Who Should Talk with Kids About Sex: School, Parents, or the Church?

Kara Powell | Jun 4, 2012

In today’s New York Times, an article appeared describing some school/governmental efforts to train middle school students in sex ed, in particular how to have healthy, non-abusive relationships. Some of the most interesting excerpt from the article are:

Jadns classmates from Lowell Scott Middle School nodded. Middle school has gotten a lot more grown-up than youd expect, she added.

Kelly Miller, a former domestic violence prosecutor who runs Start Strong Idaho, the sponsor of the competition, agreed. Most young people have a sense of whats abusive, she said, but they dont know what a healthy relationship means.

While I haven’t seen the curriculum, I applaud educational efforts like these in schools intended to help teenagers have more healthy dating relationships, as well as in churches. Yet let me add a third source of education: the home.

In the article, Miller (quoted above) goes on to encourage: Parents themselves underestimate their power to reach young teens.”

In our family, our personal goal has been that our kids hear about sexuality first from us - and then the school’s sex ed and the church is a secondary source of information. That won’t always be possible, but that’s our goal.

Other data indicates that religious families are less likely to talk about sex than non-religious families. I find that ironic, sad, and a little bit wrong. We as followers of God should be the first to talk about sex because we know God created sex and it’s beautiful in the right context. Here’s what I’ve learned from parents who do a good job talking to their kids about sex at various times:

1. Specific, planned discussions. There’s definitely a time and a place for specific, planned discussions about sex. With our fifth grade son, we’re reading a book together, underlining sections that we want to talk about together. When we’re done, he’ll have the book to keep.

2. Unplanned discussions. These discussions are even better. It’s when song lyrics in your car radio bring up the topic, when your kid asks a question, or when you can tell they’re struggling with something and you ask a question.

In some ways, these unplanned discussions are even more challenging because we have to be attentive to opportunities that arise. I know one dad of teenagers and college students who’s made it his policy not to talk on his cell phone in the car when his kids are with him. Why? Not only because it’s safer but because he wants to be available to talk with his kids.

What do you do to try to talk with your kids about sex - and other significant topics?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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