Understanding Biblical Sexuality and How to Talk about it with Your Children

Erin A. Barry

Author and Counselor
Published: Dec 13, 2022
Understanding Biblical Sexuality and How to Talk about it with Your Children

We need to have ongoing conversations with our kids about sexuality because the world is aggressively pushing an agenda regarding sexual ideas and identity. As Christian parents, we want our voice to be the trusted source of truth in their lives as they navigate the dangerous secular landmine of modern sexual ethics.

Your kids cannot go into a public restroom these days, turn on the television, go to school, or play high school or collegiate sports without being confronted with the question of sexuality.

Who defines it?

Our politicians, our celebrities, our educators, our feelings, or God?

As Christian parents, this is the most relevant cultural issue of our day because the question of sexuality goes to the very core of who we are as human beings. Are we made in our own image according to our own feelings, or are we made in God’s image according to His design? Given the significance of this topic, we did a four-part podcast series on CHRISTIAN PARENT/CRAZY WORLD to dig deeply into what God has to say about sexuality. This series is designed to equip parents to confidently address the subject of biblical sexuality with children of all ages. 

In this article, we share several key takeaways from our conversation, and we end with seven guidelines that will steer you toward successful conversations on the topic of sexuality with your kids. To hear the full discussion on Biblical sexuality, listen to episode 45 and episode 46 of CPCW.

What parents need to know.

We need to have ongoing conversations with our kids about sexuality because the world is aggressively pushing an agenda regarding sexual ideas and identity. As Christian parents, we want our voice to be the trusted source of truth in their lives as they navigate the dangerous secular landmine of modern sexual ethics.

If you are like most parents, you may feel unprepared to talk about sexuality with your children. You may ask, “Shouldn’t we leave it to the church or other experts to tackle this topic?”

No, because parents have the most influence on their children’s spirituality.

Professor Christian Smith, one of the world’s most respected sociologists of religion, and a team from the University of Notre Dame enlighten us on the central role that parents play in the lives of their children in a new book called Handing Down the Faith: How Parents Pass Their Religion on to the Next Generation. The authors say that a “myriad [of] studies show that, beyond a doubt, the parents of American youth play the leading role in shaping the character of their religious and spiritual lives, even well after they leave home and often for the rest of their lives.” 

Parents are more influential than their child’s youth group. 

Parents are more influential than church retreats or camps.

Parents are even more influential than pastors. 

You may feel like you aren’t making a difference, but you are. 

God, in his wisdom, put us in families. The family unit is the safest place for all kinds of conversations because each member is seen and heard. Sexuality is a very personal topic. Though discussions in larger settings can be helpful, children may not feel as comfortable being vulnerable or asking questions and sharing their feelings in a bigger group. But the depth of relationships already established in the family naturally allows for this transparency. 

A wooden block showing half of a male and female figure, the real harm of the transgender ideology

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Devenorr

God’s design and purpose for sex.

Right from the beginning of creation, we see God’s purpose and plan for sexuality. 

Genesis 1:27-28 says, “So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them: male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” God created what we now call gender, which coincides with our biological sex.

Jesus affirms God’s design by quoting Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:4-6:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh....”

These verses, along with Song of Solomon 1:2, which says, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is more delightful than wine,” establish God’s three primary reasons for creating the act of sex. They are procreation, union, and pleasure. Within the context of a monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, God created sex to produce life, unity, and joy. 

In a must-read handbook on Biblical sexuality, Hillary Morgan Ferrer tells us that “Sex is a sign of the covenant between a husband and wife. Every time a married couple makes love, they are—in bodily form—repeating their marriage vows. God doesn’t place limits on sex because He wants to downplay the goodness of sex. He places limits on it because sex has meaning, meaning that our culture has lost.” (Mama Bear Apologetics Guide to Sexuality, pg. 22) 

According to Scripture, sex has profound significance. Without God’s guidelines for our sexuality, we cannot find or experience it. 

God created sex as a sacred act. Society has cheapened it.

Our society diminishes sex to being a physical act that we can do with anyone, anytime, as though it is only for personal gratification. Yet we know it releases powerful bonding chemicals. By ignoring that reality, we deceive and hurt ourselves.

There are just two options for sex, according to Christopher Yuan in his groundbreaking book, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: “Chastity in singleness and faithfulness within marriage. Chastity is more than simply abstention from extramarital sex: it conveys purity and holiness. Faithfulness is more than merely maintaining chastity and avoiding illicit sex: it conveys covenantal commitment.” (pg. 47)

Yuan’s quote reminds us there are boundaries for both the married and the single person. Both must put limits on what they could claim to be their natural sexual desires. We all are tempted to justify them. But as Christians, we recognize our need to align our feelings and impulses to God’s standards and His purpose for sex. 

