One of the most exciting and bittersweet times in your child’s life is when you walk her through the sex talk. It’s the season you lead her into adulthood. It’s exciting because you are the one leading her. It’s bittersweet because the door on her childhood begins to close.
Listen to the podcast
The previous seven chapters of this book laid out a strong Gospel-centered backdrop that prepares a parent for the sex talk. This is prerequisite equipping that incrementally builds a sexuality worldview in the child’s life, from birth to now.
As you know, the talk is not just a talk. It’s a way of living out a God-centered and other-centered perspective. You’re exporting your sexuality worldview and experience to your child, which makes your goal much broader than teaching abstinence. Any middle school health class can do that for you.
What you’re exporting is the life of Jesus Christ (Gospel) to your child, specifically how that life impacts her sexuality. The early chapters of this book represent a practical philosophy for Gospel-centered sexuality.
This chapter is about the actual talk–the day (or days) you sit down with your son or daughter and discuss the birds and the bees. More than likely this will be the most emotional time in your child’s life.
Six months out
The Gospel implies preparation (Ephesians 1:3-11). The Gospel was not a haphazard event (Galatians 4:4) cobbled together because of an unexpected failure of humanity. God thought about you in eternity past and mapped out a specific and practical plan to help you.
As practical modelers of the Gospel, you want to imitate Him by being proactive in your preparation for launching your child into adulthood (Ephesians 5:1). There are few plans you will ever make that are more important than preparing your son or daughter for this time in their lives. One of the things you want them to feel is your thoughtful care as they are engaged by your well-planned sex talk.
Important events are planned events. The LORD plans, prepares, and executes redemptive initiatives for His glory and our benefit. About six months out should be sufficient time to begin putting some materials together for your retreat.
What I’m going to lay out here is what we did. This chapter should be filed under the heading of there is “a” way and there is “the” way of doing things. Knowing the difference is wisdom. Where the Bible is not clear, each person should exercise purposeful freedom to do what they believe is the right thing for them to do (Romans 14:23).
This is how we did it. It may work for you. It may not. You may want to select parts of what we did and add your own preferences. In one sense, it does not matter how you do it as long as you are leading your child into adulthood through the means of a practical Gospel-centered worldview on sex and sexuality.
A big part of your plans will be determined by the personality, spirituality, capacity, and maturity of your child. Your talk should be predetermined as well as pneumatic (Spirit-led). If you have more than one child, you know how they are different and how a “cookie-cutter” parenting model does not work.
When do you have the talk
Knowing each child is different will help you decide when to have the talk with your child. We had the talk with our daughter two months before her eleventh birthday. There were several reasons for this:
- Her body was changing and we knew her first period was not far away.
- It was late summer, just before school started, which allowed Lucia time to take her on a four-day retreat.
- She was going to middle school and we assumed the “language” in her new school environment would be a significant cultural upgrade.
- She was well-grounded in God’s Word and was mature enough to where we believed she could handle this transitional conversation in her life.
There is not a set age to have the talk. You’ll have to assess your child, her surroundings, peers, contexts, and spiritual maturity. The timing for us and her was right. We waited until my son was between twelve and thirteen years old.
- His body was not changing.
- He was not entering a cultural upgraded school environment for another six months.
- He was not interested in girls.
- He was interested in rip sticking, tree climbing, and Minecraft.
Materials for your talk
Around the six-month marker we began gathering materials together for the talk. Six months gave us enough time to read and listen to the materials so we could assess the strengths and weaknesses of the material.
We were not only assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the materials but thinking through how they should be applied to our child. We listened, read, and made notes with our daughter in mind. This helped Lucia as she prepared for the talk. If you are a single parent I’d recommend you work through the material with another adult who knows you and your child.
The Gospel is not only proactive in planning, but it is customized to each person. God’s Word is not a generic Word, but a specific Word that speaks to specific people. Therefore, we wanted to take the materials and adapt them to a specific little girl–our little girl.
The main core material we used was from Family Life–their Passport to Purity Kit. This program was adequate, with some tweaks, for what we needed to do. Lucia and I listened to all the CD’s separately, making notes and comparing its strengths and weaknesses, along with how to apply the lessons to our child.
In addition, we used an article from CCEF, written by Paul Tripp, called, The Way of the Wise: Teaching Teenagers About Sex.
While Passport to Purity is excellent on the technical aspects of the talk, e.g. how to have sex, body issues, your period, virginity, and planning the actual retreat, it also has some weaknesses. Here are three of them:
- They do not use a lot of Scripture. You will want to make sure your child has a good grasp of the Word of God. It could be Family Life assumes this essential biblical grounding.
- There are some man-centered aspects to the program. For example, if you want to overcome peer pressure, they focus on you mustering up the courage. They don’t speak clearly enough to our innate weaknesses or our need to rely on God rather than ourselves (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
- The thrust of their curriculum seems to be more about not having sex or getting pregnant. While this is a good and needed goal, there needs to be more emphasis on the motive for purity, which is Godward, not pragmatic.
