Sex Talks: Tweens
Ever packed your child’s backpack for a trip? Did you remember lunch, a water bottle, towelettes, sunscreen, and extra pair clean socks?
There are many truths Christian parents need to put in their kids’ spiritual backpacks for their journey as disciples of Christ. And giving your kid a solid sexual education from a Christian worldview is crucial backpack material.
I have found grammar, logic, and rhetoric — the three stages of the classical method of education — helpful in the task of discipling my children. The grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages correspond with the childhood years, tween years, and teenage years.
In Sex Talks: Birth to 8, I encouraged you to give your young children grammar building blocks – basic definitions concerning sexuality like body parts, general information on where babies come from, and body safety. But next comes the logic stage in which we are helping our kids discover the how’s and why’s of sexuality.
What’s Going into Your Kid’s Backpack?
The world has its own sexual logic, and tweens, who consume an average of six to seven hours of electronic media per day¹, are getting their backpacks stuffed with secular sexual ideas, values, and narratives. What are you putting in your kids’ spiritual backpack concerning sexuality? Silence? Awkwardness? A minimal glossary of biological terms? Maybe that’s what was put in your backpack when you were growing up, but we need to do better today.
The Logic of Sexuality: How’s and Why’s
The birds and bees facts aren’t enough. Our tweens have inquiring minds. They want to understand the logic of how things work and why things work. We have to start reasoning with them, and one sex talk won’t cut it.
Think of the how’s and why’s as the two sides of each sexual topic that we need our tweens to understand logically.
Take the dreaded “sex talk”: explaining sexual intercourse. The how part deals with biology. The why part deals with theology and morality.
For example, when explaining God’s why’s for marriage, we can point to creation and the gospel. Tweens can understand the creational why behind marriage. In love, God designed two complementary sexual natures so that in marriage a man and woman can become one flesh for life. The love of a one-flesh marriage covenant is far better and more faithful than other sexual relationships.
The gospel why of marriage is that a faithful and sacrificial relationship between husband and wife, especially when sin problems arise but are graciously resolved, points to the logic of Christ’s love for the Church (as in Ephesians 5:22-32). The definition of marriage is not up for grabs. Jesus’ cross-work to save His Bride proves that our marriages ought to be relationships of total commitment and sacrifice, not just for as long as we both feel in love.
Tweenage Topics of Sexuality
The tween years are the season for the heaviest lifting for parents in giving a sexual education. There are so many sexual topics to cover to prepare them for life.
Some topics are positive and others negative. Two positive topics, for example, are marriage, as seen above, and puberty, when we need to help them understand how and why they are changing.
Let me briefly tackle two negative topics, pornography and homosexuality. One avenue for explaining why porn is wrong and harmful is to point out that porn use is selfish. It’s using someone’s image for selfish pleasure. God made sex to bring a man and woman together in self-giving love. A porn user just takes, then exits the screen or deletes the picture, and never shares any care or service for the person who is made in God’s image. That does not live up to God’s design for intimacy on the creation side of marriage or the faithful, sacrificial love pictured in the gospel.
Why can’t two men or two women get married? Many same-sex couples certainly love each other and some of them achieve lifelong monogamous relationships. But God’s design from creation was for two-gendered marriage. And in the logic of the gospel, Jesus is the Groom who is faithful to redeem His Bride, the Church. From a Biblical definition, not necessarily what is practiced and permitted by changing a particular country’s laws, marriage looks like Adam and Eve before the Fall and like Christ and His Church for all eternity.
Helps and Pointers in Covering the Topics
If you are raising a tween on your own without a believing spouse, don’t be alone. Find some trustworthy parents and church leaders to mentor and coach you in reaching your tween and packing that backpack.
You need to answer your kid’s questions, even about the negative topics, and even if they don’t voice questions about these sexual topics. But here’s a pointer: as you bring out the theological reasons for why something is sexually broken and harmful, be careful not to be moralistic or use scare tactics.
Some parents use STD descriptions to scare their kids into chastity. Some parents warn kids about what porn does to the brain.Yet as Christian parents, we must value our child knowing Christ as much as protecting their bodies and brains.
The why’s give us an opportunity to go deeper than simple morality to pointing our children to their relationship with Jesus and with others. And remember, in parenting sexually healthy kids, the highest goal is their growing in faith, repentance, and love.