God designed our sexuality, and His parameters are not there to oppress or deny our authentic selves but to bless us and bring us freedom. In childhood, we discover our identity, but in adulthood, we find the meaning and purpose of our lives. The culture offers a counterfeit promise that denies God’s plan. We were created in God’s image, and our bodies are not separate from who we are. Rather, they play an intricate role in determining our identity and purpose.

How can you talk to your kids about sex? Use these seven guidelines:

mother and young daughter talking on couch

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Gravity Images

1. Establish the Bible as the foundation.

From the first conversation, ground your teaching in the Bible, beginning in Genesis. As children get older and can understand, explain God’s design of marriage, male and female gender coinciding with biological sex, and our relationship with our Creator. Share that not everyone follows God or lives according to His plan. We love them regardless, but as for our household, we will serve the Lord. (Josh. 24:15)

2. Start early.

Start when your children are babies and include sexuality as a natural part of their overall discipleship. Begin by teaching them the proper names for all parts of their body. Use your everyday interactions and experiences to engage in teachable moments. These should be simple, brief conversations that prepare children to understand God’s plan for their sexuality later in life. 

3. Keep it simple.

Young children (under the age of five) have a short attention span, so often a simple answer is all they require. For example, if you meet a pregnant woman in the store and your child asks about her, explain in simple terms that she is going to have a baby. God has designed it so that mommies can grow babies in their bodies. 

4. Teach boundaries.

At an early age, we must teach children that their bodies are special, that some areas are private, and that no one should touch them in those places. If someone does, immediately tell mommy and daddy. 

The enemy uses shame and secrecy. We want to give our children language to protect themselves and to communicate openly with us.

5. Teach the birds and bees early. 

You know your children best, so use your discretion on the time frame, but it is recommended that parents teach children about intercourse around the ages of 5 and 6 years old. That may feel a bit early, but culture is pushing the discussion by including gender-confused characters in many preschool and elementary-age books and media content, and many public schools teach cultural sexuality to children in kindergarten.

We need to head society’s definition of sexuality off at the pass. We want to be the first person to address this conversation with our children. This establishes the parent and not our culture as the authority when it comes to the topic of sexuality. 

In kindergarten, children are still concrete thinkers, so a more factual approach is best. Gage your conversations by their interest in the topic and their attention span. This is an ongoing approach, so if they aren’t interested one day, let it go and come back to it at another time. 

You can use numerous books as a guide, which are shared in the podcast. 

Mom with child leaving for school

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Drazen Zigic

6. Challenge the culture’s definitions in puberty.

Puberty is historically difficult for many adolescents. Hormones are raging, and feelings are more intense than they have ever been. And today, it is even more confusing for our teens because of social media. Many teens are uncomfortable with their developing bodies and the onset of sexual feelings, and social media is pouring gas on that flame. 

(We examine this topic more fully in episode 47 and episode 48 of this series, which address cultural sexuality.)

Our children need us, not Instagram and Tik Tok, to help them healthily process their emotions. They need us to help them navigate the confusing messages of our culture. It is our job to show them how peace is found by aligning themselves with Scripture and who God says they are.

7. Keep the conversation open and ongoing.

As parents, we must continue an open dialogue on sexuality with our children where no topic is off-limits. Be deliberate and strategic, and don’t avoid hard conversations. If you come across something you are not sure how to answer, be humble and let your teen know you need to spend some time thinking about that question or scenario. 

Our culture gives quick and often shallow answers. But people and sexuality are complicated, and it is helpful to model wrestling through these confusing ideas yourself so your children can learn how to do this on their own.

Following these suggestions will help establish your family as a safe place for meaningful conversations to understand Biblical sexuality.

To hear the full conversation on God’s plan for our sexuality, check out episode 45 and episode 46 of Christian Parent/Crazy World. And continue listening to episode 47 and episode 48 to hear how our culture is distorting sexuality and harming children.

This article was co-written with Catherine Segars, an award-winning actress and playwright—turned stay-at-home-mom—turned author, speaker, podcaster, blogger, and motherhood apologist. This homeschooling mama of five has a master’s degree in communications and is earning a master’s degree in Christian apologetics. As host of CHRISTIAN PARENT/CRAZY WORLD, named the 2022 Best Kids and Family Podcast by Spark Media, Catherine helps parents navigate through dangerous secular landmines to establish a sound Biblical foundation for their kids. You can find Catherine’s blog, dramatic blogcast, and other writings at www.catherinesegars.com and connect with her on Facebook.

Listen to Catherine's FREE podcast - Christian Parent, Crazy World, available now at LifeAudio.com!

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Erin A. Barry is an author, speaker, counselor, and educational consultant. With a bachelor’s degree in education and an NCCA master’s of arts in clinical Christian counseling, Erin has an advanced certification in sexual therapy and is working on her doctorate in Christian counseling. She is the author of, Yes, You Can Homeschool! The Terrified Parent’s Companion To Homeschool Success. She and her husband, Brett, are founders of The Home Educated Mind, a Christ-centered community dedicated to providing materials and support for Christian parents.