It appears they are trying to do two main things: (1) how to prepare for the talk and (2) how to have the talk. On these points, they excel. You will not be disappointed.
- Preview the Travel Journal for the parents for the purity retreat.
- Preview the Tour Guide from Passport to Purity
If you want a more Godward focus, you will have to add your preferred teaching to your plans. While I don’t want my child to have sex before marriage, the more important key is how her heart is riveted to God, rather than the shame of fornication or the liabilities of having a child outside of marriage.
We also added the Alex and Brett Harris book, Do Hard Things. This was not a book we used on the retreat. We gave it to her just before the retreat to read, which she began. She finished it after the retreat. There were two reasons we gave her this book:
1 – We wanted to heighten her awareness and anticipation for the upcoming retreat. Though she did not know the specifics of the retreat, she knew she was going to something special–we built it up.
2 – We framed it as a time to be with mommy, talking about the next phase of her life. We did not tell her about the sex aspects of the retreat. That would have confused her. Needless to say, she was ecstatic about the adventure and giving her a book about being a teenager heightened her anticipation.
Though she loves to read Nancy Drew mysteries and other girly type books, we wanted to add to her reading list. She embraced this idea, as she is looking forward to being an adult.
The last piece of “material” we used was the location for the retreat. We picked the mountains of North Carolina, which were about 90 minutes away. The reason for this was because our daughter (and mother) love God’s creation. He is their favorite Artist.
This was a perfect place for them to romp around the woods, walk in the creeks, and slide down big rocks. There were two main reasons for finding a retreat located in the mountains:
- The retreat was sculpted to her kind of fun.
- The talk would be heavy at times. Knowing there would bee embarrassing and scary moments, the location was important. (She needed to go romp in the creeks after hearing where babies come from. I took our son to the beach.)
Two months out
With your location determined and your materials in hand, it’s time to start working through the materials. If you are a two-parent home, I’d recommend both parents read and listen to the material.
You can plan some date nights just for discussion. Because my wife was going to have the talk with our daughter during the late summer, we used several Vacation Bible School nights to go on dates to discuss the materials.
This gave us time to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the materials as well as the strengths and weaknesses of our daughter so we could practicalize the one to the other. These times were also opportunities to pray through the plans.
These date nights proved to be rich, not only as it pertained to our daughter, but it strengthened our relationship too.
We had some friends who owned a house in the mountains and they were willing to let Lucia and our daughter use it. Because there was no school, we planned a four-day retreat. They left on a Monday morning and returned late Thursday afternoon.
The Passport series does a good job laying out the plan for the retreat. You can actually do it over a weekend, but because we could add an extra day that gave them more time for additional discussion points:
- We wanted to carefully unpack her relationship with Christ, which the Passport series does not do.
- We wanted to learn how we could parent her and her siblings more effectively. It was a wonderful time for us to learn how to be better parents.
Lucia planned all the meals and snacks and bought all those items prior to the retreat. She also went online to research the area to see what fun things they could do while there. This was an important aspect of the trip.
She knew parts of the talk would be heavy and embarrassing for our daughter, which it was. There were a couple of times where they needed to stop the audio and the discussion and go climb some rocks. That made a huge difference.
She also planned downtime for our daughter so she could work through her passport journal. She took her journal writing so seriously that she wrote everything on paper beforehand and then rewrote it in her special passport journal. She didn’t want to mess up her “special journal” for her special occasion.
Another heavy moment was the all-important trip to the drug store to buy feminine products. This also required another trip to the rocks and creek. She handled all these things extremely well and I was praising God she had a capable mom to walk with her every step of the way.
Lucia’s faith in God grew during this time. Her affection for her daughter grew deeper too. The bond between them was strengthened and we all celebrated God’s kindness to us (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Post talk events
On the way home from the retreat, my wife planned a time at the salon to get their hair styled, plus a manicure and pedicure for both of them. It was a great way to cap off her time with mommy.
Later that evening I met with them for a prearranged dinner where I had the opportunity to encourage our daughter as we celebrated this transition week in her life. I also gave her a “promise ring” and walked her through our hope for her to glorify God not only in her body but also in her heart (Luke 10:27).
It turned out to be four full days of celebratory fun. Though she was back playing in the woods and acting silly again, we knew things would never be the same. Our little girl was walked across the bridge from being a girl to becoming a young lady. It was the beginning of a new adventure with her.
Call to action
If your child is a toddler, I recommend you read through this book now. If you are married, it would be best for you and your spouse to read through it together. Though the sex talk may be years away, your child’s sexual worldview is developing now.
If you are a single parent, I recommend you talk with someone in your local church to bounce off the ideas conveyed in this book. You do not have to go through this alone. If I can serve you by answering any questions you may have, please let me know. It would be a joy to do so.