“When Should I Talk to My Teen About Sex?”: 5 Sex Talk Tips for Parents

“When they were eight years old they all agreed they wouldn’t do anything, but now that they’re hit puberty we’ve got to have the talk all over again…”

 

–Bill Cosby Those Of You With Or Without Children, You’ll Understand

 

 

The most frequently asked question I get from parents when I give an overview of my sex talk curriculum is, “When should I start talking to my kids about sex?” Truth be, told many of them, like Cosby, already spoke to their children about sex prior to entering adolescence, but recognize that a new level of conversation and disclosure needs to be had now that they’ve entered adolescence and puberty.

The concern is that their young teen might not be ready or willing for that conversation. On the flipside there is the concern that they might have waited too late to continue the conversation on sex that began so many years earlier. You don’t want it to be awkward and yet you don’t want them getting the bulk of their information from all the sophisticated fools on the bus, playground, or in the cafeteria. With that in mind here is a general answer to the question of when parents should reengage their young teen on topic of sex as well as four other tips for having conversations on sex with young teens.

1.     Don’t Wait Until You Think They’re Ready. A psychologist friend of mine asked me to guess what the national average is for when kids are first having sexual intercourse. I guessed twelve. She said the answer is ten. Surely there are some of you that are thinking that can’t be true and would like to see the research. Like myself you started thinking about all the variables—single parent homes, socio-economic class, education, early onset of puberty in girls—but that’s not the point. The point is on average they’re getting started early so don’t wait until you think they’re ready. Besides, you’re never going to know for sure if they’re ready until you begin to talk to them about it. If they get uncomfortable (which is different than awkward) then use some discernment to know when to stop. You don’t want them to be so uncomfortable about it that they don’t ever want to talk to you about it again, but you don’t know how cold the ocean is until you stick your toe into the water.

2.     Do It In Stages. If you’ve never talked to your children about bodies and sex prior to adolescence more than likely it’s going to be really awkward when you initiate that conversation with a young teen (If you haven’t then even more of a reason to not delay any further). There needs to be a general conversation about their body when they’re five about the difference between boys and girls. They need to know that their penis or vagina is private, and they should never let anyone else touch it (You may be caught a little of guard by my choice of words there. More on that in the next tip). By eight years old I recommend you should have a general birds and the bees/“where do babies come from?” conversation. Fifth grade is usually when there is a more in-depth anatomy and mechanics discussion on sex in school health classes. It’s not a bad idea to preempt the school. After that having a more in-depth conversation is fair game as they will be on the precipice of adolescence and puberty. From personal experience my parents talked to me about sex in stages so when it came time to have the more in-depth conversation they had disarmed my ability to try and be awkward about it. They were even able to remind me of and pull out the books they used as resources to have the previous conversations with me.

3.     Don’t Talk In Code. I’m likely dating myself with this pop-culture reference, but remember in Kindergarten Cop starring Arnold Swarzenegger when the small boy announces to the class, “boys have a penis and girls have a vagina.” Part of the reason that scene gets so many laughs is because typically five year olds are taught code words for their private parts. Once again a psychologist friend of mine was telling me how they and many colleagues have watched defense attorney’s cast doubt in child sex abuse and molestation cases because the child did not know the anatomically correct term for their genitalia. There is also research on serial pedophiles where they confess to avoiding children who know the correct names because they know someone has talked to that child about their body. There really is no reason for us not to use the words “penis” and “vagina” with our children. When we don’t use those words or get awkward about saying them we teach them that those are dirty words. Thus we inadvertently teach them that their bodies are dirty gross and disgusting, which isn’t healthy for their development, nor is it true.

