The Internet is rife with guides for talking to your kids about sex — as if it’s an essential parenting skill set. The problem for many Christian kids is that our Christian parents never did.
In fact, the closest my mom came to it was probably when she gave me a cassette tape of a Greg Laurie sermon.
I heard at church that sex before marriage is wrong, and when I asked about going to the gynecologist, my mom said I didn’t need to worry about it until I was married.
Fast forward 15 years and I’ve figured out how to use protection, manage my own reproductive health, and how to navigate the emotional complexities of physically intimate relationships. My parents may not need to know the details, but hiding the extent of my romantic relationships from them creates distance in our relationship, so it’s important to me to share.
Plus, they might be more open-minded than what I perceived as a teenager. There’s only one way to find out.
The following are tips I’ve collected to help you with a similar conversation.
1. Give Advance Warning
If your Christian parents didn’t have discussions about the topic of sex during childhood, they probably aren’t super comfortable with it. With any difficult conversation, it helps if both parties are in the right mindset. Letting them know you want to talk about something personal will help them be in a place they are open to hear you out and won’t try to change the subject.
2. Get Clarity About Your Desired Response
Make sure you know what you want out of the conversation. Do you want them to tell you their true feelings (even if this is critical of your choices)? Do you want them to share about their own past and what led to their choices?
Your vulnerability puts the other person in a vulnerable place, too. Telling them you want them to just listen, and take some time before they respond will reduce the amount of anxiety they feel as they’re figuring out how to best react.
3. Don’t Judge Them
You might be angry. You might feel addressing this subject is something all parents should do, and that you’re bringing this up now to make up for their failings. Being a parent is hard and nobody does everything right. Come into it with grace and an open mind.
You can’t change the past and only have the present. What future relationship do you hope for with your parents? You can invite them to have a more active, knowledgeable view into your life, including your romantic pursuits, but it’s up to them to decide if they want that and can commit to being respectful of your decisions.
4. Be Respectful of Their Space
It’s possible premarital sex is OK to you, and your parents disagree. This might mean staying in a hotel or Airbnb when you visit them with your significant other, if they are opposed to you sharing a bed (or not telling them quite yet if you can’t afford that option).
You’ve matured and grown into a less judgmental faith, but that’s something you find by invitation, not force, and if you want your family to be respectful of your decision, you need to be respectful of their closely-held beliefs.
5. Ask Them How Their Parents Addressed the Topic
Despite best efforts, parents often pass down to their kids what they got from their parents. You are able to create empathy with your parents when you ask them how they learned about sex, and what they did or didn’t like about how their own parents addressed the topic. Then you can ask them what their hopes were for you in understanding the topic. Intentions don’t always match reality, but that’s OK.
The best part is, you don’t have to pass on to your kids (if you choose to have kids) what you inherited. You can change the cycle by educating yourself and being thoughtful about how sex education empowers individuals to make the best decisions.