How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex

My son recently turned 10 and entered 5th grade, so over the summer we had what many parents call “the talk.” This is the classic father-son moment when you talk about the birds and the bees. Now, imagine us sitting on his bed, talking about all the details of life, while I’m answering a variety of interesting, often hilarious questions.

While this was in some ways a mind-blowing moment for my son, it was not a complete surprise.  It was more than just a formal, sterile classroom lecture. Instead, it was more like a fill-in-the-blank, open-book quiz. It was not a surprise because it started when he was a toddler and has continued ever since. There were a few awkward and funny moments and there were a couple of, “Let’s wait and talk more about that later.”

Since then, every couple of weeks, in the car, before bed, or at other moments, he has had a “Hey, dad I have another question…Our ongoing conversation, with the pivotal discussion moment, has opened a wider, long-term, and more informed discussion in our father-son relationship.

Many parents dread the moment that is coming in the late elementary years.  They sidestep questions, turn off TV shows and movies, and even work overtime to whitewash things with cute terms.  There is a true nervousness and honest-to-goodness fear among parents about all of these things.

Even as a youth pastor for almost 25 years, I am amazed at how many middle school students I have encountered, whose parents have yet to talk to their children about sex.   I have even had a couple of parents over the years call and request that I or my wife would do it for them!

Talking to your children about sexuality and their body is more than a “talk” or “THE talk”. It is a long-term conversation and discussion.   This conversation starts early and continues until their wedding day.  This is not a one-time, one-and-done talk.

In a changing and shifting culture of sexuality, children will hear and see things earlier and earlier.  Our role as parents to be open and available to explain and to answer questions before school even starts.

Sexuality and our body are not dirty or bad things… if seen through God’s plan and understand His Word. After all, we are the “Temple of the Holy Spirit” and “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.”

As parents, we cannot fall for the same lies as the world, just from the other side of the spectrum.

If your child’s sexual discovery is a conversation, not talk, they will know that they can ask you any question, any time, and you will be honest with them.  

Our children, teens, and young adults need to be comfortable with their body, in a God-honoring way.

They need to know what is happening to their body as it changes and develops in healthy, age-appropriate ways.

They need to make the connection to God, their changing body, and God’s gift of sex, while parents tie it to God’s words about marriage.

Here are a couple of quick, key hints and tools to help as you navigate these conversations:

Start the conversation during potty-training as a toddler discovers their body.

Have appropriate touch conversations early on for themselves and others.

Teach your children that modesty is more than just a clothing choice.

Have conversations that are age-appropriate and developmental stage-appropriate.

Use correct terms and not cute made-up names.

Pace your conversation throughout childhood into adolescents and up to their wedding.

Answer the questions, that are being asked and wait for the next question to gauge how much information is needed to be shared.

Be prepared to discuss alternate lifestyles and sexuality as it comes up or is recognized socially.

Listen, don’t always talk. Listen for feelings, attitudes, ideas, and comfort levels.

Use and refer to the Bible often as a foundation for conversations.

Find out what misconceptions are being shared among their peers.

Realize that conversations are different from child to child and gender to gender, in the same family.

Allow the conversation to change and in some ways end, once they are married.  Your adult child’s sex life needs to be kept sacred between them and their spouse.

Finally… Pray for, with, and about your child’s mind, heart, emotions, and sexuality!

Dan Istvanik has been working in youth ministry for 25 years, serving in churches in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Washington DC.  He is a speaker, ministry coach, writer, and contributor to other ministry resources. You can contact Dan at, where he shares student ministry resources.

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