Let’s Talk Sex – With Our Tweens & Teens (11-14)

Brace yourself. Your child is now entering puberty. While this is often marked as a time of turmoil, I would like to focus on what you can do to support your child during this transition. One of the key things that you can do is exercise patience and understanding. I am sure you remember what it was like during this season of your life. Pull from these memories as you relate to your child and remember that your child is starting to grow up and become a young man or woman. Extend grace to your children as they enter this season.

Preadolescence

Adolescence marks physical, emotional, and mental changes. As such, it is an extremely pivotal time for children where they learn how to think more critically and discern both what they believe and why they believe what they believe. Along with this comes an increasing influence from peers. This combination can sometimes be difficult, because your child starts to challenge what you are saying and seek their peers for advice instead. While this might be disheartening at first, do not retreat. Continue to engage your child with patience and understanding and try to get to know their friends. Seek to hear your children and connect with them on a heart level. This will look different for each child, but it is important. These intentional times are a good avenue to bring up topics such as crushes and dating. Help your child to begin to think critically about how far is too far on a date, what the purpose of dating is, if it is even wise to date at this age, and what can happen with innocent touching. Adolescents begin to develop their own ideas about these topics and it is beneficial to be talking about them as a family. I encourage you to discuss what you feel comfortable with as a couple and why, instead of just setting black and white rules, so that you can clearly articulate these values.

Along with sex, it is important to talk to your children about homosexuality, date rape, sexual abuse, and abortion. I encourage you to discuss how these topics are mentioned in the Bible and how they are outside of God’s plan. Ask your children questions and allow them to actively participate in the conversation. This will empower them to think critically and work through some of their questions in a safe environment. Other topics to mention are masturbation and birth control. Explain how there really is no such thing as “safe sex” outside of the context of marriage, and condoms don’t offer long-term emotional protection. These topics, however, might best be discussed with each child according to gender. Once again, decide as parents where you stand on each topic before talking about them. This will keep you unified as a team.

For young men, it is important to talk more in depth about lust, pornography, and masturbation. One of the greatest dangers threatening the hearts of young boys today is the prevalence of pornography. Pornography has reached epidemic proportions within the ranks of Christian men, and it starts at an early age.  Having unsupervised cable TV or Internet access in a young boy’s room is like putting a bowl of candy bars in the room of a child that is deathly allergic to chocolate.  To help guard your sons eyes, consider installing an internet filter on your home computers and phones. While pornography is especially common amongst young men, don’t be naïve. Girls can also struggle with this addiction. Talk to both your daughters and sons about porn. Whether they were exposed to porn through a friend or through their curiosity, if your child admits to struggling with this, do not shame them. Listen to your child and be supportive. They are vulnerably sharing this information and, by communicating this struggle, they are asking for a way out. Your response will often set the stage for what they choose to discuss with you in the future.

During the onset of adolescence, revisit the influence that media has on inaccurately portraying sex. Talk about how sex is not to be done outside the context of a covenant relationship. While this might feel uncomfortable, remember that if it is not addressed by you then it will be addressed elsewhere. Talk about physical touch and what is appropriate.  Help your child understand that it only takes a spark to ignite a fire and remind them that there is an actual spiritual battle going on around them. It is important to be aware and have a plan. One way to be aware is to be mindful of what your children see and hear on TV and through the media. “Garbage in is garbage out.” Rarely are the right values portrayed on TV, yet the average teenager watches about 20 hours of TV a week. If they aren’t watching TV, they are listening to music and possibly fueling their emotions through this, or they are on the Internet killing time. In either case, be aware of what your children are possibly gleaning from the media and continue to encourage them to make wise choices when they are away from the home. Ask them questions about what they did, whom they were with, and how they enjoyed their time away from home. If a movie was watched, take the time to discover what the movie was about and, if there was questionable content, ask your child to share their thoughts. Open communication is so important. This is why I truly encourage you to be aware of what is going on in the media and be intentional about getting to know your child’s group of friends. Create an environment that your tweens and teens will want to bring their friends to.

