Every fall, I have a similar conversation with parents. Their middle school child has been on auto-pilot over the summer, and as parents we are constantly paying attention to all the details in their lives. Then, they go back to school, and all of the sudden we notice the changes that were happening in our own home. Let me give you an example…
An interesting change happens from the beginning of middle school to the end. In the beginning, a boy will go days without bathing. You are constantly reminding him about brushing his hair and teeth. He has a favorite shirt that he keeps picking up of the floor every morning. Then it happens. He wakes up gets ready for school and actually puts product in his hair without you asking… Then, you notice he begins to change his clothes. The unthinkable happens – he comes home with a scrunchy on his wrist!
What happened? Easy answer… a girl became cute! Until this time, he didn’t even know some girls existed. He was much to busy playing football and video games with his bro squad to notice the girls. Yet, the magic of puberty never leaves us our children in that blissfully unaware state.
Now, he has a new set of interests. He begins to carry himself differently. He is much more aware of how his peers accept him. His cool factor becomes a top priority, because this will determine what girls thinks he’s cute too. Of course, he has no grasp on this new of emotions. He probably stole the scrunchy from some girl. He thought she was cute – she thought he was annoying. He still has much to learn.
Every fall, parents come to me with these type of questions, especially if this is the first time! They want to know how to have “the talk” with their kids, and they are looking for resources. Perhaps, the need to have “the other talk” with their kids, generally a few weeks after giving them their first smartphone. (Another article is in order here…) This is all normal and part of growing up. Following are some ideas I share and why they are effective.
- It’s Not “A” Talk
I always encourage parents that you don’t want to have one talk with them. A single conversation would be nice, because then you wouldn’t have to do it again, but this is flawed for three major reason. The first reason, is your child is not ready for everything in the talk at any given moment. She will need ongoing information that is accessible to her when she is ready to learn it. She may only have questions about how her body is changing, and you should only answer those questions. She doesn’t want or need to know about birth control yet. That conversation should happen as she gets closer to marriage. Furthermore, if you try to give your child information they are not ready to hear, then you are missing your time of opportunity. You may tell them something so early they forget it by the time they need it. You need to be an ongoing source of information.
The second reason is things change. Culture changes, and cultural values change. What you tell your child about the birds and the bees today will not necessarily be applicable in a few years. Why? Because our culture is bombarding our children with constant misinformation about this topic. They will bring up new topics to you, that you are not anticipating or prepared for! In that moment, don’t freak out! Be available to say, “I don’t know,” and figure it out with your child.
2. You Are the Best Resource
The third reason is actually my second idea. You want to be the best resource on this topic. Studies have shown lately that when a kid has a question about an uncomfortable topic, he will tend to not want to ask his parents. Instead, he will either ask his friends or he will “google it.” The latter is by far the worst option. Too often, children will go to google, find pornography, and they consider that to be reality. Many children do not realize that they are watching paid actors, and they apply what they see to their reality. This sets them up for unrealistic expectations in future relationships from dating into marriage.
I always encourage parents to try being proactive in this area rather than reactive. If the parent becomes the primary source of knowledge and wisdom on this topic, then the child will come to the parent. From this position, you can present a biblical perspective on marriage, sex, sexual identity, and covenantal relationships. Christianity is polemic to contemporary American culture, and it’s important that our children understand this.
3. Use Solid Resources
This leads me to my final idea: use solid resources! Sometimes, breaking the ice on this conversation the first time is the most intimidating. It doesn’t have to be this way. Use our culture to your advantage. Sex is everywhere these days in the media. At some point, you will see something with your child that you can use to start the conversation. A naked woman is in a commercial about hamburgers, which makes no sense! Use something like that to start the conversation: “What do you think about that commercial?”
Additionally, using a conversation medium can be a big plus! I offer Passport to Purity to the families in my church for free. This curriculum is a little dated in its presentation, being on CD, but it acts as a conversation catalyst. Also, it’s customizable, being broken down into modules. Thus, you only have to talk with your child about the topics you think are appropriate at the time.
There are other great resources to help you have this conversation with you children from a Christian perspective. Axis provides some great parent guides. These are much smaller modules that speak to specific topics, among them are sexuality and puberty. Additionally, they give direction for when your child is trying to interact with a peer who identifies as LGBTQ+. Such resources can be a great help.
If you are still reading this far, my strongest admonishment is be there for your child in this time. If your child does not feel comfortable asking you for advice on this subject, they will find the answer to their question somewhere else. They most likely will go to the internet, and they are not likely to find the biblical perspective there. God placed your child in your life and tasked you with raising them. Furthermore, he will empower you through the Holy Spirit to accomplish this goal.