Few discussions in our church or in our culture seem to be avoided as much as those regarding sexual intimacy. For something that is so amazing and so beautiful, we seem to have a difficult time putting into words the sacred and special place sex has in our lives. When it comes to teaching our children, most of us are still scared, embarrassed, or determined to wait for the “right time” or the “right age” to begin these discussions.
Many are well-meaning, intelligent people who have chosen to look the other way and ignore what is happening all around us. For a moment, think about the wallpaper of our lives—the magazines in the checkout line, billboards lining the freeway, the books and background music in mall stores, the television shows and movies you watch, and of course, the most uncensored and most influential purveyor of media, your computers, tablets, and smart phones.
There are “teachers” all around our children, waiting to teach, practically shouting at them their flavor of sexuality. Many of these musical and visual messages normalize any and all forms of deviance from coercive sex and rape to incest—determined to “blur lines” and create “shades of gray” between infatuation, obsession, and pure violence, especially against women.
In all of this chaos, I can appreciate one’s desire to keep the discussion of sexual intimacy sacred, but the choice of many parents to remain silent on a topic does not make it sacred. It makes it a secret, and most secrets are shameful. More importantly, silence is no defense for the bombardment of hyper-sexualized media and pornography all of our children are exposed to and will be exposed to.
So, is one talk during the middle school years enough for your child to form her own ideas of healthy sexual intimacy and combat the hundreds of hours she is exposed to from various forms of media? No. It isn’t!
Sunday School general president Brother Tad R. Callister said, “As parents, we are able to be the prime gospel teachers and examples for our children—not the bishop, the Sunday School, the Young Women or Young Men, but the parents…. When all is said and done, the home is the ideal forum for teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Tad R. Callister, Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children, Oct. 2014 General Conference). Healthy sexual intimacy is part of those teachings!
As I have researched and presented in different venues, I have found that almost all of the people I talk to have very positive feelings about sexual intimacy—even many who have been victims of sexual abuse. I am becoming more confident that there is nothing “awkward” about talking about sexual intimacy, per se, but that most people think it is awkward because we have been taught to think it is.
Start simply and accept that you are not perfect and that you will make mistakes. As you prepare, pray to know with what topics you should begin. Allow the Spirit to direct you in these conversations, remembering to focus your teaching on the sacredness of intimacy, while providing practical information that will protect and prepare your child.
As you lead these discussions, you will be amazed at the insightful questions your child asks. Your relationships will be strengthened, and you will establish an environment in your home where open communication flows naturally—because if you can talk about sexual intimacy comfortably with your child, you can talk about anything.
Use the scriptures and inspired addresses to guide you while emphasizing the sacredness and unifying power of sexual intimacy. Review For the Strength of Youth under the heading “Sexual Purity.” This Family Home Evening lesson will also be helpful.
The following scriptures can initiate and continue great discussions. You decide which discussions are best suited for your child
- Genesis 1:26-27, 1 Samuel 16:7 Talk about how we are God’s children and how each of us has amazing, godly potential. This can also include being grateful for our bodies, appreciating all they can do, and seeking our own self-worth that is not based on comparing ourselves to friends or people portrayed in the media.
- Corinthians 6:18-20 Discuss how special your child is and how he is worth protecting and respecting. The discussion can also include how we can show respect to others’ boundaries and bodies and how we can be modest and dress according to our family’s standards.
- Genesis 1:28 Talk about “where babies come from”. Tailor your discussion according to the maturity level of your child. Ask follow-up questions to ensure she understands what you are expressing.
- Genesis 2:18-25 Talk about the physical mechanics of sex, yes, but be sure to also focus on intimacy, not just the physical act. Explain how kissing, hugging, holding hands, and snuggling are part of this process.
- 2 Samuel 13:12-14 Sex should never be forced. Talk about predators, sexual abuse, and rape. Talk about when it is appropriate to say “no” to adults. Have your children practice saying “no!”
- Genesis 39:9, Exodus 20:14-17 We do not commit adultery. Explain that sex is reserved for marriage only.
- Matthew 5:28 Be careful with this one! Explain that it is natural to be curious, and that God gave us physical desires and curiosity. Explain the difference between curiosity and lust.
- Philippians 2:2-3 Explain to your child that healthy relationships and all physical aspects of that relationship need to be conducted with unselfishness.
- Colossians 3:12-15 Discuss how healthy relationships are founded on kindness and that marriage often requires putting the needs of your partner above your own. Remind your child that forgiveness is a principle he will become acquainted with in any great marriage.
- Alma 39:5 Impress upon your child the importance of having sex with the right person, at the right time, and with the Lord’s approval (i.e., in a marriage relationship). This discussion should be accompanied by a discussion of the Atonement and your testimony of the Lord’s forgiveness when one partakes of the repentance process.
- 1 Corinthians 7:2-3 Talk about the ongoing courtship that should occur in marriage, including a satisfying sex life. Explain that God gave us the gift of sexual intimacy and wants us to have healthy, happy sex lives.
In these discussions, it is best to focus on intimacy. When these children get married, very few of them will be ignorant on the physical mechanics of sex. However, because of our disconnected society where many relationships exist at least in part in the potential isolation of digital media, many of them will have a much harder time understanding and developing true intimacy. As they grow, repeatedly express to them the joy and hardships of marriage. Explain and demonstrate how time together, physical affection, kindness, unselfishness, laughing and crying together, forgiving each other, working through problems, and accomplishing things together create awesome relationships. (Holland, 1989)
Dina Alexander is an amazing mom of three children and loves spending time with them and her awesome husband. They live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dina is the founder and president of Educate and Empower Kids (educateempowerkids.org), an organization determined to help parents be the first, best source of information for their children when it comes to teaching healthy sexuality and the dangers of online pornography. She received her master’s degree in recreation therapy from the University of Utah and her bachelors from Brigham Young University.
Callister, T. (2014, October 5). Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children – By Tad R. Callister. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/parents-the-prime-gospel-teachers-of-their-children?lang=eng
Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments. (1989, January 12). Retrieved March 20, 2015, from http://www.familylifeeducation.org/gilliland/procgroup/Souls.htm
Holland, J. (1998, October 1). Personal Purity. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1998/10/personal-purity?lang=eng
Family Home Evening: Sexual Intimacy Is Sacred and Beautiful. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2015, from http://overcomingpornography.org/spouses-and-families/sexual-intimacy-is-sacred-and-beautiful?lang=eng
Family Home Evening: What Should I Do If I See Pornography? (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2015, from http://overcomingpornography.org/spouses-and-families/what-do-i-do?lang=eng