"God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in his own image . . .. God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion."
"God created man in his own image . . . male and female he created them"; He blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply"; "When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created." (CCC 2331)
As a parent, you teach your child everything from manners and faith practices to life skills or a new game. This responsibility to teach your child includes subjects or topics that can be difficult to discuss. Many parents find discussing matters of sex difficult with their child. It is important, though, that parents have ongoing conversations about sex and the church’s teaching on this subject.
The first step in educating your child in any subject is to properly educate yourself. Taking the time to learn about holistic sexuality from the Catholic perspective will equip you with the knowledge you need to begin these conversations. Many of the resources in this database can be applicable to adults.
The second step is to begin the conversation. You do not have to wait until you know everything to start the conversation with your child. If your child comes to you with a question that you do not know about, let them know that you will find the answer from a trusted source. Then be sure to share the appropriate information with your child. This helps build trust and opens the lines of communication; it also may stop your child from searching for the answers on their own for such an intimate subject. Please note that books and other resources in Compass can help address this topic at an age-appropriate level.
Recognize that it is never too early to begin this conversation. Many times, parents wait until their child approaches them about the subject, when they discover that their child has been exposed to sexual content (e.g., pornography) or in preparation or response to the subject being covered in a class at school. You can be proactive by talking about this topic in age-appropriate ways with your child, no matter their age. Having open communication starting at a young age will build up your confidence and reduce the awkwardness as your child grows in age.
When your child is young, you can talk about how God created each of us in his image and likeness and that that is good (Genesis 1:26) so we should strive to take care of our bodies. As they grow, you can help them refer to their body parts by the correct terms and remind them that there is no shame in using those words. Teaching a child respect and reverence for their body helps them build a habit of caring for themselves and allows them to recognize that other people’s bodies should be respected as well.
Also, know that middle school and high school students often “test the water” by asking about situations friends—real or hypothetical—might be in. This is an invitation to let them know you are listening, that you are not there to judge, but to help, and that you want to hear what they have to say.
Sexual education should not be a one-time conversation or limited to just a class in school; it should be a continual discussion starting from a young age through adulthood. Even if you haven’t had those open lines of communication before, now is a great time to start! Let your child know that you want to be the person they come to with questions or concerns about sex. You can begin conversations by asking children what they already know. This is a great way to gage their own knowledge and correct any incorrect information they may have learned from peers, books, the internet, or media.
Your own witness is powerful as well. Make sure you convey the sacredness of your own body and the sexual act. Remind your child regularly that their body is good and should be respected. Help them understand that sex is a good thing, but only within marriage. Talk about how there are times and people with which to discuss these matters, but that it is typically a private topic not to be discussed openly with friends or on social media. Providing clear in the moment examples of how the media or other individuals do and do not convey the sacredness of this subject area can also be a helpful discussion starter with your child.
Confused and want to learn more?
Learn more about overcoming Pornography
Learn more about Modesty
Learn more about Gender and Sexual Identity
Learn more about Fruitful Conversations