4.     Dual Parent Involvement. Both mom and dad need to be involved in these conversations with their children regardless of the child’s gender. In other words girls shouldn’t be having discussions about bodies and sex only with their mother while dad stays silent. Boys shouldn’t be having discussions about bodies and sex only with their father while mom stays silent. The whole point of having these conversations with your children is not simply for transferal of information. It is about shaping and forming a healthy view of bodies and sex in your children. There isn’t so much different roles mom and dad play as much as, depending on the gender, different things they need to hear from each parent. For example, moms are best suited to talk daughters about menstrual cycles, whereas dad is best suited to talk to her about what boys are like. Dads are best suited to talk to boys about nocturnal emissions and moms are best suited to talk to him about what girls are like. Still there is plenty in regards to sex that needs to be both mom and dad talking to children and young teens together. The point being that if they have questions or want to talk further they need to feel safe talking to either parent.

5.     Is A Weekend Camping Trip Really Necessary? If you have to schedule a special weekend to go away and have a sex talk with your young teen around a fun activity then maybe it should cause you to question whether or not you are creating regular rhythms where you are caring for the heart of your child (not to mention this tactic typically violates the previous tip). Put another way to drive the point home, if you aren’t the camping type and it isn’t something you typically do with your son or daughter, then they are going to think that something is up. They’re going to be suspicious and it will most likely be real awkward. For example if my dad wanted to have a more in-depth conversation with me about girls, and sex and so forth, then the natural rhythm would have been to initiate it during halftime or commercials of one of the countless basketball games we watched during my teenage years. Some of my fondest memories of spending time with my dad that nurtured my heart was watching the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers go at it during the NBA Playoffs in 94 and 95 while eating pizza from Domino’s. If you don’t know or don’t have a natural rhythm of caring and tending to the heart of your child by investing time in them with out an agenda then it is not too late to discover what it is or create one if necessary.

 

Conclusion: What Is Your End Game?

What do you hope to accomplish by talking to your young teen about sex beyond simple information transfer? Simply cautioning them to abide by a certain standard or moral code is not enough. You need to ask yourself, “Whom will my son go to first if they’ve gotten someone pregnant? Who will be the first person my daughter will go to if she’s contracted an STD? Who will be the first person my teenager will go to when they’re tired of being teased and harassed about choosing to abstain from sexual intercourse and intimacy until they’re married? They’ll rarely say it but young people are looking for adult mentors who are willing to show them what it looks like to be an adult as they are growing into one. Young people need a safe secure place to talk about how they are living out their sexuality. Teenagers need to feel safe enough to talk to their parents about their sexual lives even if they know they’ll be disappointed at what they hear. Sex is not just a reproductive process of two bodies joining together in a purely physical act, nor is it “the nasty”. There are emotions, feelings, and a sense of self, wrapped up in the complicated beauty that is human sexuality and relationships. Parents always have and always will have the most potential impact in their children developing dysfunctional or healthy sexual lives.

If You’re In a Committed Relationship But Not Married Why Is It Bad to Have Sex?

Two weeks ago we started our Sex Talk with middle school students. At the end of this first part I did some Q&A with them. The following is one of the questions they asked anonymously on a 3×5 card that I thought would be a great one to attempt to answer and post on the blog.

As these posts have the potential to gain a relatively large audience I recognize that not all who read it share my faith and worldview. If you are an outsider to the Christian faith reading this chances are you won’t agree on principle with my answer. Even so I hope you may find it a well thought out answer.

Question: “If you’re in a committed relationship but are not married why is it bad to have sex?”

