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Thursday, August 11, 2022

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5 Tips for Talking to Your Preteen about Sex and Puberty

There is a little-known fact in parenthood that as soon as you think you’ve figured out one stage, you find yourself at the start of a new season in your child’s development. Recently I was caught off guard when I realized my 10-year-old son was already at the start of puberty. His mind and body are changing, and these changes actually start at the age of 9 for boys and 8 for girls!

I just sighed with relief that we had made it through the very demanding baby/toddler phase, and here we are at the start of the preteen and teen years. I am not ready, guys! I am fully convinced that issues around sexuality, faith, identity, and culture are going to be some of the toughest things the upcoming generation will have to grapple with.

As the culture is changing what this all can look like, preteens and up are faced with more than normal teen lust, confusion, hurt, and insecurity. They have to navigate what the world says about how their sexuality can define them versus how their faith tells them their ultimate identity is in Christ. They have to walk the line that balances grace and truth in their schools, a line that most of us adults struggle to do well. How do you show love but stay true to your beliefs? How do you determine if someone is masking real pain and depression with claims about their gender, sexuality, and more? Our children have a lot to navigate in this area, and I am just praying alongside my husband that we can help our kids navigate the space between childhood and adulthood well.

How do we begin these uncomfortable feeling conversations about sexuality, culture, and friendships?

It can feel daunting to even start! One thing I’ve learned is that this conversation needs to start at a young age before puberty hits in full force. You need to start the conversation and make sure there is space to continuously revisit it as they grow and change.

Here are a few tips and resources to help you begin the conversation around sex and puberty with your child.

1. Create a Plan for How to Begin the Conversation

Sometimes if you have a very curious kid, these conversations happen naturally. They ask a question about how babies are made or something along those lines, and you are given the chance to share with them the basics in an age-appropriate way. For younger kids, it’s great to just freely answer them in an age-appropriate way, so they never feel weird about asking these questions.

The conversation does need to go beyond just “how babies are made,” and for this talk, it’s helpful to have a game plan. My husband, being the overachiever he is, spent months reading, praying, and prepping for a series of intentional conversations he wanted to have with our oldest son.

2. Have This Conversation One-On-One

Some tips that helped my husband with this talk included planning to talk about things while alone with our son. He wanted to make sure our son felt safe to ask questions and converse freely about the information he was being presented with. For our son, that worked best without the little ears of his siblings around.

Ways to accomplish this could look like taking a special outing just the two of you, engaging them during a car ride, planning an activity to do together that allows for some conversation time, or even at bedtime when you are alone with your child you can start to talk to them about this topic. It needs to be a safe and open time and space where they can feel comfortable expanding on the conversation if needed.

3. Create a Special Space for this Conversation

Next, my husband began the conversation while they were being active, so it was less awkward. This is probably more helpful for boys than girls, but for my son, they talked while on a bike ride, which gave our son the opportunity to work out any nervous energy he may have been feeling while they talked.

When I sit down with my daughter, I imagine she would love to talk over a shopping date, meal, or ice cream. She values slow conversation. Taking into account how each of your children works can help you create the right setting for this conversation to unfold.

4. Take Your Time

Relieve the pressure of the conversation by breaking up the content into small digestible pieces. My husband has had several talks with our son, and in each of them, he has brought up a new aspect of puberty and discussed one part of what sex is all about. He started with the basics of reproduction and then made it all the way to really uncomfortable stuff such as masturbation and pornography. Take your time talking through this material, it’s a lot for you and your kid to process together. You don’t have to cover it all at once!

5. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

We started talking about sex and puberty in our home at the age of ten. This is really just an introduction of what is to come in the next few years in the life of our children. As they grow up, they will experience struggles, thoughts, questions, and attraction. The conversation will have to go much deeper and wider. Temptation will become real for them, as it is for every one of us once we pass puberty, and we need to be there for them. My husband’s intentionality just opens the door to many more moments that we share how we are affected by our sexuality and bodies.

Here is the deal… our culture is talking about sex constantly!

You can’t turn on the TV without encountering messages about sexuality. Sexuality is so important, and the enemy is trying to sell the lie that it is what defines us, rather than our God that knit us together in our mother’s wombs. As parents, we need to both make sure we are talking about sex and our bodies, so our children feel safe to confide in us when it really counts.

We need to share with them the truth that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of a good God! They have value because of Him. Our sexuality is a gift, but it’s also something we have to live out within the boundaries. Learning self-control when it comes to our bodies is hard, but it’s a part of God’s best plan for our lives. Most of all, we need to assure our children that if we mess up or struggle, God still loves us deeply.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Sladic 

Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.

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