Talking to their kids about lust and pornography feels daunting for many parents. And these topics are secondary to a more foundational discussion of sex. Parents who are fearful of talking to their kids about sex leave a void of silence the world—especially pornography—will be glad to fill.
The problem is, many parents are too afraid to talk to their kids about sex because they don’t want to say “too much too soon.” Unfortunately, “too much too soon” often turns into “too little too late.”
When Should You Have “The Talk”?
First, it is worth saying that teaching kids about sex is a lot like teaching them about anything: It involves not just one conversation but a series of ongoing conversations—some of them formal, some informal.
So, when I say “the talk,” I’m not describing the one and only time you talk to your kids about sex—heaven forbid. I’m talking about the moments when you describe, for the first time, key aspects of what sexuality is all about: what sexual intercourse is, how babies are made, the differences between male and female reproductive organs, and God’s rules about sexuality. These initial “downloads” of information can take place in one discussion or a series of discussions, but they should always be followed with more conversations.
Between birth and age five, there are plenty of initial conversations parents can have with their kids.
- During these ages, children are very concrete and literal, so it is a perfect time to teach the proper names of body parts (especially their own parts).
- In addition, as small children grow, they should be taught about the importance of modesty and privacy.
- Most importantly, during these years, parents should establish a rhythm of family devotions. Call this routine whatever you like: family worship, Bible time, family prayer, etc. This is a perfect time for kids to get used to seeing Mom or Dad open the Scriptures to talk about the things that really matter. This will establish the Bible as the authority on all matters of life and establish you as the teacher.
Generally speaking, between the ages of six and ten, parents should begin having lengthier discussions with their kids about sex. There are many reasons for this.
- The age of six marks the beginning of major social shifts as children spend more time around their peers at school. It is in these peer settings that children begin to gravitate toward same-sex friendships and develop an interest in gender differences. Schools and other peer groups are also where children most commonly hear misinformation about sex. There’s also a risk of exposure to pornography. Children as young as six are coming home from the playground talking about having boyfriends and giving “blow jobs.”
- Around the age of six or seven, a child’s intellectual capacities begin to change. At this age, a child can begin to distinguish between their own thoughts and the thoughts of others. They begin reasoning with imagination and logic. They have an incredible thirst for knowledge about the universe “out there.” This makes having discussions with them about detailed subjects much easier.
- Physically speaking, between the ages of six and eight, the adrenal glands begin to mature. During this stage, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is secreted by the adrenal cortex. The metabolizing of DHEA leads to both testosterone and estradiol—the primary sexual steroids in men and women. Then, at age 10, DHEA levels increase significantly—about 10 times the amount a child has at age four. Several independent studies now say that 10 years old is the average age of first sexual attraction for both boys and girls.
- Sadly, children are becoming more and more aware of sex from unwanted sources. According to our own list of pornography statistics, 51% of boys and 32% of girls see porn before their teenage years. Children are also most vulnerable to sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13. Of all victims of sexual assault reported to the police, 34% are under the age of 12.
So, use these elementary school years to talk to your kids about God’s plan for sexuality. Do it before the world does and when their minds are ripe to absorb it.
How Should You Have “The Talk”?
My recommendation is this: Let the Bible break the ice for you.
- First and most importantly, the Bible provides children and adults alike with a foundation for how to grasp the subject of sexuality. There is no better source of information about sex and no better place to lay the groundwork for our understanding.
- Second, if your children are already accustomed to you turning to the Bible day after day to give them formative instruction, then turning to biblical passages about sex will seem natural to them. Plus, this method reinforces the idea that sex is not in a special category that is outside the scope of God’s interest. Sex is not a taboo subject that God is embarrassed about; rather, sex is something that is part of the good world God created.
- Third, using the Bible to break the ice also takes the edge off the conversation for parents and kids. If family Bible discussions are already par for the course, then cracking open the Bible to talk about sex won’t feel like a serious or grave conversation.
A Sex Ed Family Bible Study
Luke Gilkerson has written a sex ed conversation guide for Christian families called The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. In this study, Luke uses Bible passages he considers foundational texts that help to lay a groundwork when talking to kids about sex.