While many parents look forward to getting through the teen years, I encourage you to celebrate your children’s coming of age. This might look like a “Purity Party” or simply an acknowledgement and celebration. As a family, we did this based on maturity versus age. There were various milestones that we felt were important for each of our daughters to have completed before we had a big celebration. This will look different for each family. Our family, for instance, had a purity party for each of our daughters where they made a personal commitment in front of close family and friends to save themselves for their future spouse. They clearly articulated why they were choosing to do this and were given a purity ring as a reminder of this choice. In preparation for this celebration, there were various books that I went through with my daughters. A few of these books are mentioned in the recommended resources.

Early adolescence is a delicate time for a child. Be communicative, engaging, and open with your child. This looks like asking questions and seeking to enter their world. Empower your children to make wise choices and celebrate them as they transition to early adulthood. While adolescence is challenging, don’t let it defeat you or get the best of you. You can do this!

Recommended Resources for ages 11-14

Let’s Talk Sex – With Our 8-11 Year Olds

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Late Elementary marks the homestretch before the onset of puberty. As such, this time is an important time to truly foster and nurture your child’s heart. This means continuing to open up and listen to your child. It also requires preparing your child for the physical and emotional changes that are about to occur.

On a practical level, it would be wise for mothers to connect with their daughters and share about the adolescent changes ahead. Some girls begin menstruation as young as 9, but the average age is 12.5. To help this transition, it would be beneficial to share what your personal experience was like if you can remember 🙂 and simply give them some practical examples of what to be aware of. Keep this talk lighthearted by taking your daughter on a weekend trip to eat out, shop, laugh, have fun, and connect. Establishing connection needs to be the primary goal of the weekend. Your young daughters need and want both your time and support. This is especially true for females, because they are wired more emotionally and will need emotional support as things begin to change. When this is intentionally developed at a young age, it is easier for this connection to transfer over into the teen years.

Cayley currently is 12.5 and since I’ve been preparing these posts, she and I have had many discussions to prepare her for her first menstrual period.  She has had several good questions which needed to be answered to dispel fear and confusion. My older daughters had a 9 month crash course as I taught about sex in the context of my pregnancy with Cayley when they were 9.5 and 12.  Being in the delivery room for the birth of Cayley was memorable for them.  I have always been open and honest with questions they had but wish I had done more.

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The Gift Basket I’ve Put Together For Cayley

Another idea, and one I’ve prepared for my daughter, is a “coming of age” basket. Today you can order these on-line but it was super fun making the one pictured.  You might include a journal, sanitary napkins, chocolate, encouraging books, candle, and your favorite movie when you were her age. You could also write a little card letting her know that you support her during this transition. I can almost guarantee that she won’t forget this unusual, but useful and thoughtful gift. At the right time, your daughter will have everything she needs to have a more enjoyable first period. Recently, Cayley and I came across the idea of having a “Menarche Party” where you decorate with red streamers, balloons, tablecloths,  etc. and serve red punch, cake and strawberries.  Hilarious, I know, memorable to say the least.  Whatever you do, keep it fun.

While girls may need a fun weekend with their mom, young boys need their father to assure them that wet dreams, hair growth, and voice changes are a natural part of the transition. Fathers can prepare their sons by spending a weekend away doing fun activities such as camping, fishing, or hiking. The important part is that the Father is connecting with their son and communicating what to expect. Late Elementary is a good time to start discussing these changes, because hormones begin to move men towards manhood around the ages of 10-13.

In addition to preparing your children for the changes ahead, it is important to continue dialoguing with them about their media intake. Teach them how to be mindful about the things that they choose to see and listen to and encourage them to make wise choices. While it might not be as fun for you as the parent, it is important to set an example for your children by the movies that you choose to watch as a family and the music you listen to. The media has a powerful influence on your thoughts, feelings, and actions. This continues to be true, especially during adolescence when new emotions enter the scene.

While it might not be wise to share every detail with your younger elementary aged children, it is helpful to at least prepare them for the changes that are about to occur and let them know that you are there to support them. Chances are, if your child does not begin to experience these changes early, one of their friends will. In order to relay accurate information and be transparent with your child, it would benefit you to have at least started to address some of these things with them so that they are prepared.

Recommended Resources for ages 8-11