Answer: What makes a relationship committed? Is it simply two people agreeing that they won’t date another? Is it two people agreeing that they won’t be emotionally, physically, and sexually intimate with someone else? Committed is defined as, “being bound or obligated, as under a pledge to a particular cause, action, or attitude.” In marriage you are binding and pledging everything. Property, assets, name, and of course bodies, all legally lawfully bound together. Committed relationships, particularly those of teenagers, are in no way binding except for the fact that they spend a lot of time together, and are therefore exclusive with one another. There isn’t anything keeping them together beyond their affections. Should their affections change they can de-commit by simply, “breaking up”. There is no need to hire lawyers, divide property and assets, or change names back to what they were. Not that committed relationships are bad and should be done away with, but they were never meant to be the Junior Varsity to the Varsity Team that is marriage. Committed relationships are more like tryouts. No one receives nor gets to wear the uniform until the make the team. Sexual intercourse has the potential to bind you to someone in ways that can’t so easily be undone by walking away. The contraceptive industry makes the bulk of their millions by assisting people in a “committed relationship” to prevent being bound to one another via babies and STD’s. The false dichotomy of “casual sex” is built upon the exercise of divorcing your heart and mind from sex as to avoid being bound to someone with your thoughts and feelings. Likewise there is a false dichotomy of “sex within a committed relationship”. A committed relationship is for the purpose of deciding whether or not you want to commit to binding yourself to another for life. Sex then within a committed relationship is to begin binding a big part of yourself to someone while still having the option to “break up” at a significantly lower cost, before you’ve actually decided you want to commit to be bound to only them for life.

What makes sex sex? The Bible teaches that sex is way more than just two bodies joining together for the purpose of experiencing sensual pleasure (even though it doesn’t shy away from that aspect of it). So often the writers of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament writers, referred to sexual intercourse by saying “and they knew one another”. What are the scripture writers saying about what sex is when they refer to it as “knowing” another person?

When I was about 19 years old unmarried and a virgin, a sexually active non-Christian female told me, “If a girl ever tells you she wants you she doesn’t know what it is she’s asking for.” Admittedly I wasn’t quite sure what she meant but I know she, a sexually active unmarried non-Christian was provoking me to think of sex as much more than a physical act and thus something not to tread lightly upon. Honestly I think she was urging and encouraging me not to have sex outside of marriage. Think of the colloquialisms we have for sex today; ‘doing it’, ‘doing the nasty’, ‘afternoon delight’, the list goes on and on, but you’d be hard pressed to find any that capture the fact that when you become “one flesh” with someone there is the potential for something transcendent to happen that leaves you very vulnerable and exposed to the person you’re having sex with. I think that’s what she was trying to tell me. There is a power in sex to help heal our brokenness, to affirm our humanity and therefore it also has power to shame and destroy our humanity as well. There is a huge investment being made when we connect with someone sexually. The promises pledge and complete joining together of marriage is meant to provide the security of pledge and promise that frees us to experience it with our whole being without fear, without holding back any part of our humanness.

What is marriage? Contrary to what popular culture often tells us marriage is not shackles that imprison us to another but the safe confines to not have to keep parts of our self, the parts of us that can’t be quantified in limbs curves and skin, hidden from the person we are giving ourselves to and receiving them in return. Marriage is meant to be the confines within which you can be free to reveal and share all of who you are. That’s not to say that people in committed relationships can’t experience these things. It’s just that the cost to walk away doesn’t match nor correlate with the investment that sex dictates whether you want it to or not. We typically don’t tell engaged couples this when they are nearing the altar but the truth is they can still walk away without it costing them much. Sure the money spent on the wedding has gone down the drain, but they don’t have to divide up property and assets, they don’t have to change their name on legal documents and credit cards, and unless they have children they don’t have to be as concerned with who else it will have a lasting affect on. The reality is that some grown adults have chosen to join every aspect of their lives together as a functionally married couple without the formal and legal ceremony binding them together because so many married people have trudged into and out of marriage as though it were just another committed relationship.

How many committed relationships can one person have? Sometimes I wish I had dated more before I got married. I was slow on the pick up on how much a friendship with a woman and a “committed relationship” with a woman is not apples to apples. However, on the flip side if I had had a number of “committed relationships” how might they have formed me for marriage to my wife in ways that would be counter productive to our binding relationship? I can’t say for certain but she and I would have to take the good with the bad and everything in between. Say I had been sexually intimate in some of those hypothetical “committed relationships” I would have to unlearn, and undo the unique ways I had formed myself with those other women sexually, or bring all those things with me to be bound together with my wife. We often refer to all those things as baggage.