- Genesis 1:24-27 – “God created them male and female” – This text is a great launching pad for conversations about what makes boys and girls different.
- Genesis 1:28-31 – “Go forth and multiply” – This text provides and great place to start talking about how babies are conceived and what sexual intercourse is.
- Psalm 139:13-18 – “Wonderfully made” – What does it mean that God knits us together in our mother’s wombs? This text provides parents a great place to talk about how babies grow and develop in utero.
- Genesis 2:18-25 – “The two shall become one flesh” – Sex is also about intimacy and there’s a reason why it should be reserved for marriage. This text is a great launching pad for that discussion.
- Exodus 20:14 – “You shall not commit adultery” – Going right back to the Ten Commandments we see the prohibition against adultery. This provides kids with an understanding about why adultery is an offense to God.
- 2 Samuel 13:1-14 – “Do not violate me” – It is important to talk to kids about the possible threat of sexual abuse and rape, and this story provides and opportunity to discuss it.
- 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 – “Bought with a price” – In the end, sex should be understood in the light of the gospel. Why do we honor God with our bodies? Because even our bodies were bought with a price.
When I was asked to edit this study when it was still in draft form, I immediately knew our members needed to hear about it. This publication has all the talking points you need. The introduction for parents alone is worth the read. Using these seven lessons will provide your children with a legacy of value in their present and future relationships.
very interesting topic & article, i need to know more for my little kids .
How old are your kids?
Kids safety should be OUR # 1 PRIORITY!!!
You or someone in your home should be very concerned that the truth about DANGER for your children.
Staggering statistics for adults are mind boggling (do your research) now imagine children and access.
Your family is precious… and they are counting on you NOT to let them down.
thank you for this information I need more information and help for my family and the church I lead
thank you so much for this, just what I needed, pls I will love to have more of this information.
Please help me save my child from have sex with older men she is 13.
If your child at age 13 is having sex with older men, call the police and report those men immediately. They must be prosecuted.
Find a therapist for your child, someone who can help her learn to make choices for herself that are consistent with her value and self-respect. If she has ever been a victim of a crime or of abuse, she should be eligible for services free of charge through a community non-profit organization such as a family adovacy center.
Peace to you,
We were watching the story of David on YouTube, in cartoon form, and it was biblically accurate, including showing the naked bottom of Bathsheba and suggestive interactions with King David. I am the grandmother but I live with my daughter and her husband. The two children were watching, ages 3 & 5 years. They abruptly turned it off and ushered them off to their bath. We had an argument as to how this should have been handled and whether the children should have been exposed to this story at this age. Your thoughts and advice would be appreciated.
Hi, Jill – I’m always hesitant to give parenting advice, since there’s just so much I don’t know about the situation, but in general, it’s wise to avoid shame and feelings of “that’s dirty” when it comes to sex and sexuality. BUT, for young kids, I’m not against the “usher them off” approach just to get them to focus somewhere else, until the parents jointly decide that their kids are ready for that kind of exposure. There are some parts of the Bible that need to be consumed at age-appropriate times. This might be one of them. It’s a very messy story! An affair, murder, deceit, complex.
My children are 9yrs old twins boy and girl. They have known for sometime that boy and girl were created differently. Still having issues with privacy when dressing bathroom etc. my son is wanting to know how babies are created. I have given him the simple answer of in mommas tummy. I think he wants to know details is there a video for 10 yr. olds that wud explain it better
Hi, Cathy – I don’t know about a video, but this book is excellent, whether you are Catholic or not: Wonderfully Made Babies.
Thanks a lot – the question of HOW TO has been answered!!!
Hello. In Ontario Canada, our school plans to teach our 11 year old son detailed anatomy of both male and female outer reproductive parts. I don’t feel it is necessary for an 11 year old boy to know all the details of the female system, other than the internal workings (ovaries, uterus, etc.). What is your opinion? Thanks so much.
Hi Teri – this would seem more a question of your preference as his parent. I personally think that an 11 year old should know this information, but of course, my daughter has 3 little brothers running around the house constantly, and so she has known this information for some time. Have you had a discussion with him about these things? Maybe a good opportunity prior to him hearing it in school. This website: https://www.intoxicatedonlife.com/store/ has some great books to help with the discussion from a Christian perspective, if you were interested.
