they may leave it entirely to their children’s schools to handle sexuality education.
However, this area of teaching is not just about passing on facts and knowledge. Rather, sexuality education needs to be informed by our values and beliefs, too. As Christian parents, we need to take up the responsibility of passing on biblical values on love, sex, and marriage to our children.
Here are some key messages that we can focus on.
1. Men, Women, and Sex Are Part of God’s Plan
In the beginning, God made one man and one woman, and gave them to each other in the very first marriage. They were united as one flesh for the rest of their lives (Genesis 2:22-24). This truth is critical to our understanding of what defines marriage—it is only between a man and a woman, they lay with each other (i.e. have sexual intercourse), and they stay together for life.
It is also clear that one of God’s purposes for sex and marriage is procreation (Genesis 9:7). Children born within the context of lifelong marital commitment are blessings from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). Of course, this does not imply that married couples who are childless—for medical or other reasons beyond their control—have been forgotten by Him. God may have a unique plan for their marriage and will certainly bless and use their union for His glory.
We should thus encourage our children to pray and seek God for His calling in their lives, and for a future spouse whose own calling is aligned or complementary to theirs.
Another purpose for marriage is for husband and wife to become each other’s helper (Genesis 2:18) in accomplishing the mission that God has given to them. We should thus encourage our children to pray and seek God for His calling in their lives, and for a future spouse whose own calling is aligned or complementary to theirs. Be careful though, we should not undermine the gift of singlehood or celibacy (1 Corinthians 7:7), which God may have placed in some of our children’s lives. This would have to be prayed over and affirmed by parents, elders, or leaders, with God himself as their helper (Psalm 54:4).
2. Marriage and Sex Are God’s Gifts to Us
There should be no shame when we talk about sex within the confines of marriage (Genesis 2:25). In fact, it is meant to be beautiful and enjoyable for husband and wife, as we read in several Bible passages like Proverbs 5:18-19 and Song of Songs 7:6-12.
There should be no shame when we talk about sex within the confines of marriage.
Furthermore, through marriage, God has gifted us with someone who will be there for us through thick and thin, for better or for worse. Contrary to what popular culture says, love is not meant to be self-indulgent and pleasure-seeking. Instead, we are to display true love in marriage as modelled by Christ’s self-sacrificial love for us (Ephesians 5:21-33).
3. There Is a Season for Everything
As the age when young people start dating gets younger, we should challenge our children not to awaken love or the desire for romantic relationships before they are ready (Song of Songs 8:4). Nowadays, we are surrounded by media that awakens romance. We may need to advise our children to limit their consumption of romance novels or movies, and refrain from following the love lives of celebrities, as these could spark off certain desires in them.
As the age when young people start dating gets younger, we should challenge our children not to awaken love or the desire for romantic relationships before they are ready.
Instead, during the season of preparation, they should focus on growing in their knowledge and love of God, training and equipping themselves for the work or ministry that God is calling them to, and developing maturity in the fruit of the Spirit through serving at home, in church, and in the community.
When they do start dating, with the agreement of their partners, they should set and adhere to explicit boundaries for physical intimacy. They need to understand that sex is only meant to be enjoyed within marriage and anything outside of it is adulterous (Exodus 20:14).
4. The Enemy Also Has a Plan
The devil is out to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) our children’s destiny and calling from God. He is prowling around like a lion looking out for prey (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore, we must explain to our children that boundaries are to protect and not to restrict them.
Worldly culture promotes all kinds of perversions of God’s design for love, sex, and marriage. Same-sex marriage, pre-marital sex, and pornography are but a few examples. These often lead to broken lives and dysfunctional families that hinder the fulfilment of our God-given destiny.
We must explain to our children that boundaries are to protect and not to restrict them.
Yet, in God, it is possible for our children to resist temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). With the help of His Word and the Holy Spirit living in them, they can die to their fleshly desires and stand against the tide of popular culture. We also need to support them by keeping communication channels open so that they can approach us for counsel, prayer, and encouragement whenever they are tempted.
5. There Is Hope for Redemption and Restoration
Nevertheless, there will still be times when our children fall. We would then have to follow Jesus’ example of how He treated the woman found in adultery (John 8:1–11). Instead of condemning and shaming our children, let us extend forgiveness and grace to them, and journey with them as they walk towards healing and restoration.
Only when our children are confident in our unconditional love for them, will they be willing to confide in us when struggling with sexual brokenness.
Only when our children are confident in our unconditional love for them, will they be willing to confide in us when struggling with sexual brokenness. It is important that they feel comfortable to share with us, so that whatever sin or weakness that is hiding in darkness will be exposed to God’s redemptive light. Once this happens, they can then get back on track and start anew, according to God’s plan for their lives.
Love, Sex, and Marriage: What to Say and How
These are the key messages that we need to share with our children when talking with them about love, sex, and marriage:
- God designed sex and marriage for a man and a woman.
- Marriage is a lifetime commitment.
- Sex is a gift to be enjoyed within marriage.
- There is nothing shameful about sex between husband and wife.
- Child-bearing is also supposed to happen in the context of marriage.
- Husband and wife are to help each other fulfil God’s calling in their lives.
- Singlehood is God’s gift for some people.
- Jesus’ self-sacrificial love is a model for true love between husband and wife.
- Do not awaken love before you are ready.
- Prepare for marriage by growing in faith, knowledge,skills and maturity.
- Set boundaries for physical intimacy in dating relationships.
- Be alert and aware of the lies and perversions of God’s design in popular culture.
- Resist temptation with God’s help and family support.
- There is forgiveness and grace in Him—God can redeem sexual brokenness, bring healing and restoration.
Here are some practical tips for how to deliver the key messages:
- Be in agreement with your spouse so that you can model what it means to be one. Work out together, in advance, what you need to teach your children.
- Teaching about sex is an ongoing process, not a one-off talk. Seize teachable moments that may arise anytime and anywhere.
- Start as young as possible. Keep repeating the same messages over the years but in greater depth as their level of understanding grows.
- Focus on building the relationship with your children rather than on enforcing rules. They would submit more willingly to parental authority when there is a healthy and loving relationship.
- Aim to strengthen the parent-child bond in times of conflict or crisis. Spend time listening to their perspectives and struggles instead of talking down to them.
- Model and practise self-sacrificial love in your own marriage.
- Be open to discuss anything. Do not over-react when they ask sensitive questions.
- Be careful not to judge their friends’ behaviour without fully understanding the underlying circumstances and their motivations.
- You do not have to do it alone. Consult church leaders or other parents and share tips with one another.
- Single parents could find other trusted adults to mentor your children. This is especially useful if a child is of the opposite gender from yourself, in which case, find someone of your child’s gender.
- Tap appropriate resources. There is a growing number of Christian ministries that conduct training, and produce or review biblical resources on love, sex, and marriage for parents and their children.
Help! How Do I Talk to My Child About Love Sex and Marriage
By Cheah Fung Fong