How Do You Talk To Your Pre-Teen About Sex?
I remember asking my daughter Delani if she knew what sex was when she was about nine years old. We had had a conversation before that, but it was a simple explanation about how babies don’t just come out of Mommy’s tummy—Mommy and Daddy “make love” and that’s how we get a baby. But then she told us that a boy at her school kept telling her he wanted to “sext” her. Clearly this nine-year-old little boy didn’t fully know what he was saying, but when we heard this, Ben looked at me in slight panic. We both knew it was time to have a real sex talk with our daughter.
I asked Delani if she wanted to go for a ride to the local drugstore or go for a walk by the cows. She picked the drugstore, because she knew there was a much greater chance for a treat there! I also asked her if she wanted Daddy to be part of the sex conversation, and she said she just wanted it to be us girls. So we left for the drugstore, and in the car I asked her, “So, what does it mean to have sex with someone?”
“Well, it’s when a mommy and daddy lie on the couch, kiss a lot, and then the couch turns red,” she answered. “This means they have had love.”
I was not prepared for that! I knew she didn’t know much, but I had to try not to laugh at the innocence of her response. Obviously, I had a lot to fill her in on. I began by giving her a basic overview of sexual intercourse and conception, and then explained why these belong in a lifelong relationship with a husband and wife in the covenant of marriage.
By the time I finished, we had been sitting the drugstore parking lot for ten minutes. I asked her how she was feeling and if she had any questions. She said she was good and wanted to go inside. A few minutes later, as we walked down an aisle looking for nail polish, she asked, “So Mom, when the penis gets really big and ejaculates the white stuff, that stuff is what you need to help make the babies, right?”
Of course, we had to be standing near about four other people when she asked this question, and I could just feel them wondering what in the world sparked this question and how I was going to respond. I realized I could respond with embarrassment and tell her we would talk about it later, or I could choose to protect the freedom and safety in talking about this subject I wanted to build with my daughter. So, I replied, “Yes, that is correct. The white stuff that comes out is called sperm. You need an egg from the mommy and the sperm from the daddy to make a baby. Did you find a color of polish that you wanted?”
Yes, after we left the store I explained it’s better to ask sex questions when there aren’t a bunch of strangers around, because not everyone is as comfortable discussing the topic. But I also told her I was so happy that she didn’t feel scared to ask me that question, no matter who was there! Since that time, she has ended up in situations where she realized she knew more about sex than her peers and chose to not share what she knew, communicating that maybe they should talk with the parents. I love hearing that she navigating this topic with maturity.
Now that Delani is approaching the end of junior high, we are entering a whole new season. As she has been going through puberty and maturing physically, she’s experienced feelings that she could hardly imagine having at the age of nine. Ben and I have had to work harder to pursue connection with her as she desires to be her own person and navigates the hormones and social dynamics that are just being introduced into her world.
Can I say that we’ve done everything correctly? Not even close. But I have done all that I know to do with the heart of connection, and that is all I can ask of myself and from Ben. One of my favorite things we have told Delani is “Delani, Mommy and Daddy have never raised a teenager before. We are learning as we go, but I promise our goal is never to control you. It’s to stay connected to your heart.” We also try to use a lot of “I messages” to let her know how her behavior is affecting us and remind her that we’re responsible to protect and hold up our side of a safe, loving relationship. And we often ask her, “What do you need from us?”
Now that we are entering a season where our daughter is experiencing growing sexual needs, I’m so grateful that we made the decision not to let someone else teach her about sex because we were too intimidated by the topic. It really was the choice to have an open and ongoing conversation about sex that I think has made this season easier on our connection than had we chosen to avoid it.
I know that it can feel painful for parents to talk about sex, as they may have walked through their own abuse and pain. But our children need us to be open and honest with them about this important area of life, and being willing to overcome fear pain around sex in our own lives is a battle that we must fight for their sakes. I believe God’s heart is for children to learn about the beauty, wonder, the power of sex, along with the passion and purpose in covenant, from their parents. We love our children more than anyone else on this planet. Let’s not leave the door open for them to be taught about sex by voices of people who have agendas that don’t align with God’s heart for them.
Parents, you can do this!