Guideline #1: Accept that the world your kids are growing up in is open about sexuality. It’s your job to be a voice they trust to give them the truth about sex.
We live in the days of mass advertising, entertainment, and the internet. Sexual images and information saturate every form of media. While it’s good to shield kids where we can, we can’t nurture some “Little House on the Prairie”-type fantasy that they won’t be exposed to them.
The Book of Proverbs, which could arguably be called the parenting manual of the Bible, approaches the issue of sexuality directly. It warns against being seduced into having sex outside marriage and praises the goodness and beauty of sex in marriage (see Proverbs 5). It also repeatedly urges that the thing young people need above all is wisdom. Our goal in parenting is to raise children who are not only innocent as doves, but also wise as serpents when it comes to managing their lives in this fallen world. We can’t filter the planet. We can teach truth and self-control.
Yes, the way you talk to your eight-year-old about sex will be different than the way you talk to your fourteen-year-old. It’s helpful if moms talk with daughters and fathers talk with sons. But you need to show them that this is an area of life where you want to have an open conversation about what they’re encountering in the world and experiencing in their bodies, minds, and hearts.
Make it a goal to find out what their questions are and answer those, rather than trying to answer your questions. You might say something like, “Do you have any sex questions today? What do you want to know?” Or, “What have you learned about sex?”
Guideline #2: Acknowledge the spiritual battle behind our sexual culture—and put your hope in the fact that truth will be victorious.
Even more so than when you were young, our children are being bombarded with an antichrist spirit and indoctrinated in an antichrist approach to life, especially at school.
This antichrist spirit rules through fear. It’s a bully, and it really wants to get anyone who tries to call us back to truth to shut up. Speaking the truth has become a career hazard for those trying to work within the system and help kids while navigating the pressures of social agendas and identity politics.
Church and the home are two places where we have authority to speak the truth to our kids, so it’s important that we are actively creating an environment where they not only hear what the Bible teaches about sex, but get to watch people living out that truth—an environment where the spirit of fear is being pushed back by the Spirit of power, love, and self-control.
We have the opportunity to show our kids how to live with unshakable hope in the gospel in the face of a culture that is rejecting it. Think of Daniel and his friends living in Babylon, where satanic worship and orgies were openly practiced. If the Holy Spirit could empower Daniel and his friends to live in purity and devotion to God in that culture, then He can certainly empower us and our kids to do the same today.
Guideline #3: Recognize that you are only going to be able to lead your kids into the freedom you are walking in. Be real about your own journey.
It’s a pretty wild disappointment to be mentored by someone who is a hypocrite. Parents, we need to be walking in the light and building a healthy approach to protecting our own heart and mind if we want to lead our kids into that.
Walking in the light means letting our kids see that we are real human beings on a journey of struggle and growth. That doesn’t mean leaning on them as accountability partners, but it does mean being open about what we’ve learned on the journey of managing our sexuality.
Moms and dads alike—if you’re walking in freedom in your sexuality, then it’s because you’ve encountered and fought the temptation to become addicted to escaping the stress in your life through sexual release.
You’ve seen through the false promises of pornography and discovered how deeply disrespectful it is.
You’ve dealt with the urge to get your identity and sense of acceptance from sexual experience or a sexual relationship.
You’ve learned the dangers of living in isolation and allowing secret shame to grow in your life, and how these damage intimacy and connection with God, your spouse, and others.
You’ve learned to cultivate healthy relationships and practices in your life that keep love, respect, holiness, purity, and connection in, and boundaries that keep toxic influences out.
Most importantly, you’ve encountered the grace and power of God to keep you from temptation, restore you from sin, and empower you to walk in victory over things that held you bound.
This is the wisdom you have to impart to your kids, and it’s embedded in the story of your life. Let them know you through this story.
If you’re not walking in freedom, then all of these things are available to you! Pursue them—for your sake, and your kids’ sake.
Guideline #4: Show your kids your broken heart, not fear and anger, around poor sexual choices (and any poor choices).
Years ago, one of the elders in my church called me and said, “I just got off the phone with my boss. Apparently my fourteen-year-old daughter and her friend got drunk on vodka and threw my boss’s patio furniture in his pool. I don’t know what to do. I could lose my job over this. I am just so angry.”
I said, “What you are is scared and hurt. You’re using anger to feel powerful because you feel so powerless right now. Please don’t show your daughter your anger. Show her your broken heart.”
“Well, I talked to her,” he admitted.
“How did it go?” I asked.
“I asked her, ‘So, how did it feel to be drunk?’ And she said, ‘I liked it.’ I was so furious that I took my cup of coffee and drilled it into her mirror.”
What a bummer. That was the night he lost his daughter. For the rest of her teen years they were estranged and she was out of control. Only when she became a single mom at twenty-one did they reconcile and start to rebuild their relationship.
When our kids break our heart and we show them anger, we attack our connection with them just as much as they attacked it with their poor choice. We can set limits and issue consequences for poor choices while also taking off our Kevlar vests and showing our kids that we are scared, hurt, and sad for them. This holds out the opportunity for them to clean up their mess and protect the one thing that matters—our connection with them.
Guideline #5: Show your kids that like Jesus, you’re after connecting to their heart, not managing their behavior.
There is nothing more important in your relationship with your child than your heart-to-heart connection. This is the point of influence where you get to pour your love, respect, values, wisdom, and strength into their lives. Your job is to keep chasing away fear in that connection and upholding your side of it so that your child sees that nothing else matters more to you than that. The message we want to send is, “All I want is for you to care about my heart as much as I care about yours.”
This is the heart of the Father for us in the new covenant. In the new covenant, we are no longer building our lives around protecting the rules, but around protecting our connection to the heart of God. Maturity looks like learning to manage our freedom to protect that connection.
And this is what we want to prepare our kids to do—to courageously manage their freedom to love God, themselves, and others in a world that wants to keep them in bondage. So let’s keep running after more freedom in our own lives and inviting them to come with us.
P.S. “Parenting Sexuality,” a new eCourse by Moral Revolution, is available now on the Life Academy! Get it here.