Beyond the birds and bees: How to teach your children about intimacy

Does the thought of having "the talk" with your children make you blush? It may not be easy, but discussing sexual development and intimacy is very important. This article offers five concrete tips to get a difficult conversation started.

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  • The gift of intimacy and procreation is precious. Children need to learn to respect their bodies and their ability to create life. Unfortunately, many people treat sex lightly. The messages they get from media, including music, television, Internet and celebrities are confusing and sometimes vulgar. If you want your children to understand the joy of a monogamous mature sexual relationship, begin teaching them at an early age. I employ these five tips as I teach my children. It was a bit uncomfortable at first, but now it’s easy to talk about sex and intimacy with my kids. Here's how to get the conversation started.

  • Teach your family’s values

  • Different cultures, religions and families value different things. To help your children learn what you value, you must teach them. My husband and I would like our children to remain abstinent until marriage. We are very clear that this is our desire for our children and we believe it will bring them the greatest level of happiness and health. We also teach them the joy that comes from loving relationships, and the ways God has given us to express love. Modesty and respect go hand-in-hand with these ideas, so we teach them as well.

  • Have an on-going conversation

  • You may sit your children down for an initial discussion about sexual development and reproduction when they develop an interest or curiosity, but there isn’t just one “talk.” As your children grow, you will have to continue talking with them about their own development and the things they are hearing and learning from other sources. I try to teach continually even if my kids aren’t approaching me. This can be done in casual ways, like talking about love and healthy relationships, or by discussing why we change the channel on the radio when certain songs come on.

  • Speak openly

  • If you’re extremely nervous about conversing with your kids and using words like “penis” and “intercourse,” take a deep breath. You can do it. You may want to practice, use anatomy visuals, find a helpful book and say a prayer that you can convey the right message. I tell my children I will answer any question they ask as well as I can. That means I need to be able to explain oral sex and the dangers of sexting, what French kissing is and why they should avoid the back seats of cars. I know, it’s not always easy!

  • Check in periodically

  • Once you’ve had a few conversations with your children, you’ve opened a door. Keep it open by checking in with them. I like to ask them if they have any questions after they’ve had school lessons about human growth and development. I ask my older daughter if she’s having any trouble with friends making unwise choices or kids at school talking inappropriately. My son is only 10, so I keep it very casual with him. Some kids were talking about pornography on his bus, so I keep close tabs on that situation. I hope we will continue to communicate easily through the teenage and dating years.

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  • Set a good example

  • Children observe and take in more than we realize. Showing appropriate affection, respecting your spouse, dressing and acting modestly and always talking about intimacy in appropriate ways will set a good example for your children. My husband and I go on regular dates even though the kids sometimes complain about being left alone. We tell them time together is important for our relationship. No kid wants to think about their parents being intimate, but it is a natural part of life and marriage. I hope my children learn how to be part of a loving relationship as they watch the way my spouse and I nurture our relationship.

  • There are sad stories about children developing sexual dysfunction due to exposure to pornography and sexually explicit materials at a young age. Protect your children’s innocence by teaching them about their bodies and intimacy in a safe environment and in appropriate ways. Their future spouses will thank you.

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Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.

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