Why is it bad? At the end of the day you can do what you want. Even if you want to soften God’s commands into advisory precautions from the one who created human bodies, sex, and gifted them with this complex thing called intimacy, it’s not hard to see why sex outside of the binding pledge and promise of marriage is risky business. Encouraging young people, still dependent on their parents and under their authority, in particular to go ahead and have sex as long as it is within a committed relationship is as fraught with danger as encouraging the same young people to go to the bank and open a joint bank account. We would discourage teenagers from binding to one another financially no matter how much they thought they were in love or felt that the time was right. Likewise there is great wisdom in discouraging two people, especially teenagers, who aren’t joined and bound together by pledge and law from becoming sexual intimate.

One final thought… I have friends who aren’t Christians who have bound themselves to one another in most ways that married couples do. They have share exclusively with one another their bodies, their home, their property and assets. They are exclusively sharing their life and all of who they are with one another. In all likelihood they will never marry, but their hope is to grow old together. While I don’t approve of unmarried couples living together I treat them as a married couple. Given neither or them are Christians thus not holding the same view of marriage as me I want to encourage them to remain committed to one another for the long haul because that is their expressed desire. While I prefer they eventually make their relationship legally binding at this point I would hate for them to break the bonds they’ve formed together. In some ways based upon my view of how God designed humanity and sex they’ve gone too far in sharing their lives with one another exclusively that I’d hate to see them split and start the process over with someone else. If anything their decision not to marry is largely in response to how marriage is so often treated as a committed relationship. Too many married people don’t honor and value marriage for what it truly is. They see it as a means to be happy, and not as a means to bind them self to another person, and be fully known by them. Many people will end a marriage because they are no longer happy or don’t feel the way the once did. Many people who have pledged themselves to another in good times and bad, for better for worse, in sickness and health no matter what may come, in the sight of witnesses and God, only to leave when their marriage no longer suits them. They aren’t happy, they aren’t satisfied, the marriage is not what they thought it would be and so they break the pledge, the promise and the bond. Could it be that committed relationships while training us in some good ways also forms us to ignore, suppress, and break all the ways we have become bound to another person and muster up the ability to walk away because we’re no longer happy? Imagine how much easier it would be to suppress, ignore and break all bonds if you had done it even a few times since you were a teenager? Sex outside of marriage is not only not the best way to live it is a risky personal investment to make. Why is it bad to have unmarried sex in a committed relationship? Sex outside of marriage is potentially very bad for you.

Should Girls Be Held Responsible For Boys Lusting?: And Other Thoughts on Modesty (2nd Edition)

Revised with an additional thought at the end in attempts to keep it balanced and make sure that a double standard is not being communicated while keeping in mind the differences between men and women.

So Says Ced

Yesterday evening I got into a discussion with some of my female volunteers about modesty. Of course whenever there is a discussion about modesty as it pertains to teenagers its usually a conversation about the way girls dress and how boys respond to the female figure. This particular discussion came up because some of the girls had understood our policy against the girls wearing two pieces to trips and retreats as being primarily an issue of not wanting them to cause the boys to have lustful thoughts. For clarification sake I’ve maintained this particular part of our dress code in the youth ministry as being a modesty issue. It begins and ends with modesty. With that in mind here are some thoughts when it comes to the issue of modesty.

Leggings Show More Than Just Your Legs
Could someone please explain to me why we make such a big deal…

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Why Do Kids Feel So Entitled?

Most people agree that there has never been a generation quite like this current one of teenagers and young adults. More than ever this generation is more in touch with individualism, which is just a nice way of saying they are extremely self-centered.  Sociologists have deemed this group of young people the Me-Generation describing them as confident, assertive, entitled and narcissistic.

Over the last one hundred years there has been subtle shifts in the widely held philosophy of parents to raising their children. Simply put each generation has had a different approach to raising their children based on what they wanted for their children thus determining how they reared them. These descriptions are sweeping generalizations that I believe are indicative of the shifts in our society and culture.

