Don’t Freak Out!
That’s what I was telling myself when my middle school daughter stood at my bedroom door asking for a condom. Yes. My daughter was asking for a c. o. n. d. o. m.
I pretended to be calm and asked her what her plans were for the condom. She rolled her eyes and responded like I was the biggest idiot and informed me that she was going to use it—duh! The conversation went on like this for a few more minutes before I finally realized that what she actually wanted was a tampon. No joke. I almost died. I was so incredibly relieved that she had simply gotten the words mixed up and that I was the one that she had this conversation with.
“The Talk” is hard enough, but the need for continued conversation about sex and all that comes with it is often just as awkward. It’s often weird for both parents and kids. We as youth workers can serve as resources to help make these conversations easier for both.
Sex Ed. is Really Life-long Learning
Many parents and guardians feel pretty safe once they have had “The Talk” with their kids. The temptation is to conclude that there’s nothing else really to talk about once this conversation is over.
Truthfully, sex education starts when kids are small – learning the difference between boys and girls. There needs to be a conversation that includes explanations of good-bad-confusing touch and who to tell if something gets weird. Somewhere in there comes “The Talk.” But let’s be honest, the sex talk is about so much more than intercourse. Continuing the conversation about sexuality as young people develop is very important, especially in a world where culture depicts sex as casual. As adults, we know the consequences of sex in the wrong context are far from casual.
Do we really want our kids to get their information about sex and relationships from their peers, from TV, from movies, from music or even porn?
Consider: While most adult parent-types have had sex, many don’t remember all the biological terms. A review of these terms may help parents have a “science conversation” about human sexuality. Then we can encourage them to lead by example in teaching their children to respect their own bodies, all their body parts, and other people’s bodies.
LGBTQ and Other Letters of the Alphabet
For a lot of parents, their sex education included lessons at school about STDs and a speech about remembering to use a condom. There was little conversation about sexual preference or gender identity or sexual ethic. They were told, “Be safe, don’t get a disease and don’t get pregnant.” Now our parents (and kids) are confronted with the challenges of how to explain/process gender dysphoria and give instructions for who else might be in the restroom at Target. As youth workers we can resource parents with information about God’s plan for human sexuality, and by letting them know of trusted, qualified counselors who can help with more complicated situations.
Consider: Most adults are not Bible scholars and many struggle to know what scripture has to say on these issues or even where to find the directives concerning human sexuality and physical intimacy in the Bible. Help parents and guardians discover what the Bible has to say about human sexuality by providing solid resources that continually remind us of our identity in Christ and God’s plan for our sexuality. (The next section lists two books that could be helpful start.)
Messing Up and Not Saying Anything
Sometimes silence from parents and guardians comes from a place of regret or shame concerning their own sexual histories. Maybe they didn’t wait until they were married. Maybe they were raped or abused. People’s sexual experiences are very personal and often imperfect.
We must help parents remember that their influence matters and is critical. Keeping communication open about this subject allows their influence to continue. They know their kids, and they know what their own stories include. Encourage them to share what they wish they had done differently and why, what they are glad you did and why, and what they wish for their kids when it comes to their kids’ sex life.
Sometimes the silence comes from teens. Their own regret, embarrassment, or current status of sexual experience may keep them from talking. I recently had a conversation with a mom whose daughter asked if she could be on the pill. Her daughter was considering being sexually active with her long-time boyfriend. The mom didn’t know what to do…. If she said “yes” then she felt like she would be giving her permission for them to be physically intimate. If she said “no” then she felt like she might be risking her daughter’s future health. It just did not feel like there was a way to “win” in the situation.
The mom wisely used this as an opportunity to engage at length with her daughter, not just about sex logistics, but about the big picture of how sexual intimacy would impact her life. Ultimately, the mom decided that being on birth control was a wise choice for her daughter, but it did come with additional parental supervision for how her daughter would spend her time and invest in relationships.
Consider: A couple of great resources for helping parents/guardians have ongoing conversations about this issue and many more include More than Just the Talk by Jonathan McKee and 39 Questions Your Parents Hope you Never Ask by Josh McDowell and Erin Davis. Both provide sound biblical principles and straight forward content regarding youth and their sexuality.
At the End of the Day
Talking about sex is not easy. It really doesn’t matter if you’re the kid, the parent, or the youth worker; it’s just hard. But we don’t need to freak out. When handled matter-of-factly in the context of caring relationships with the youth and their parents, this becomes a great opportunity for all of us to grow together. Dealing with sexuality is just another part of their journey in Christ, a journey that we have the honor of taking with kids and their families.
 McKeee, Jonathan. More than Just the Talk. Bethany House Publishing, 2015. (ISBN 978-0-7642-1294-9)
 McDowell, Josh and Erin Davis. 39 Questions Your Parents Hope You Never Ask about Sex. Moody Publishers, 2011. (ISBN 978-0-8024-0255-4)