Jessica Thompson is an author of several books and a frequent conference speaker. Her heart is to see women, families, and children freed from the bondage of moralism and to live in the truth that in the gospel there is joyful freedom awaiting them. Jess has a Bachelor's Degree in Theology and with her mother, Elyse Fitzpatrick, she co-authored the books Give Them Grace and Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions. She has also written Exploring Grace Together and Everyday Grace: Infusing All Your Relationships With the Love of Jesus. Jess believes the truth that salvation is "naked confidence in the mercy of God." She has been married to her high school sweetheart since 1995. Together they have three teenage children.
The fluorescent lights made it hard to tell if I felt I was about to cry because of the harshness of the glare or if it was due to the questions my nine-year-old just asked me. There we were walking through Walmart and in the most timid of voices I heard, “Can you please tell me about sex?” I tried to wiggle my way out of the bind with the response, “We have already read that book. Remember? Do you need to know more than that right now?”
“Mom, please tell me everything.”
The dreaded phrase, I wasn’t expecting. Nine seems too young. Nine seems innocent. And for goodness sakes, Walmart! We are in Walmart!
I knew I needed to seize the moment, as it were. We were hardly ever alone. I needed to take the time. So there, with the Rollback smiley guy staring at us with that huge grin, as though he knew what just happened, I started in on the conversation. I started with how it was meant to be. I started where the Bible started: one man, one woman, naked and unashamed. My nine year old wasn’t so interested in the story of the Adam and Eve and pressed in. How does it happen? What goes where? So, as we picked out the cheapest toilet paper and grabbed cleaning supplies we had the talk. Seemed totally unconventional and I kept wondering if I was doing this the right way. Shouldn’t we be sitting down? Shouldn’t this child be older for this? Shouldn’t we have a Bible and some other authoritative book with stick figure drawings in it? I second-guessed everything I said. Somehow we made it through the store and through the talk. I don’t know if being it public made it less awkward or more awkward. My child had good questions, really good ones that went into more than just the how. Which lead us back to the Bible, to the truth of our brokenness, to the hope of redemption. I gave my baby permission to ask me anything at any time.
Most Christian parents are afraid to talk to their kids about this subject. We are afraid that we might awaken some desire in them that wasn’t there before. We are afraid that they will be curious if we are too descriptive. We are afraid they will be curious if we are not descriptive enough. We are overwhelmed with the goal of preserving their purity. Our own past experiences cause shame or fear.
The gospel speaks and quiets every one of those fears.
When we think about talking with our children about sex, our starting place is wrong. Children are not pure; the goal of the sex talk isn’t to maintain purity because they never had it to begin with. We think if we can just guard them from all the impureness out there they won’t have any problems with their sexuality. Now don’t get me wrong we need to teach them that sex is for the commitment of marriage. We want to teach them how God says sex will be most enjoyed. We want to explain to them that their virginity is a gift and that as far as it depends on them they should save it for their future spouse. Those are all good and right to teach, but we must always remember that the truth about our children is that they will end up sexually broken. The “perfect sex life” in marriage is a farce. It just doesn’t exist. You can have two people that saved themselves for marriage, never kissed anyone until the pastors pronounced them “man and wife” and that couple can still have problems in their sex life. The problem is not if we were promiscuous before we were married, our problem is that we are always bent in on ourselves looking to be satisfied instead of looking to serve.
Christian parents around the world have held out to their kids this shiny hope for a great sex life if they just hold out for their wedding night. We tell them that God will love them more if they can withstand the temptation of sex before marriage. We’ve used every type of manipulation we can think of just to make them keep their pants on. We’ve used morality and reward as a way to control their outer behavior.
How should Christian parents talk to their kids about sex? Talk to them. Really, talk to them. Use the right words when describing genitalia. With prolific sex education at the touch of a button, we are not in an age where we can avoid the question or tell them to ask later. We must hit this one head on. Tell them the risks of having sex outside of marriage, but don’t make that their motivation not to. Give them Jesus. Tell them that believers in him have his record of being the only sexual pure one to every walk this earth. Teach them about the free grace of forgiveness that he extends to everyone. Teach them how much his love is better than any sexual experience they will ever have. Open their eyes to the beauty of the Lover of their soul . . . and then, trust God with them. Trust God to use everything in their life for His glory and their good.