How much of my sexual past should I share with my own kids?
One of the most common struggles for parents in regards to talking to their kids about dating, marriage, and sex is deciding what and what not to share of their own personal history on the matter. Rightfully so, there are several legitimate concerns that must be considered before going into such sensitive topics. However, in whatever Christian parents teach their children, the Gospel message must always be central in their teachings; especially when it relates to potentially sinful matters such as sexual sin.
Some of the most common concerns I have heard from many parents in my 16 years of youth ministry are:
1) “I don’t want to give my kids any ideas to experiment with”
2) “I don’t want to traumatize my kids”
3) “What if they make the same mistakes as me, but end up with much worse consequences?”
4) “It’s just too awkward, and I am uncomfortable talking about that kind of stuff with them.”
I will simply address these four concerns and how knowing PLUM can help guide parents in these kinds of conversations. Remember; deciding when your child is ready for certain conversations is different for every child and every family. Life experiences will often dictate when it is most appropriate to talk about certain subjects. It might be something that comes up while reading the Bible together, watching tv/movies, topics of conversations they might overhear, or exposure to certain topics just from being around friends, family, and their community. It’s up to you as the parent to use your discernment as to when God is presenting the best opportunities for you to have crucial conversations with your children.
“I don’t want to give my kids any ideas to experiment with”
I get it. It seems logical that if parents share what they did in the past, then their kids will want to try those things too. In response to this, I am reminded of the passage in Romans 1 where the Apostle Paul is writing about those who knew God yet did not honor Him as God:
“God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper…inventors of evil…” (Romans 1:28-32)
Children and teenagers do not need much help inventing ways to sin. One of the greatest benefits of talking to my kids about mistakes I have made in the past is that I get to control the context of which they are hearing about those mistakes. I get to be able to share with them my regrets for those actions and why they were sinful. I also get to share about how much God has shown His grace and mercy upon me through my faith in Jesus Christ, despite those mistakes!
Parents tend to have one of two views of their past decisions. The first is something like, “This particular mistake totally messed up my life and I am still affected by it”, and the second is, “I did that when I was younger, and I turned out fine!”
Christian parents must be very careful about not teaching mere moralism to their children. Certainly we want to teach them Godly morals, but “moralism” is teaching behaviors (patterns of righteousness) devoid of Gospel which says that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and there is nothing we can ever do to earn God’s forgiveness, but it can only be attained through a saving faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
When parents start justifying their past based on whether or not they suffered serious consequences from it, it will only reinforce the natural tendency in their teenagers to want to experiment with behaviors and will only be concerned with whether or not they get caught or affected by it.
This is why pornography is such an easy trap for any person to fall into. It’s because it is something that is generally easily concealed, and it seemingly has little to no immediate consequences for those who view it.
When sharing about past mistakes in the realm of sexuality, I think the overall goal for the Christian parent is to desire for their children to make moral decisions based on the holiness of God and not what will result in the most personal gain. Parents must always remind themselves as well as their children that it is only by the grace of God through the atoning death of Jesus and His resurrection that any of us can be redeemed from all our sins. Mistakes from our past are not responsible for messing up our lives; our lives were already messed up when we were born in sin and guilt. The righteous deeds from our past did not result in our righteousness; but it was He (Jesus Christ) who became sin who knew no sin so that we might become righteous before God!
“I don’t want to traumatize my kids!”
Similarly, to the first concern; the benefit to sharing about our past with our children is that we get to control the context of which we share about it. How traumatizing the experience will be will likely be greatly affected by the time, place, and situation we choose to share about those experiences. Also, having the boldness to talk about necessary topics such as various sexual sins and dating experiences sends the overall message that you, the parent, are a safe person for your children to talk to about such subjects.
“What if they make the same mistakes as me, but suffer worse consequences from them?”
There is a pretty good chance that our kids will make many of the same mistakes that we made when we were their age. One of the scariest thoughts that I have when considering my own children, is thinking of all wrong things I had done as a child that my parents never found out about! The reality is that our own children are going to grow up with their own list of “Things I got away with” and we, the parents, are going to be completely oblivious to it for the most part. No one can control the severity of the consequences of their actions, but we can do our best to keep the Gospel at the center of all of life’s decisions. When we suffer the consequences of our actions, we can remember that we can still rejoice in that God has saved us from the ultimate consequences of our sin, eternal suffering and separation from His glory. When we realize that we could easily be more affected by our past than we are, we can once again reflect upon God’s goodness to all those who believe in Him for salvation.
“It’s just too awkward, and I’m too uncomfortable talking about that kind of stuff with them”
This subject is only as awkward as the parent makes it out to be. One of the greatest benefits I have experienced in reading the Bible with my kids (an actual word-for-word translation, not a children’s Bible), is that important subjects will inevitably come up as we read through it. There will be words that we will have to define, terminologies and context we will have to explore and explain, gory details of battle scenes and people’s deaths; and yes, there will be many examples of sexual sin that will need to be explained in order for my kids to understand more fully the passage they appear.
Parents, you have no reason to be afraid of talking to your kids about your past, so as long as you keep the Gospel message at the center and desire for your kids to make godly decisions for His name’s sake, and not for personal gain.