WWI, WWII, and Depression Era (1900-1940s)

This generation didn’t have much growing up. Survival of the family unit depended on everyone playing their part. Discipline was very authoritative and you didn’t question it. It is also important to note that the adolescent stage of human development had just begun to be recognized by sociologists and was considered to last approximately 18 months from the age of 14 and a half to sixteen. With the industrial age in high gear this generation ended up being able to do more than just survive they began to succeed.

Civil Rights And Free Love Era (1950s to 1970s)

The previous generation was expected to listen to and respect those in authority without questioning it and play their role in order to survive. They survived World Wars a depression and had come out on the other side successful. The American Dream took flight as more and more people were becoming the first person in their family to attend and graduate from college. Instead of parenting with unquestioned authority they wanted their children to learn to make good choices that would lead to them being successful by emphasizing the consequences good and bad that came with choices made. They were able to provide for their kids more than just the necessities of life that their parents often struggled to provide. Now they wanted to give their kids the things they never had.

Excess Era (1980s to 1990s)

This generation of parents had gotten things and opportunities that their parents never had. They also had questioned the prevailing standards of the day in the Civil Rights Movement, and the prevailing wisdom and morality with the Free Love Movement. They felt limited and constrained by society that had all kinds of expectations on them. This is the first generation that started to do and try things in that were once not thought wise or prudent in the name of self-discovery. Nothing was held back. They raised their kids in a similar fashion where few things were held back and the self was emphasized. They wanted their kids to have everything they didn’t have or had to fight to get.

Post-Modern Era (2000s to Present)

This generation of parents had gotten everything and they still weren’t happy. They had more opportunities and more things than their parents or grandparents, and they still weren’t fulfilled and satisfied. Authority had gone from being absolute, to being questioned, to being relative. They just wanted their kids to be happy. Right and wrong are no longer about what was best for the survival of the community and family unit. Right and wrong were no longer about what the consequences of the choices that were made. Right and wrong were now about what made you as an individual happy, and didn’t offend or harm others in the process. Self discovery has never been an issue with this generation as they have an innate sense of self that enables them to be a little more direct about what they do and do not like, and will or will not do.

Summary

Long story short in a hundred years we have gone from a parenting style that was dominated by absolute unquestioned authority, where survival was of the utmost, to a parenting style that can be characterized by parents trying to make sure their kid(s) happy. A better life a hundred years ago was largely about being hard working, dependable, and responsible. The better life narrative today is about living life to the fullest moment by moment, which is characterized by the slogan YOLO, you only live once.  A hundred years ago, even thirty years ago young adults knew they would have to work hard to get ahead and be successful. Even the way products were marketed played heavily on the “you deserve this because you’ve worked hard and become successful” line of thought. Today marketers just tell us you deserve whatever it is without telling you why.  And yet the pressure on kids to perform and excel at everything is higher than ever, because elements of hard work, achievement, and success have still been passed along from generation to generation. Or could it be that the happiness of the parents is now wrapped up in the achievements and exploits of their children. Therefore not only do parents want their kids to be happy but also their own happiness is contingent on the happiness and achievements of their children.

When I talked about this in the past it has been with my team of small group leaders in order to think through how we relate to students as adult mentors in Christian living, and yet assert our authority at the same time so they don’t walk all over us. Some kids respect our authority better than others. Some of us had an easier time asserting our authority than others when kids acted out of line. My guess has been that how we were raised and how they are being raised has a lot to do with it.

More recently I have used it as a way of explaining to parents why I suspect that kids seem to be more entitled than ever. There is a number of books on the subject and many of them talk about the transitions and shifts over the last one hundred years in how kids are being reared, and what has been the active objective of parents; survival, have more, have everything, or happiness. Of course we can’t overlook the role of marketing and advertising and how they sell products. Today more often than not we are told that we deserve these things even though they never tell us why or what we did to deserve it. Maybe that is because the American Dream is less about success and achievement today and more about the pursuit of happiness. Just a hunch.

