by Guest Blogger Kristen Miele
When was the last time you reflected on your personal experience of sex ed? Have you thought about your sex ed classes lately? Or do those questions make you cringe as you begin to remember? Maybe you were given purity talks from your parents or from teachers at your local Christian school. Or, if you attended public school, you might recall a guest lecture on HIV and the disease’s imminent danger encroaching upon ‘liberated’ youth. If so, I completely relate. If not, congratulations! You’re one of the few who didn’t have a terrible sex ed experience.
As a sex ed teacher myself for the past thirteen years, I’ve seen it and heard it all–particularly when it comes to horror stories of sex ed. These scary stories aren’t from only a specific age group or a specific school setting; rather, they’re across the board, a commonly held experience by many. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like this anymore. We don’t have to pass this on to our kids. However, if we weren’t shown any picture of good sex ed, then how are we meant to give this important education to the next generation?
It could be that you’re reading this blog a bit nervous about sex ed in the home, school, or church. You read the title, you’re intrigued, but you need some convincing to understand why this is so important for you to do. Maybe you feel as if a home, school, or church isn’t the right place for sex talks, or you’re planning to skip the “talk” because you didn’t benefit from it yourself. Discussion on the birds and the bees was at best, awkward, unhelpful, and unengaging. At worst, it put you off from ever talking about sex again, unless it was in jokes or a forced conversation between spouses.
In that case, your understandable feeling would still be misplaced. Now, just as much as ever, sex ed is needed in the home, school, and the church. In fact, the more locations where healthy and truthful sex ed is a part of the dialogue, the better. With reason, many parents struggle with fear and confusion when it comes to sex education. Good sex ed is hard to do, particularly when it was never modeled in the aforementioned locations. This is a big part of the reason I’ve begun to fill in the gaps. I started a business of accessible sex ed with a healthy, truth-focused, age-appropriate curriculum for young people ages 3-18. I have already seen many fruits. It’s hard to talk about sex in the home, school, and church, but I can help!
So, why do we have to have conversations about sexual health with our kids even when that chance wasn’t given to us as young people? We have to talk about sex with our kids for these 4 simple reasons.
Devices (with Internet) exist.
Opportunities are everywhere.
Kids want to learn the truth and understand.
We love our children.
Devices and Opportunities
The first simple reason might be the most obvious. Devices, and thus porn*graphy, are truly everywhere. Unless we’re intentionally unplugged, the Internet is utilized every single day in our homes, schools, and churches. In our sexualized world, all devices are at risk of employing sexual material–whether it’s Netflix and its tantalizing binge programming, which afford users countless shows with soft and hardcore p*rn; or tablets, which may include preteen movies with sexual references, as well as YouTube accessibility, with its own pit of endless sexualized ads and material. In your home those devices might be restricted and filtered with Internet safety features. That’s great! Yet is this true of all possible devices in your child’s life? Are there safety features and filters at other homes your kids visit? What about school? Are there TVs present at places you frequent? Could sexualized material play in these locations? I’m sorry if I’m the first to tell you, but it’s completely impossible to control the availability of devices in our child’s life. Of course, filters and restrictions are helpful to combat the accessibility of sexualized material. Of course, it’s helpful to know your school’s policy and ask a local pastor what they do to minimize device sharing at church. However, we can’t achieve authority over all areas of their lives. We can’t protect them from p*rn exposure either. All kids will have seen p*rn by the time they turn seventeen (the average age of first exposure is eleven).
The beautiful reality in this is that although we see our world so often as a challenging mess, challenges can be opportunities for our families. In every instance of “exposure” to material we’d rather the young person in our life avoid and unsee, there lies an opening for conversation. Even if the exposure was out of your control and traumatic, there now lies a moment for conversation and for moving toward the child instead of moving toward shame or silence. So, how are we supposed to bring up this nuanced topic with our children?
Honey, the guy singing this sounds very angry at his girlfriend. Why do you think that is?
Sweetie, that scene of them kissing and then sleeping at his house wasn’t very safe for her. Do you know why?
Liam, I’m so sorry you were shown p*rnography. That was not okay. Your mom and I want to help you understand what you saw, why it was inappropriate, and what our family believes about that material. We’d like to talk to you about what happened. Is that okay?
Olivia, what do you think they were doing just now in that movie?
Emmett, do you have any friends similar to this TV character? Friends who are guys and date other boys? What do kids at school say about this/them/him?
Naturally, these conversations vary greatly, depending on the history and relationship you have with the child, the age of the child, the media consumed, and the prior conversations you’ve had with them. Nonetheless, all these examples are attainable conversation starters with the youth in your family. This is especially true in the hypersexualized world we live in, with sexuality shoved in our faces around every corner at the mall, city street, or streaming services. Challenges are opportunities. We have to change the lens we’re looking through to see them that way. They aren’t to be avoided, but rather discussed. This doesn’t mean you should give your child explicit material (except for anatomical drawings or textbooks you might use). It’s still okay to use filter software and keep your children from viewing inappropriate materials. The difference is how you respond when that song does come on, or that movie does show that scene.
