You can imagine (with fear and trembling) having a chat about sex with your 13yr old. You can think about some of the things you might say. But what about with your toddler? Where on earth do you start? I'm convinced that starting early is so incredibly helpful for later chats, but what do you talk about before they start raising topics? What level of detail do we need to delve into? Well, here are some places to begin.
Laying the groundwork
I don't think it's necessary (or necessarily appropriate) to go into great detail about sex with toddlers. In fact, you don't need to go into heaps of detail about most topics with them. With most things, they just want to know that there is an answer, and that will likely satisfy them. Until of course they hit the 'why?' stage. But when it comes to sex, I think laying appropriate groundwork is going to be the most important thing to do. And there are 3 major pieces here for Christian parents to put into place for their kids; God is King, what our bodies are like, and what marriage is. Get these 3 things right, and chatting to our kids about sex later on will be about 3 billion times easier (give or take).
God is King
This concept is easy to wrap our minds around (harder to get our hearts around it though) and one that kids can grasp pretty easily. God is in charge. He made everything and so what he says goes. They see mum and dad being in charge, and so they have a nice little picture of authority already. But how does God being King help us when it comes to sex? Well, ultimately, the battleground or our kids will be who to listen to about sex. God or the world. Our job is to be helping our kids go God's way for sex and not listen to what the world is telling them. Or or that matter, what their own natural desires would have them do much of the time. Those hormones are gonna kick in hard come puberty, and unless they already have strong convictions about what they should and shouldn't do with their bodies, well, it likely won't be pretty. Knowing that God is a good King and in his wisdom he tells our kids how to use thier bodies, will help them along amazingly. We don't have to relate it to sex just yet, but having the idea firm in their minds will make its application to sex seamless.
What our bodies are like
All of our kids have bodies - surprise! And they all have different bodies. But there are 2 things that stand out as differences and similarities. Their genitals. They either have a penis and are a boy, or a vagina and are a girl. The good news is, despite what many people will say these days, being male or female is a biological fact. Think chromosomes. And although intersex is a real and difficult condition, it is very rare and is a sad result of a broken world. More importantly than biology though, is it is a theological fact (Genesis 1:31). So we are on solid footing. The other good news is, that our kids love being naked while they're toddlers, probably more than any other time in their life. This gives us lots of chances to talk about their bodies. Chat about all of their bodies, but in particular, their genitals. Chat about whether their siblings have the same or different body parts. Chat about whether mum and dad have the same or different body parts. Chat about how if someone has a penis, they are a boy or a man. Chat about how if someone has a vagina, they are a girl or a woman. Use the actual terms. Chat about grandparents and friends, and about whether they are a boy/man or girl/woman. Let them know that we can talk about these things as a family, but we don't really need to talk about these body parts with everyone. They are also not for touching. Only you, mummy, daddy, (maybe) grandparents, or the doctor can do safe touching. They are off limits for everyone else. Including their siblings. They are our private parts. Talking about these body parts from early on makes them normal, but also sets them up as special body parts. It also helps our kids distinguish between male and female. Both these things will be helpful for understanding sex and marriage later on.
What marriage is
As Christians, we believe that sex is for marriage, and that marriage is made to be a lifelong exclusive relationship between one man and one woman. Who would have thought that we'd have to fight hard to hold this ground? But we do. And so we need to set our kids up well from early on. We want to talk about marriage positively and often with our toddlers.
If you are married...
Talk about how mummy and daddy are married. Show pictures of your wedding day. Talk about how you only kiss each other on the lips, and no-one else, because you are married to each other. Talk about how it's only you two who share your bed, because you're married. Talk about how it is a special relationship and you've made promises to always keep loving each other. Talk about how daddy is a man, and he could marry mummy because she is a woman. Talk about grandparents or other married people you know. Talk about how one is a man and the other is a woman. Talk about how God made marriage this way - and that's awesome.
If you aren't married...
This is tricky for you, and I'm sure comes with lots of pain, grief and complications. But you still want to uphold God's ideals for marriage with your kids, even if it is painful. Talk about how God made marriage and its good. Use other married people as examples of what marriage looks like. Hang out with them and bring them into your life. Be honest with your kids about any sadness you might have that you are in a different state of life. But don't feel like you have to go too hard on marriage yet. Your kids will raise questions in time, so you can feel free to be a touch slower on this topic while they are still toddlers. And know that God is awesome and loves us in all situations if we belong to him! (And can I say - I know the single parent gig is super hard! Reach out if you need help getting support).
Put these together
As we start chatting these 3 things through with our toddlers, they will start to get a picture that marriage is made by God for 1 man and 1 woman. They now know (some of) the differences between male and females and that lays the groundwork for sex. It also helps lay the groundwork for listening to what God says about marriage and sex. More than that, it will help you set the foundations of sex in that it fits as a part of marriage, and is not to be used willy nilly (pun intended) on its own. And talking about the genitals by name will help when you talk about them in relation to sex. All of this is before your kids start asking, 'where do babies come from?' That question will kick off the next stage of discussions...
See other Let's Talk About Sex posts