3 Keys to Disciplining Children and Teens

“Anyone who strikes a child even if for the purpose of discipline has committed child abuse!”

I wasn’t one for being outspoken in class and disagreeing with a professor but I just couldn’t let that remark pass.

“So you’re telling me, seeing as though much of the discipline I received as a child was whippings with a belt, that I was abused by my parents?”

“If your parents struck or hit you as a form of discipline then yes you were abused as a child.”

At this point many of the students who usually slept their way through this otherwise uneventful community college sociology course had perked up to see what was going on.

“I’m sorry but I’m going to have to disagree with you on that. I don’t think, believe or feel that I was ever abused by my parents.”

“On what basis?” the professor said as if to call my bluff.

The girl next to me glanced over at me as if to say, “Now what are your going to do?”

“Based upon the fact that I never got a beating that I didn’t know was coming. Every beating I ever got I knew I would get before my parents knew they’d give it to me.”

I recognize times have changed. Corporal punishment, whether bare handed, wooden spoon, or with a belt, is largely frowned upon even if administered in the privacy of the home. I’m not endorsing or promoting corporal punishment. I tell this story of the debate I had with a sociology professor in the middle of a lecture to illustrate what I believe are the keys to disciplining children and teenagers. As a youth pastor I’ve had to discipline students (and no I’ve never beaten or hit any of them). Being strong in the area of discipline has been vital to my success as a youth pastor otherwise I would not have the full respect and authority with the students. Nor would I have the trust and respect of their parents.

From timeouts, to naughty corners, to grounding, to losing privileges, or whatever other form of discipline is used there are a few keys to ensuring it’s effectiveness. These keys are the reason I was able to convincingly persuade my sociology professor that day that I was not physically abused by my parents when they used corporal punishment as a form of discipline. This is the reason I was able to say with conviction that I never got a beating that I didn’t know was coming beforehand even before my parents knew they would give it to me.

1.    Clearly Defined Boundaries and Expectations: There was never any question in my house what my parents expected from us. We knew the rules and the expectations. Rules and expectations were not ambiguous and therefore we were without excuse. There were no accidents or mishaps, only decisions not to abide by the rules and to buck what was expected. Likewise you need to clearly communicate what the rules and expectations are so that your children are without excuse, even if it is a simple matter of forgetfulness.

2.    Clearly Defined Consequences: As I explained to the sociology professor that day the consequences for disobedience and non-compliance had been communicated. Therefore I knew, before I made the decision to disobey, what the consequences would be if I got caught. There were no surprises with the discipline and punishment I received. I knew what would get me grounded, lectured, losing privileges, or corporal punishment. Likewise you need to clearly communicate what the consequences are for disobedience and not meeting expectations.

3.    Follow Through: The easiest and quickest way to sabotage your authority with children and teenagers is to not follow through on what you said you would do. If your children recognize they can manipulate you in some manner into not following through with stated consequences, though they may not articulate it as such, they will recognize that they have gained a substantial amount of authority over you. Proof of this recognition is that they will continue to use it to their advantage and expect to be able to do the same to other adult authority figures.

Conclusion: The need for children and teenagers to feel safe and secure with those who are in authority over them means they will occasionally (some more than others for whatever reason) test the boundaries and expectations.  Contrary to what my sociology professor thought the use of corporal punishment did not make me feel abused. If my parents had sent me to timeout or revoked privileges without me knowing why, and being totally taken off guard by it that would have been abusive.  Instead, because they did it correctly it had the very affect my parents always gave as the reason why they punished or disciplined me in the first place, “We did it because we love you!” Being punished and disciplined, regardless of the form, when done correctly, make children and teenagers feel safe, secure, and loved. I never enjoyed any of the discipline I received, but I’m thankful my parents cared enough to do it.

