When my children were very young, I answered questions like “Mommy, where do babies come from?” with a comfortably undetailed, “They are a gift from God”. This worked until one of my young daughters wanted to know if she would be given a baby even if she didn’t want one. It became clear, that for her, a little information could be added. “Babies are the wonderful expression of mommy and daddy’s love for one another” tells part of the story, until later when they ask about the young neighbor who has a baby and isn’t married yet. Though parenting through these questions can be a series of well-meaning bungled explanations or successes, the opportunity for dialogue with our children is of crucial importance. It is a precious and humbling experience to teach our children the truth about life, love, sex and marriage, and it is through on-going conversations with parents, though some may be humorous and some awkward, that our children get the most life-changing information and advice.
Researchers have shown that parents are the most effective influence on their children’s decision to delay sexual encounters. Studies have also shown that teens express a desire to talk with and learn from their parents, indicating that it would be easier to “say no” if they had more open conversations with their parents about sexuality.  The importance of parental involvement in the sexual education of their children is all too clear, we must get involved. Our family has embraced some basic premises that help guide our conversations about this important topic:
- We treat waiting until marriage to have sex as an achievable. We teach our children that self-control and restraint are important in all areas of life, and sexual intimacy is no exception. We teach them that sex within a marriage where the husband and wife mutually love and respect one another is one of the most gratifying and precious gifts two people can share. This belief seasons every conversation we have about sexuality.
- We decided early on to be open about the choices we made when we were young, both good and bad. My husband and I view our past as a testimony, a story that includes both heartache and redeeming love. This is a very personal decision for parents, and there is understandably discretion to be used. Our children have often thanked us for being candid with them.
- No question is off limits. We encourage our children to talk with us if they see something disturbing or inappropriate, and we encourage them to ask us questions if they are curious about something. We try to make sure our answers are tempered by our children’s age and understanding.
- We prayerfully consider each child’s needs. If your family is like ours, there are children who seek you out and talk about anything and everything that is on their heart, while others are more quiet and contemplative. Often these are the kids that we need to purposefully engage in discussing important topics.
- We avoid “freaking out”, as my children would say, even when we feel sidelined by an unexpected question or one of our children shares an opinion that may not reflect what we believe or have taught them. We would rather know what they really think, rather than simply hearing them parrot back to us what we want to hear- this opens the door for wise counsel and searching for the truth together.
- We include the moral reason behind principles we teach our children, instead of just saying “No.” Talking about the “why” behind the rules, such as dating, internet usage, and clothing choices, makes them more reasonable and practicable.
Regardless of your political affiliations or religious beliefs, your children’s understanding of sexuality and relationships should never be sacrificed on the altar of society’s new “norms” or trends, but should reflect the principles and beliefs that are foundational to you as a parent, and to your family. Parents are, regardless of feelings of inadequacy, the best choice to teach these important principles and their children think so as well.
What do you want your children to learn about sex and when? Develop a plan on how you would like to approach the subject and remember that you are your child’s greatest influence for good, as well as their greatest advocate- a fact that will impact their future relationships, happiness and health.
 Moynihan, C. (2011, October 3). Kids want to hear about life and love from parents. Retrieved October 18, 2015.