About Those Birds and Bees

“Daddy? What’s SEX?” asks

5-year-old Michael.

“Well, er, Michael . . . most plants and animals are divided into males and females in, er, order to repro . . .” says father, sweating uncomfortably.

“Ha! Ha! I gotcha! Hee Hee—it’s the number between 5 and 7!” interrupts Michael gleefully.

“Just how much does the kid know?” wonders the shell-shocked father (“For Better or For Worse” by Lynn Johnston).

Do the cartoon’s words quoted above strike a chord with you? Do you have children at home and wonder how much they know about sex?

Our sex-saturated society doesn’t allow us the option of not talking about sexuality with our children. We either choose to have an ongoing and direct conversation with them, or we can let culture’s preconceived ideas on this subject influence them.

On the whole, parents can influence children more than we think. Whether we’re single, married, separated, or divorced, we can use our life experience as building blocks for our children’s lives. Not that we need to confide all our mistakes and weaknesses, but sharing how our experiences have affected our journey and what we wish we’d done differently can be immensely helpful.

The following six points are important aspects of healthy sex education:

  • Understand that sex education begins in the home. A child’s sex education begins the day she/he is born, as parents model loving and respectful behaviors between themselves as well as toward their child. These relationships will influence the child’s view of herself/himself and how she or he will view members of the opposite sex.
  • Be informed. It may be helpful for parents to become acquainted with educational materials about sex that will give them confidence to answer any questions a growing child may have.
  • Use both “teaching” and “ planned” moments. Most children sooner or later will try to play “doctor” with siblings, cousins, or neighborhood friends. Take advantage of these teaching moments, especially in terms of explaining the privacy of their bodies. It’s the best way children learn. At the same time, plan for some discussions about human sexuality in a way that is comfortable for the child. Parents may also want to become acquainted with how the school tackles sex education, since children and adolescents may be more comfortable in an environment of their peers.
  • Be clear about consequences. Parents must be clear about sexually transmitted infections, sexual addiction, pornography, sexual abuse, date rape, as well as the potential of pregnancy. Adolescents and young adults are ultimately responsible for their own behavior.
  • Emphasize that God created sex for procreation, bonding, and fun. Healthy sexuality is developed through positive self-images based on strong character traits such as honesty, kindness, self-control, and personal responsibility

—in that context sex can truly be an act of worship! Humor is also an important aspect of sexual life. If spouses cannot laugh at themselves and allow a sense of playfulness in this area, they will become burdened by its complexities.

  • Assure children that grace is the bottom line. If Christian parents are faithful to their beliefs, they will tell their children, “I want you to know I love you very much. I will always be here for you. In the whole world, there is one door you can always come back to—no matter what happens to you—and that door is here at home. I love you more than you will ever know!”

Parents have a huge responsibility in shaping our children’s character and healthy sexual development, especially in this permissive society. The challenge for us, therefore, is to provide our children with time, attention, affection, affirmation, and comfort while at the same time giving appropriate structure, limits, and guidance—a sensitive balance that’s part of a healthy relationship.

About the Author

Arlene Van Hove, a retired therapist, is a columnist for Christian Courier. A member of Fleetwood Christian Reformed Church, Surry, British Columbia, she and her husband have four children and six grandchildren.
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