I Really Hate It When…

It’s a fairly harmless question, no ill will intended, and yet it raises the hair on the back of my neck. It’s sometimes an exercise in self-control because I’m tempted to answer sarcastically to make a point and likely offend the inquirer which would achieve nothing. But the fact of the matter is I’m not crazy, I’m not brave, and it doesn’t require courage to take MY group of junior high students out in public on an activity or event. Myself and the other adults that have committed to investing in the lives of young teens who are not our own are regularly affirmed for our bravery and courage to take 30-40 junior high students out to the beach, the mall, wherever, and asked afterwards if we survived. I’ve said it before from the pulpit but I’ll say it again here. We have a good group of kids.

Just this weekend we took 34 of them to the mall to do Christmas Shopping. No one “got lost”, was left behind, was a nuisance, or tempted us to purchase one of those kiddie leashes usually reserved for toddlers. Personally I had a group of 11 of them with me, and it was quite enjoyable and easy. They stayed together, they communicated with me if they were going into another store, they knew where to wait for the rest of the group if they finished in a store ahead of the rest of us. They didn’t complain about little stuff, they were patient with one another, they were polite and courteous of other shoppers, didn’t break anything including the hurricane simulator that they managed to stuff way too many persons into, and no one sneaked out of the movie we went to see as a group. I really didn’t even have to keep track of them because one of them took it upon himself to keep tabs on everyone else (in a way that didn’t get under their skin) and keep me updated on who was in what store in the vicinity that we stopped in.

This past weekend was not an anomaly of their normal behavior when we take them out in public. It is what we’ve come to expect, because that is what they’ve consistently demonstrated. As I said to one of the other adult leaders, “In nearly seven years of working with this group they’ve never given me a reason.” They’ve never given me a reason to be suspicious of them, so naturally I become a little annoyed and even irritated when people talk about them in a way that assumes that they are nothing, but trouble waiting to happen. I’ve been thinking about why I get irritated by inquiries of my survival, and affirmations of my bravery and courage, and here is what I’ve landed on.

1. I can only speak for my group. Common consensus is that Junior High age kids don’t have a long attention span, are combative of authority, are squirrelly and extremely difficult to manage. While I can’t speak for early adolescents universally I can speak for the group that I work with, and I would say that they are a joy to work with. Their attention span can be very long as long as whatever it is their being asked to sit for merits the attention. They thrive with well defined boundaries and feel safe when they know they can trust those in the positions of authority.

2. I don’t know what they’re like at home. But I know that they come from good homes. Whether it be two parent or one parent homes, the overwhelming majority of students I work with come from families with parents who take the role of parenting seriously and are not trying to be their child’s friend. Certainly all of them test their parents at home as is only natural for adolescents. However, many of them are mindful to represent their families well, and have been warned of consequences for not holding to a certain behavioral standard when under the authority of other adults they’ve been entrusted to. I’m thankful that across the board the parents within the local church body I am a part of make our life easier as youth leaders by holding their children to a high standard in the home. I’m grateful that though some students may push it at home with their parents they know how to act when their parents aren’t around, because of their parents.

3. They listen. They hear when you sell them short. This is something that I was guilty of when I was lamenting (on a previous trip) how a previous class spoiled us as adult leaders because there were a handful of them always intuitively stepping up and looking for ways to serve the group (which is uncommon amongst any age group). It got back to me that some of the students overheard this and were a little hurt because they interpreted it as me not being happy with them and not liking them as much. The innocent comments of survival bravery and courage are most often made in the presence of the students and I can’t help but consider the inference they must hear. I imagine that they hear that adults think they are nothing more than wild animals that are hazardous to your mental health. Early adolescents are understandably insecure enough with all the changes they are undergoing without it being inferred that to spend time with them means your very survival is at stake, and requires bravery. The last message any early adolescent needs to receive is that they aren’t normal.

So if you happen to ask me, even in jest, if I survived a youth event, or compliment me on my ‘bravery’ for giving my time to spend with Junior High age students and I hesitate or look puzzled for a moment you know why.

