Perhaps one of the most powerful, yet relatively uncommon, sex education tips for parents is to share your unique love story with your children. This was certainly true for me growing up because I loved to hear the story of how my parents met!
Tip 1: Start with the basics (Grammar stage).
While I share this tip in my “Fiercest Blaze” book for the “Dialectic Stage” (primarily targeted for children ages 8-16), sharing your love story can happen in a small way during the “Grammar stage” (ages 0-8).
For example, you can share details such as when and where you met, how old you were at the time, and what your first impressions of each other were.
My parents told me that they met at church, and they would always have a twinkle in their eyes as they shared how they ate lots of meals together while getting to know one another! (I’m a real foodie, so of course all the details of eating were super important as well.)
The following tips are mostly for the Dialectic stage when your children are older and you can go into more detail:
Tip 2: Get your kids involved.
When I was 14, we did an oral history interview with my mom’s parents. One of the more exciting questions involved, “How did our mom meet our dad?”
(I really encourage every family to try to get an audio recording of elderly relatives if at all possible. Lots of resources exist for doing oral histories, such as this summary from the Smithsonian Institution Archives.)
Apparently my grandmother had a huge role to play in their love story as she invited my father over for multiple dinners with the whole family. (See, I told you food was important.)
I can still remember the laughter and jokes that flowed from all of us that evening, as the story unfolded from multiple sources with satisfying detail and flair. My parents were present, but quiet throughout the recording. However, I can still see their sideways glances and coy smiles to one another!
Tip 3: Tell the whole truth.
In today’s culture with social media filters and more, it can be more possible than ever before to make it sound like you and your significant other had the picture-perfect love story … and now have the picture-perfect marriage.
Not so with your kiddos, who live in the same household with you and get to see you (and your significant other, if they’re still living with you!) up close and personal.
When I was a child, my mother and father never shied away from interpersonal conflict. Being very different personality types, they told us that their first quarrel after getting married was over how to make their bed! (That story has become a rich family legend for us, lol.)
However, I love that my parents taught us, even from an early age, to deal with conflict openly and from a stance of mutual respect. They communicated over everything, using as much detail as needed, and for however long it took to get resolved. As we grew and matured, they also taught us how to communicate openly with them whenever we were concerned over something – no matter how big or “small” the concern was.
What does this have to do with sharing your love story, you may ask? Well, by now your child probably knows you’re not the perfect parent – and you’re not even the perfect husband or wife, either!
When sharing your love story, don’t make it sound like you “just knew” you were going to get married someday or that everything worked out fine all the time. If you experienced obstacles, challenges, and conflicts during your pre-marriage relationship (assuming that you did get married), feel free to share these with your children too.
Even if your love story did not end happily, it still helps to share candidly with your child where you think things went wrong. Furthermore, you could explain how you might approach the situation differently now that you have grown as a person.
Tip 4: Share any regrets you feel comfortable sharing.
This is a big one! Again, parents sometimes fail to share their own failures, regrets or mistakes with their children for fear that this could cause their kids to repeat them. I think instead, the opposite is more likely to be the case – “forewarned is forearmed,” or knowing that their parents wish they could have done something different can help our children avoid that trap.
The Bible often shares sexual education do’s and don’ts in the form of warnings. Proverbs 6, for example, discusses some of the physical and financial repercussions of sexual promiscuity.
If you’ve been reading thus far and feel like none of the above tips apply to you – for example, you never were married and your love story didn’t end happily – I still encourage you to think about what you could share candidly with your child.
For example, you could talk about times and places that you think you might have approached the situation differently, now that you have grown as a person.
Too often we think of failure as something we could have avoided, but as this article points out, success often comes through perseverance past the inevitable failures and disappointments of life.
Tip 5: Define ‘commitment’ in the context of your love.
Of course, every love story for the Christian begins and ends with God’s love for us. God loved the world He had made. He created the first two humans, and He blessed them and commanded them to multiply (if that isn’t a ringing endorsement of sex, I don’t know what is!).
Because of human brokenness introduced by sin, “love” often occurs in the world without the kind of lifetime commitment that God has modeled for us. Numerous studies like the one cited in this article have shown that the young adults most likely to succeed “in today’s competitive economy” come from intact, two-parent families.
However, staying married takes a strong, mutual commitment. Sometimes it’s impossible to stay married if one (or both) of the people in the marriage decides to quit and walk away.
If you’re a single parent, God is still able to work through you to bless and prosper your children. They need to know and be reminded of your commitment to be with them no matter what happens, just as God is with you. The Bible abounds with people receiving God’s grace in less-than-perfect circumstances!