The Talk(s): A Parent's Guide to Critical Conversations About Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables

I have spent the past two years writing a book that is now available to the public. It has been crafted to help parents to start having open and honest conversations about sex and relationships so that their kids will be equipped to handle what this world will toss at them. We have titled the book "The Talk(S)" - with emphasis on the (s) - because parents cannot afford to think that this is a one-time conversation. It's something that we must talk about sooner, more often, and in more detail than we ever imagined. Here's an excerpt from the introduction that will hopefully give you a taste of the book. Enjoy!

 


 

From the Introduction of The Talk(s)....

Let me start with a potentially awkward statement: “I want my kids to experience great sex.” God made them as sexual beings with the unique capability to connect powerfully and beautifully with another person. Unfortunately, we live in a world where many people get sex wrong. What God designed to be wonderful becomes the source of some of their greatest pain in life.  
I desperately want my kids to get it right.

God has used three key seasons of my life to move me to a sense of urgency regarding this issue: fifteen years of ministering to teenagers, a decade of working with young married adults, and most powerfully, being in the trenches of parenting my own five children.

When I was a youth minister in my 20’s, I encouraged kids to strive for sexual purity for the typical reasons: evading disease, avoiding an unwanted pregnancy, and embracing the noble desire to save their virginity for their spouse. These are all still important reasons, but there are bigger issues at stake. In more recent days, I have encountered a body of research that clearly suggests that young people who have their first sexual encounter in their teen years have more than double the risk of divorce once they are married. More than the just risking an STD, sexually active teens are significantly crippling their ability to be successful in a long-term marriage. That is huge.

Jump ahead ten years and I can see that this research is true. As I have worked with young married couples for the past decade in a large evangelical church, I have come to realize that much of the brokenness in the area of married sexuality got started in them long before they walked the aisle. For many, the experiences and mistakes of the teen years made for a dramatically compromised foundation on which to build a healthy marriage and sex life. The result is often pain and regret. I feel for these couples and wish that I could easily fix the hurt from their past.

Beyond the masses of people in the church who I see greatly affected by sexual and relational brokenness, I have particular concern for my own children. My wife Jenifer and I are beginning to launch the five kids we have been raising for the past twenty years. We are daily in the midst of helping our four adolescents navigate the challenges of having healthy opposite sex relationships, managing hormonal changes, and maintaining a vibrant faith, all within the context of a decaying moral landscape. It is a daunting task and we often feel overwhelmed.

But we are seeing fruit from our labors.

 


 

Our oldest daughter got married last year. Lindsey and her husband Christian have allowed God to weave a beautiful tale of purity, devotion, and intentionality through their love story. They guarded their hearts and saved themselves physically (and emotionally) for each other. There is a strength and joy in their young marriage that I rarely see in couples who marry at 30. Many of the people who have watched Lindsey and Christian’s story unfold over the past four years have asked Jenifer and me what we did as parents to help them to get there.

While we give every bit of credit to God for what He has done, in many ways, this book is a summary of how we have equipped our own children. From the time they were very young, we have tried to prepare them for what relationships, dating, and even the path toward marriage would look like. As they have gotten older, we have included plenty of discussions about their sexuality. Our desire has been to give them an honest and accurate picture of something God made to be spectacular.

Because we have been deliberately walking through these things with our kids for the past fifteen years or so, we have gained a measure of experience. This book is, in many ways, a guide to what we have learned along the way. We do not claim to have everything figured out, but with five kids between the ages of 20 and 5, I assure you that we have “been there and done that.”

This book is also a call to action.

While parents certainly cannot eradicate sin and its effects from our children’s lives, we also shouldn’t passively facilitate its power. Since people start laying a foundation of their perspectives on their sexuality and its place in their lives when they are quite young, I passionately believe that parents must step up and do all they can now to help their kids to have a healthy sexuality later. Parents of teenagers should already feel the burden of this at some level, but parents of elementary-aged children should take note, as well. Thankfully, those parents have the greatest opportunity to help their kids to get this right long before they have the chance to get it wrong.  

We have had the opportunity to speak on this subject in a number of contexts through the local church. When we teach parents to start talking about sex and dating earlier and in more detail than they might have planned, the reactions we get are all over the map.

Some parents who are also burdened by the direction our culture is headed have expressed appreciation that someone is finally talking openly about how to think biblically about these issues.

A few others have told us that we are just plain nuts. Backwards. Old-fashioned. They say we are suggesting an unrealistic standard in today’s culture. I get that. The principles and ideas found within this book are pretty counter-cultural. However, the last time I checked, just about everything Christ calls his followers to do is counter-cultural. I don’t think how we approach sexuality and opposite sex relationships are exempt from that.

Perhaps the most encouraging response has been from parents (like us) who have both teenagers and younger elementary kids in their homes. They have struggled through these issues with their older teens and are now committed to being more proactive with their younger children.

 


 

However, I think the masses of people we have taught have been more stunned than anything. We have seen deer-in-the-headlights looks from many. We have invited them to consider a perspective that they, up to now, may have never heard before. For them, our prayer is that they would continue to talk about it, study the issues, and ask God for His insights into their kids and their unique situations. It has been a tremendous joy to hear the stories of parents becoming more intentional and of the difference it is making in their families.

Please note: this is a difficult subject with few easy answers. There are some good principles that should guide us, but there are few hard and fast rules that are applicable to every family.  These pages do not contain any list of the “seven steps to helping kids” do anything. In fact, I have specifically organized this book as a collection of essays that I pray will resonate with different people in different ways. Hopefully, God will speak those exact things that each parent needs to hear. In addition, Jenifer will chime in occasionally with her perspective on things. She’s both brilliant and practical.

Our ultimate goal in dealing with these issues has not been to convince anybody that our perspective is right and theirs is wrong. We simply want to encourage people to carefully consider the long-term effects of how they are leading and protecting their kids in a few key areas. Moreover, we want them to make sure that God is involved in their choices. He wants us to look to Him for direction and help as we address these things with our kids. The good news is that He is always with us!

Whether your kids are 6 or 16, the clock is ticking. May we join God in helping our kids discover (in the right way and in the right time) just how amazing He made relationships, sex and marriage to be.

-Barrett Johnson

 

*Check out my brand new book: The Talk(s): A Parent's Guide to Talking about Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables. It has been developed to assist parents as they help their kids navigate our hyper-sexualized culture. Whether your kids are 6 or 16, it provides practical help to help your kids to make wise choices in a messed-up world.

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