I WISH more churches would do this! Our son just turned 12 and they are teaching sex ed in his public school, from a VERY non-Biblical view. :-( (We can have him opt out, and are still weighing the pros and cons) Believe me, an 11 y.o. is already curious, and he will probably hear things elsewhere, so why not give him a Biblical perspective?
Hello, I found my son( 12 y) talking with a girl( girlfriend) his age about sex. What should I do ? I know he is not supposed to have girlfriend ether I didn’t know about her… please help.
Every parent is different, so while I am hesitant to share “parenting advice,” I can say that communication is essential. When children are hiding something from their parents, they aren’t going to want to talk to you. By encouraging open communication, rather than judgement, your child may feel comfortable approaching you about difficult subjects.
I would also encourage you to pray and ask God how he might have you handle this situation.
Great info! I have two small girls; 12 years and 11 years. Where I live there is another young boy around 13years. I can see that they like doing things together but I am uncomfortable because the boy is not from christian background and the physical attraction may lead them to a dark corner. What is the best way to handle this? I talk to the girls about sexuality but handling attraction ….
Hi Benson. What a great question.
Attraction is really a part of sexuality. I would say to my kids: attraction is normal. It’s part of who we are. We need to use that attraction with respect toward ourselves and other people, just like we would another other expression of our sexuality. We may feel attracted to someone, but we get to choose how we express that. And we should always express it respectfully. That kind of respect varies from culture to culture and from family to family, so you will need to talk about the specifics within your particular family and culture.
Now I’m going to speak from an American perspective, because the majority of our audience is American, and I think your question is so, so important.
I think one of the most important things we can teach our girls AND our boys is CONSENT.
I’m sorry to say this, but in today’s world it really doesn’t matter what the religious background of a person is; rape culture is prevalent in every religious setting. And girls are not the only victims. Boys are victims as well.
Our children absolutely MUST be comfortable with saying NO to things that make them uncomfortable.
Our boys especially must be taught that they have NO RIGHT to a woman’s body in any way, unless that woman gives her express verbal consent.
Here is a wonderful video about consent that is easy to share with children and adults.
Our girls and boys all need to understand that their bodies are a precious and valuable part of their whole selves. They should know that if they are uncomfortable in any way, feel upset, or don’t understand what happened in a particular situation, that they can come to us and we will help. They should never feel afraid or ashamed of tellling us the truth.
It is very important to talk to children so they are prepared to know what is safe and not-safe. Here’s a resource that may help guide your conversation.
In the past, we used to talk to kids about “stranger danger” but in truth we know that most sexual abuse takes place in a private home, and 90% of the time, the child knows their abuser. A more recent and helpful term is “tricky people”. We can teach our kids that anybody who tries to cross the boundaries discussed in the resource guide above is a “tricky person.” The “tricky person” may cross a number of boundaries before actually abusing the child.
So, if we’ve had those conversations, and we’ve talked about tricky people, and we’ve made it safe for our children to come to us when they are confused, those are some excellent steps to take. In fact, I believe every parent MUST have these essential conversations with their children, male or female.
Thank you for asking such an important question, and bless you for caring so well for your daughters. Peace to you, Kay
That was a very good response! Thanks for your time and links. Much appreciated!
You’ve linked to an American version of the video that uses language inappropriate for kids, just FYI….
I just have a question. I have a boy 11 and a girl 10. Should I do the study with us all together or separately? Would really appreciate advice , thanks!
Hi, I think it depends on your kids, but it would seem a perfect time to cover some specific girl questions with your daughter, and separately with your son to give each the space needed to speak openly. There may be aspects of the study you choose to do together, but definitely some parts separately. I’m so glad you’re using it! Luke’s work is really well done.
Great information! My husband I , are pastors and we have lots of young children in our care, this material will be of great help to us. Our culture does not allow parents to talk about sex to their children but there is always a beginning. And the children break the culture rules by asking tough question.
