Pastor Mark Driscoll of Trinity Church in Arizona has shared his thoughts on when parents should talk to their children about sex and offered tips on how to ensure they have a healthy, biblical view of sexuality before entering into marriage.
As a father of five, some of them teenagers, Driscoll said he and his wife, Grace, have some experience engaging in such discussions with children. That's why he believes it's important not to have "the talk", but instead have ongoing "talks".
"The weirdest, worst thing you can do with your kid" is sit him or her down and just have one "awkward, intense, overwhelming" conversation about sex, the pastor said in a recent blog post.
"It's a drip, not a dump," he explained. " It's a bit of information over the course of time. It starts when they are little and it's age appropriate as they grow and it opens a communication channel to where this is sort of a natural, normal part of the parent-child relationships, where you check in with them, they feel free to ask you questions, and it becomes more of a normative part of conversation of life. You want to open up a safe conversation in which to communicate."
Such conversations must begin when children are very small, with discussions about body parts, propriety, modesty, and privacy: "It's teaching them, 'Here are your body parts.' Go ahead and give them the actual, anatomical name so that...they know what are private parts that are not to be shown or shared," Driscoll said.
When children begin to attend school, they often become exposed to the media - which is unfortunately full of sexual content - and other children who may know more than they should about sexuality. Driscoll said that according to statistics, a staggering 90 percent of children between the ages of 8 to 16 have viewed pornography on the Internet, in most cases unintentionally.
"At that age, when they're in school...it's all about appropriateness for where your child is at," he said. "You need to start the conversation, but it needs to be age and emotionally appropriate, getting into issues of, ultimately you want to get married, you want to fall in love, you want to have kids, but to get there, you need to be responsible, you need to be an adult, you need to be ready to provide. You don't need an adult, dating-type relationship until you're headed toward marriage because all that will do is increase temptation."
When children hit puberty, it's time to increase the conversation, said Driscoll.
"Those puberty years are really crucial and critical because now it's getting more specific," he explained. "Now they don't just have a general interest; sometimes, it's someone in particular that they're interested in. This is where you start having more personal conversations - you don't have it in front of the family, you don't include other people, you don't embarrass them, you don't shame them, because you'll shut them down."
Instead, it's important to nurture the positive aspects of such desires and build teens up while also encouraging them to guard their hearts and wait patiently to date until they're closer to a marrying age.
During the courting years, it's important to discuss boundaries, purity, and appropriateness with young adult children and check in with them regularly, asking questions like, "How are your struggles and temptations? How is your communication? Is there anything I can help you with? Is there anything I can pray for you about?"
It's also important to be emotionally present during these years and make yourself available to your children, Driscoll said, and advised parents to be honest about their own failures so that children feel comfortable coming to them about their own struggles.
Back in September, Driscoll also talked about whether non-virgins should marry virgins, and admitted that he was sexually active before he was married and became a Christian.
"I was sexually active before I met Grace, she was a Christian, and I was not," he said at the time. Driscoll added that because of this, he and his wife to be "had to talk and walk through some things" before they decided to get married.
In his latest blog, Driscoll said it's important to affirm positive desires in children and refrain from making a "good thing gross." Sometimes, in an effort to keep children chaste until marriage, parents unintentionally make sexual intercourse seem "gross, violent and wrong" that can negatively affect children in the long run.
"You don't want to do that, you want to hold up God's standard of good and prepare children to rise to that standard and enjoy the gift of marital intimacy that God gives."
Finally, it's important to use the positive and negative examples of others as teaching moments: "Let's let other people set positive and negative examples so we can glean wisdom," Driscoll said. "Wisdom is gleaned either from our own experience or the experience of someone else. Proverbs uses the experience and the examples of others to teach and to train children."
In an October blog post, Driscoll shared his insights on Christian dating, intimacy, and living together. You can watch it here.