As an adult looking back on the images, experiences, and encounters that shaped your sexuality, does it seem like something was missing? As you became more aware of your sexuality, were you left to figure it out on your own? Did the lack of God-honoring information and the abundance of misinformation leave you vulnerable, without anyone to turn to? The majority of parents I speak with would say yes, yes, and yes.
Mo Isom recently released a book with an interesting title: Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot. Honest conversations about sex and sexuality may be long overdue in the Church, but they can start in your home today.
Recently I gave my Gatekeeper* talk to some parents in a suburb of Atlanta. One of the moms who attended called to thank me. She said the timing was truly God’s as her twelve-year-old daughter had just come to her to confess that she had been looking at people having sex online. She was simply curious about sex but was now riddled with guilt and shame.
As this mom held her sobbing daughter, these words ran through her mind:
“Be her ally.”
Those three words changed everything about the moments and days that followed.
She began empathizing with her child’s feelings of curiosity and arousal as well as the temptation to look at the videos again. Within a short time, Dad joined the conversation, sharing about his own early experiences with porn, empathizing with his precious child’s interest as well as her shame. Now they’re reading good materials together and talking more, and their daughter is finding good alternatives when the desire to view porn comes back around. God is using all of this to wipe away the shame and to prepare the way for more and better conversations.
What Satan meant for evil in this child’s life God is using for good. The darkness will not win because the light dispels it. An ally brings truth wrapped in grace, and truth sets us free.
This family is now having honest, God-honoring discussions about sexuality, both the good and the difficult aspects of it. These parents are helping their child see that though we may be drawn to certain images, we can choose a God-honoring response. They are teaching their child tender truths about living as a sexual being in a sexualized culture. They are setting their child up to turn to them rather than hide from them as she encounters new challenges along the way. They’re becoming her trusted resource for the information she needs. They’re becoming her ally.
Are you motivated to become your child’s ally?
You see the need. You know the stakes are high. If you don’t engage with your children they’ll be left quite vulnerable, and you love them too much to let that happen on your watch.
If you’ve been tracking with our Ally Series, I hope you’re beginning to connect with your kids by recognizing some common ground (Part 6). You’re ready to direct them with trusted resources you read with them (Part 7). And you’re working to protect your kids to the best of your ability while trusting in the sovereignty of God (Part 8 and Part 9). We’ve covered these topics and many others over the past several months. I hope you see the significance of becoming an ally.
Are you ready to be your child’s ally?
Of all the good things you’ll teach and model for your child in the 18 or so years you have with him or her, very few will be as important as God-honoring sexuality. There’s nothing to fear because God is leading you. He goes before you to prepare the good works He has for you (Ephesians 2:10), and this series can help equip you.
It may feel daunting, but for all the allies out there, retreat is not an option, because your children have an adversary.
Just like the mom and dad I spoke of earlier, you can do this too, starting right now.
- If needed, reread some earlier posts.
- Seek God’s wisdom and grace for some of the more personal topics we discussed.
- Purchase some books using links on our website (a way to support our ministry).
- Make a plan. If you’re married, include your spouse.
- Schedule a time on your calendar for an initial conversation (for an older child) or to read a book (for a younger child).
- Pray about it and get your spouse and a friend or two to pray for you also.
For younger kids or elementary-age kids, set aside some time to read age-appropriate books on biblical sexuality together like those we recommended in earlier posts. Younger children will naturally ask questions, so answer them with short, honest answers. If something about sexuality comes up at the dinner table or in front of younger siblings, normalize the conversation and resist making the topic taboo. Younger siblings will naturally learn about sexuality earlier and making it “family talk” is actually a good thing.
For an older child, if you’re still uncertain about how to start, consider talking in a setting where you’re not face to face. Here are some options:
- Lying side by side as you’re talking at bedtime
- On a walk or a hike
- Riding in the car
- As you’re working on a chore or project
- While your child is coloring or drawing
- While sitting by the pool or on a lake dock
You could begin with something like this:
“Hey, I’ve been thinking about when I was 12 (or whatever age your child is). Tell me what it’s like to be a 12-year-old today.”
Listen well! (You’ll learn lots of ways to pray for your child!) Eventually steer the conversation around to something related to bodies or porn or sex, and then ask good questions. Emphasize how you’re there for your child, how you can relate to what he or she is experiencing, and that because learning about sex and sexuality is an important part of growing up, you’re going to start reading some books together.
Depending on the child and the relationship, there may be some resistance. Gently explore what might be the root of that. But don’t let your child decide if he or she wants to have these talks. This is your responsibility as a parent, and even resistant children appreciate the fact that you care and that you persevere. Perhaps a humble acknowledgment of the lack of conversation so far is needed. You can even admit that it’s a little awkward for both of you but that it will get easier. Children appreciate authenticity. Share how a lack of information impacted you. Explain the goodness of our sexuality and how God sees us as His beautiful creations. In God’s eyes there is nothing shameful about our sexuality and talking about it is not shameful either.
Remember, you’re building something very good, and good things take time. You’re shaping your child’s sexuality with truth from science and scripture. You’re growing a relationship founded on authenticity and grounded in truth. You’re becoming a safe place, a port in the cultural storm.
Conversations may have been missing in your home growing up. They may be lacking in the Church today. But there’s really only one way to change that, and that’s by starting conversations in our homes. Right now.
Be her ally.
Be his ally.
And know that you have an ally in Christ who will provide all you need for this leg of your parenting journey!
With this post we’re wrapping up our Ally Series, but stay tuned! We’re excited to be developing a downloadable resource for parents. Know that we are praying for you: every mom and dad, every pastor and ministry leader reading this. We would love to hear stories of how the Ally Series has helped you.
If you’re in the Atlanta area and you’d like to hear or host my talk: *Gatekeeper: A Guide to Parenting in a Sexualized Culture, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to learn more about God’s good design for sexuality, check out our upcoming event: By Design: Reclaiming Sexuality by clicking the link below.
Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project in Atlanta, Georgia. (email@example.com)
Featured image by Janko Ferlič