Pointers to help parents teach children about sex

During a recent anti-pornography series, the Church News called for questions on the subject. Following is an answer to one of those questions. In future weeks, experts will answer questions on other social issues. To submit a question, e-mail [email protected], or write 30 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84110.

QUESTION: How can parents talk to their children about sex?

ANSWER: Parents should never underestimate the tremendous influence they can have in their children's lives when it comes to matters of healthy and appropriate sexuality. In a world filled with inappropriate and distorted images and information about sex, it becomes increasingly important for parents to remember that they "have the primary responsibility for the sex education of their children." When parents teach about sex "honestly and plainly in the home (it) will help young people avoid serious moral transgressions" (Church Handbook of Instructions; p.188).

The following points can help parents teach their children about sex more honestly, plainly and frequently:

  • As parents, be willing to initiate discussions about sex. Don’t be defensive if your child resists or declines. Try again.
  • Designate a regular time and location to discuss sex and other sensitive matters with each child on an individual basis.
  • Talk about sex in positive terms. Offer general examples of what appropriate expressions of sexuality should be like.
  • Help your children understand that sexuality is only one of many elements that create true love and intimacy.
  • Ask your children questions about their understanding of sex. Reinforce positive perceptions. Clarify misconceptions and misunderstandings.
  • Invite your children to ask their own questions about sex. The kinds of questions children ask can help parents know how much specific information to offer in an answer.
  • Avoid using “slang” or “street” terminology when discussing the sacred expression of physical intimacy. Use terminology that is accurate, sensitive and age appropriate.
  • Be very clear and firm about Church standards and expectations as they relate to expressions of sexuality. Let your children know it is indeed possible to completely and fully manage their sexual feelings and live the law of chastity. At the same time, be realistic about the challenges they face in today’s world. Discuss how parents, Church leaders, and the Lord can help them be fully obedient to the Lord’s law of chastity.
  • As the parent, your life must be fully consistent with the very same standards you espouse. Children are quick to perceive inconsistencies or dual standards.
  • Create an atmosphere of openness. Seek to understand before judging. If you learn your child has broken the law of chastity, quickly and lovingly help him or her understand the joys of repentance and reinforce the fact that complete forgiveness is possible.
  • Remember, even if you have talked with your children about sex before, it is a topic that should be discussed on a regular basis.

    J. Douglas LeCheminant, program specialist at LDS Family Services