Creating a Pro-Sex Home

Now that the title of this article has gotten your attention let me explain to you what I mean by pro-sex. Is your home a place that promotes healthy sexual lives? No one needs me to give examples of how sexualized our culture has become in America. No one needs me to tell them that the vast majority of sexuality depicted in the media is not consistent with the Christian story of sex. Very rarely are the depictions of sex and sexuality of a married man and woman, and when it is it’s typically a depiction of them not having the time or energy to do it. Add that to a formula of mom and dad only talking about sex when the onset of adolescence forces their hand, what you end up with is a message of “good sex only happens outside of God’s good design”. What we risk happening is that you have many Christians who live obedient lives to God in reference to their sexual lives and yet struggle accepting the reality that they are sexual creatures.

There’s no telling whether or not our society will continue to become more and more sexualized in the coming decades. Though most say things will only get worse we tend to forget that things go in cycles and that our society could experience a retreat from its current hyper-sexual state. Either way children should be raised in homes where they are encouraged to think positively of sex. They need to feel comfortable talking to mom and dad about things related to sex because mom and dad don’t treat it as a taboo matter, moreover because they are aware that mom and dad have actually done it not just to have children. Children need to be prepared to transition into being creatures with a sexual nature without a sense of being grossed out and or ashamed. By sexual creature I don’t just mean a creature that has intercourse, rather I mean creatures with a body that will have an array of things going on inside of it from, facial hair, changing voices, breast development, erections, menstruation, nocturnal emissions to carrying a baby, and sexual intercourse. But even more importantly teenagers need to be prepared to transition into becoming creatures with a growing desire for intimacy of which sex is one component. Even as I typed all of those indicators of a sexually developing man and woman my red flag went up, but why is that? For some reason those things have a certain amount of shame that has been associated with them that if not normalized possibly get in the way of experiencing real intimacy down the road. In reality most if not all those things were a part of Adam and Eve’s nakedness in the garden of which scripture says, “and they were not ashamed”.

I hate to define things by stating what they aren’t, but here is a couple of things that I believe do not promote sex properly. If you are doing these things then your home may not be pro-sex.

  1. The only conversations about sex are quick negative disdainful commentary in response to cultural depictions of sex and sexuality: Instead, when age appropriate from time to time use TV, movies, music, and commercials as an opportunity to constructively critique the message of the story of sex in that piece of media to God’s story of sex.
  2. The only lengthy conversation about sex involves taking the boy on a father son camping trip or taking the daughter out for a girl’s weekend with mom: The first in depth conversation about sex should be had very early on using age appropriate material around middle to late elementary age of 3rd to fifth grade.
  3. Conversations about sex become an awkward dance around trying to figure out what terminology to use for anatomy and fluids because all of it just seems ‘dirty’: Using the technical textbook terminology is often the best way to go and to say it without hesitating helps the conversation feel more natural and less awkward.
  4. Little to no physical intimacy is ever witnessed between mom and dad, which would lead kids to wonder if mom and dad actually find one another physically attractive: Hold hands, snuggle or cuddle up on the couch, exchange a kiss or even flirt with one another a little bit, in view of the kids. Doesn’t have to be all the time, but enough for kids to see that intimacy can be had within a marriage because the vast majority of cultural depictions convey the opposite.

I’m well aware that this is a controversial topic and my frankness in some sections may be concerning coupled with a lack of any positive examples of what I’m trying to encourage. So here is my one golden nugget of wisdom to guide you into creating a pro-sex home. Watch the Cosby Show. That’s right Cliff and Claire Huxstable. I don’t watch tons TV sitcoms, but they nailed it on that show in terms of depicting a pro-sex house. They weren’t over the top in expressing their affection for one another, but it was clear that they loved each other “like that”. They both had careers and responsibilities in and around the home that created stress and ate away at their time. The show rarely ever depicted them in bed together but you knew that they were still intimate.  More than anything teenagers that are starting to develop a desire for intimacy want to know that real intimacy is possible in the home within the confines of marriage.