Kids Want to Understand
Moving on to our third reason, and potentially the most surprising, research has shown time and time again that children want to learn from their parents. Remember those terrible examples of sex ed I mentioned earlier? As you likely well know, those examples are real. We (the older generations) wanted to learn about sex, but we weren’t always presented with the best explanations. We had questions, yet our answers remained largely shushed and avoided, or worse, relinquished some of us to the Internet with its faulty information. It was there we learned lies and encountered traumatic experiences our young brains couldn’t process.
Predictably, though, young people do want to learn about sex. They are asking questions, whether you’ve answered or not. They are being taught, whether you’re the teacher or not. When researchers study the potential options children have, children don’t say they prefer Google. They prefer YOU, the parent or adult. They want to learn, but they know that the internet doesn’t always offer them the right info. They’re aware of the actuality of fake news more than we ever could have been twenty years ago. They’ve lived it! Children want to hear from you, and they want to hear from you regularly. They want to trust you and feel that you’re a safe person to go to. My question for you then: Are you? Do your kids turn to you? Why or why not? Can you begin to find opportunities? Your children will benefit greatly from these talks, and so will you! They are bonding experiences. They aren’t just a one-off, like some of us were shown as young people, but rather a continual conversation over the course of a lifetime. There are no more birds and bees. There are relationships. Even if we don’t always have the answers, we can find them and return to our kids with more conversation.
Motivated by Love
Finally, the most important reason you need to talk to your kids about sex in school, church, and at home is because you love them. You care about your kids. You want them to have the best. Most parents do. You want them to experience a healthy childhood, healthy future, healthy marriage, healthy family unit, and a healthy sex life. I know we often don’t think of the latter, but if we’re given the option, we do want the greatest for them, even in the area of sex and sexuality.
Sex has been discussed since the beginning. I believe the Creator made sex. God designed sex to draw us close to Him. He made sex to encourage our understanding of the intimacy that exists in the Trinity. He knows us and He loves us. We can also be imperfectly known and loved by humans, at our most vulnerable, here on this earth. Sex is for His glory, as all of His creation is. He loves us. We don’t have to have sex to know this or to know God more, but He gives and allows it as a blessing, in His context, to glorify His name. Outside of His design, sex doesn’t go so well. The rebellion against God’s teachings is displayed all around us in humanity’s brokenness. Our idolatry is exposed. The world teaches our kids the idea that sex is everything yet it also means nothing (which is not possible, by the way).
If that is what the world is teaching, then what will you counter with? Will you let the world disciple your kids when it comes to sex, or will you step up in engaging conversations with them as they grow? Sex ed at its best beautifully helps us understand God’s purposes, God’s characteristics, God’s gifts, and even intimacy (in singleness, marriage, and family units). Sex ed at its worst is a set of ideologies which will help form identities based on lies. I happen to be passionate about honest sexual health education. Praise God, because I think He’s quite passionate about it too (see Genesis, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Romans, etc.). His people don’t need to be afraid of sex ed. Parents don’t need to be afraid of sex ed. They can embrace healthy conversation with their loved ones because that is what the Lord did first.
Focus with Compassion, Love, and Prayer
As parents, you can humbly engage in conversations within your home, school, or church because you also have devices, because opportunities are everywhere, because your kids want to learn, and because you love your kids. Those seem like four great reasons to me. Don’t let fear and control drive the education of sex with your children. Instead, let compassion, love, and prayer focus on your kids, even on the topics of sex and sexuality. One day, they’ll have a fond memory of sex ed with the ability to say, “My parents (school/church) taught me about sex, and they actually did a really great job.”
Sex Ed Reclaimed. A full sex Ed Curriculum Made with Your Kids in Mind. Mission: “To empower and encourage families to have consistent, honest, educated conversations while accessing God-honoring sex-ed.” Sex Ed Reclaimed specializes in God-honoring and accessible sex ed for children three to eighteen years old. Resources include books, podcasts, blog posts, and curriculums for schools, church/school programs and family homeschool programs. Read more about founder and owner Kristen Miele here. And read her statement of faith here.
Kristen Miele has been educating youth on the topic of sex for the last 12 years. She’s taught in hundreds of diverse settings, including two different countries, and has experience teaching ages three and up on content related to sex and sexuality. Kristen has a Bachelor’s and Masters of Science in Community Health from the University of Illinois and is also a Certified Health Education Specialist (NCHEC).
Kristen established and owns Sex Ed Reclaimed. The vision for Sex Ed Reclaimed came to her in November 2021 and became an LLC in 2022. Kristen has one daughter, Emma Joy, who is four years old, as well as a fat cat. She’s been married to Anthony since 2012. They live in Columbus, Ohio.