Someone once asked me what to do if they want to speak to some of their older children about sexual matters, but some of their younger children happen to be hanging around as well.
What’s a mom of multiple kiddos to do? Delay one child’s sexual education for a better time – maybe introduce it as more children “level up” in maturity, so to speak – or try to tailor it to the youngest child’s level, whoever that happens to be?
I found this a great question and worthy of more exploration. As I stated in an earlier blog post, I definitely believe that we can tailor our child’s sex education – like many other aspects of their education – according to their unique personality, interests and strengths (you can see my other sex ed tips here).
I also believe that we can start sex education at an extremely early age, just like my parents were telling us about sexual matters while we were still in preschool (though always, of course, in an age-appropriate way). For example, this blog post goes into more detail about what sex ed can look like at preschool and younger.
Finally, when considering the Bible and its approach to sex education, I really don’t see any hesitation on the part of parents to discuss this subject with their children. In fact, the Bible seems to lend itself naturally for us to introduce complex, nuanced topics directly by studying its stories and proverbs.
Here are some tips that can help parents give multiple sex talks to their children, especially if they have many children who are at different ages and grades as well as varying levels of comprehension:
1. Take a ‘unit study’ approach.
Have you ever heard of unit studies before? Homeschool families with lots of children often gravitate toward this approach, which tends to focus heavily on literature and can be called “thematic units,” “integrated studies,” or “project-based learning.”
Unit studies combine and integrate several different subjects under one theme, or topic. Because all your children are studying the topic at one time, their lessons can complement one another’s learning … yet at the same time, each child is studying at their own unique level.
(This can help save you a lot of preparing/teaching time as the homeschool mom, since one lesson can go toward many different objectives!)
For example, with sex education your “theme” or “topic” can be the human body. Very young children can be taught body parts with a sing-song rhyme such as “Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!”
Older children can incorporate language arts, English, science and history through studying anatomy, writing essays, and discussing historical advancements such as surgery, anesthesia, bodily hygiene, and more.
By taking a unit study approach, every child learns something at their own pace. Another benefit of unit studies is that younger children can learn from older ones. Meanwhile, older children enjoy fresh reminders of previous lessons that the younger children are studying (or, by teaching their younger siblings, they can have certain matters reinforced in their own lives).
2. Focus on setting the ‘big picture.’
When giving lessons to a wide variety of ages (kind of like the historical one-room schoolhouse!), teachers historically did some subjects together, but also carved out time to meet each child at their own level with targeted one-on-one attention at key times of the day.
When dealing with a subject as complex as sex education, you can use a similar approach. Maybe it’s a read-aloud book such as Yoshiko and the Foreigner, which I’ve reviewed here as a book for the Dialectic stage (ages 8-16).
However, your Grammar-stage children (ages 0-8) can still enjoy it as a fun story of two families coming together. Meanwhile, your Rhetoric-stage children (ages 16+) can use it as a springboard to discuss cultural conflicts, historical context, or resolving intergenerational prejudices and stereotypes!
As the parent of your children, your job is to meet each child where they’re at – no small feat, but infinitely worth it. And you might actually find incredible rewards in the process, not least of which is spending quality time with your kiddos (yes, they will always be your ‘kiddos’ no matter how much they grow!).
3. Consider special time out as they grow.
In my book “Fiercest Blaze,” I talk about how my parents intentionally set aside more time just to talk and discuss big ideas with us as we reached the Dialectic and especially the Rhetoric stages. Maybe this presents challenges to you with children spread across multiple ages, but teenagers really need to have your input, perhaps more than ever before. (And they often open up just around bedtime, so consider yourself forewarned!)
For our children, we have had special conversations with our oldest child after her younger sibling had gone to bed. We used “The Talk: 7 Lessons To Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality” by Luke Gilkerson as a starting point. We prefaced these conversations by saying that we thought she was now old enough to go through these lessons with us, but that we thought her younger sibling wasn’t quite ready for them yet. However, when we think the time has come, we will introduce these lessons to her younger sibling as well.
Feel free to have these kind of special conversations with younger siblings around as well, though they may not show as much interest and wander off if the conversation gets too above their heads.
It may also help to set some context, too. You can always say to your children that while they should feel free to discuss sexual matters within your family, other people can get uncomfortable if they start discussing these kinds of topics in random conversations with other friends, extended family members, or just casual acquaintances.
Do you have any sex ed tips to share with us? Let us know in the comments or contact us – we’d love to hear your thoughts!