As a parent, you are in a race against the culture to establish what is “normal” in the area of sexual behaviors and attitudes. The sexual revolution has lowered the age at which children are exposed to sexual activity. Young children are shown homosexual marriages through children’s television shows. Kindergarten classes celebrate reveal parties for transgendered 5-year-olds. Parents cannot afford to wait. If the culture establishes a secular sexual ethic early on, then a biblical sexual ethic will seem odd and out of place. However, the converse is also true.
How can parents win this race? Below are nine practical ways parents can teach their children God’s design for sex and sexuality.
1. Celebrate God’s good design early and often
Parents should teach about sexuality in an appropriate manner for each stage of childhood. As soon as children begin learning about the body, parents should begin teaching why God made each body part. This creates an open dialogue about their growing and changing bodies. As you do this, be sure to use literal instead of abstract language. Call body parts what they are, and avoid terms like “the birds and the bees.” Also remember that one “talk” is not sufficient. Keep a running dialogue for as long as they are in your home.
2. Seize every opportunity
Certain situations contribute toward serious discussions about sexuality. Tucking children into bed is a great opportunity to read books that teach God’s purposes for our bodies (e.g. Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s God Made All of Me.) Driving with kids in the car provides parents a captive audience for posing thought-provoking questions. When you read a fairytale about the prince and princess getting married, ask children what they think marriage means and why God designed it. When you see an image of a person dressed immodestly in a commercial, begin a conversation about modesty and God’s good design for our bodies. Be on the lookout for opportunities to ask questions and spark conversations.
3. Create an “ask anything” culture
For some, sex or sexuality feels like a taboo topic. This is a result of the fall (Gen. 3) when Adam and Eve covered themselves in shame. Fight the tendency to ignore difficult topics and questions. Creating an “ask anything” environment when children are young will foster an open dialogue into the teenage years. Do we really want pre-teens googling terms they hear because they’re embarrassed to ask their parents? Even young children who can’t type know how to use voice assistants for internet searches. An open and “ask anything” environment helps prevent your children from turning to dangerous sources for answers.
4. Keep God’s plan at the center
Many parents give their children a list of “do’s and don’t’s” instead of focusing on God’s plan and purpose in creating us male and female. Teach your children how sex and procreation reflect God’s image in us. Teach how the complementary roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives reflect the complementarian nature of the Trinity. Without God as the centerpiece of the conversation, our children won’t grasp the reasons why homosexuality, premarital sex, pornography, and every other distortion of biblical sexuality are outside of God’s plan for our good and his glory.
5. Focus on the truth, so the lie is easily discernible
It can be overwhelming for parents to address all the different aspects of sex, sexuality, gender, and marriage. We can’t keep up with the rapidly changing sexual culture to which our kids are exposed. But we can follow the example of Jesus in Matthew 19. Jesus didn’t address every distortion of the truth; he simply taught the truth. He established the boundaries of God’s plan, so that we would be able to recognize that everything outside of that boundary is outside of God’s plan.
6. Teach children to embrace every person, without embracing every lifestyle
Once again, we should follow the example of Jesus, who loved sinners without affirming their sin. If children are able to recognize God’s love for them in their own sin, they can understand how to love someone who struggles with different sins than they do. Be an example, by the kindness you show to the transgendered grocery clerk or the homosexual couple you meet, followed by a teaching conversation with your child.
7. Protect children from themselves
Part of our responsibility as parents is to protect our children from themselves. The internet access in our homes and the screens our children view are our responsibility to manage. Establish clear guidelines for usage. Some possible guidelines include forbidding screens in bedrooms, shutting wifi off at 9 p.m., sharing usernames and passwords, allowing parents to read text messages, etc. This is not an invasion of privacy; this is good parenting.
8. Lead by example
If we set internet usage rules for our children, we should be willing to abide by those rules ourselves. In doing so, we’ll be modeling obedience as well as protecting ourselves. It’s hypocritical to guard our child from the dangers of pornography while exposing ourselves to the same temptation. Another way to set a good example of celebrating God’s design in sexuality is to show appropriate measures of affection to your spouse. Let’s let our children see a demonstration of God’s good plan.
9. Rely on grace
If you feel as though you are losing the race against culture, do not despair. Grace is abundantly available for the parent who has neglected his or her duty. Grace is also abundantly available for the child who has already stumbled in this area. Grace wins where we have lost.
God has entrusted us to parent these precious children. We can’t allow our fallen world to teach them what is “normal.” Let’s set our eyes on Jesus and run the race with urgency and endurance.