Hello, Grace – thank you for the encouragement! Have you see our e-book, Parenting the Internet Generation? You can download it here: https://www.covenanteyes.com/parenting-the-internet-generation/
Thank you so much for this additional insights.
I have an 11yr old son & 8yr son. Both in public school. Should I talk to them about puberty, before I talk to them about sex? Or together? How do you start the conversation with either subject? Also it has to be me. Because my husband wont talk to them about it. Thanks!
Hello, Tammy – from this web page, click on “Having the Talk,” by Luke Gilkerson. We trust it. https://protectyoungeyes.com/resources/ For a free PDF of ways to start the conversations about sex and puberty, follow this link to our e-book, “Equipped” : https://info.covenanteyes.com/equipped-raising-godly-digital-natives-ebook?_ga=1.129731788.1385282074.1483029763
My 11-year-old step-daughter is very flirtatious, even with her male cousins. How can I address this without causing a rift between me & my husband? Thanks for your help.
Hello, honestly, I do not know. There might be someone on the blog who has more experience with blended families.
Hello, I have a 9 years old boy that at 5 years old was caught looking in to girls kissing on my phone with his 6 years old boy cousin. I just found out he has been looking into his same sex pornography. When I talked to him inregards to it, the first thing he said was “mom I need your help I’m pray to God to help me because I can not get the images out of my head, the Images I saw when I was five”. When I asked him about the current Images on his phone he said “when I was doing the my computer homework someone in my head told me to look for – boys having S-E-X”. He had to spell SEX because he couldn’t say the word. Your blog and Covenant eyes are some of resources that were recommended to me. Any and All HELP will be appreciated.
When a child is shown pornography by an adult, that is considered to be sexual abuse. In today’s world, many many children are accidentally exposed to porn either on their own, or by another child. We need to understand that THIS IS TRAUMATIC TO CHILDREN, and our children need HELP to be SAFE from traumatic sexual images. When they have been exposed, we need to treat them with care and support.
Please make sure that your child’s access to the internet is SAFE. Use software like Covenant Eyes to limit access. Block YouTube and other sites that allow sexual content. Make sure that your child’s internet access is ALWAYS SUPERVISED. You would not send your child out on Bourbon Street in New Orleans alone: DO NOT SEND YOUR CHILD ONTO THE INTERNET ALONE.
In addition, provide your child with age-appropriate sexuality education. Clearly your child has seen sexual images on the internet, but what he has seen is a skewed view to put it mildly. Robie Harris is an excellent sex educator who publishes many useful resources.
“What To Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck” is a good book that your child might appreciate in helping to rid his brain of those images.
If your child continues to feel upset about what’s happened, and can’t rid himself of those images, you might want to find a good child therapist who can help your child process through what he’s seen.
I am glad I stumbled on this . The follow up questions and answers are very insightful and detailed. I am a Teen Sexuality Coach and there are few resources both online and offline that seem to talk about sexuality from a Christian perceptive and in a detailed way such that parents and teen teachers can be properly guided. Well don’t Chris on your answers. There are few of such positive teachings in my country and our teenagers are scaringly growing so fast. Thanks Kay for the links . I have saved them . God bless you.
Thanks for all letters that I read I learn a lot how to talk to my children a bout sex and our body
I really have my hands full my daughter is only 13 and is having sexual verbal textex messages with her boyfriend. I am trying to handle this without blowing up in jist rage. They have been together for 2 years and i think hearing things from school is pushing this issues trying to be cool. I want to handle this and stop this immediately.
I’m very grateful about what you are doing, all your advise are very helpful to me. I’m a father of seven years old boy who started developing interest in sex, and when he was interviewed he said he learn it from class mates in school, we talked to him about God that He hate such, prayed for him and change his school but he has not really changed.
Please what do I need to do next?
Thank you for reaching out. It seems like you are taking the right steps to protect your son. As parents, we are able to place boundaries around our kids, but we cannot change their hearts. Since your son is young, continue to put rules and guidelines into place for him, but ultimately, pray for him. Let him know that you are going to be there for him, no matter what – that you will love him.
I encourage you to download our ebook, Connected.