As a parent, how comfortable are you talking with your children about sex? Not so much? Why is that? God created sex to bless us—why is it so hard to talk about?

For many, it is our own discomfort with the topic. Perhaps you did not grow up in an environment where it was discussed, or, if it was, the subject was clearly shameful or unpleasant. Perhaps you feel uncomfortable because you are uncertain of what to say or how to say it. Whatever the reason, avoiding the topic communicates that you are unable or unwilling (or both) to discuss it, and your children will look elsewhere with their questions. This leaves them vulnerable to the beliefs of their friends and the barrage of images, attitudes, and concepts of sexuality/morality from the larger culture. It can even increase their risk of being victims of sexual crimes because they have no filter to make sense of what is evil and what is good.

If you struggle to know how to engage your kids on hard topics such as this, consider the following four principles to help shape your approach.

First, talk in positive ways. Model an affirming, godly view of sexuality. Kids need to hear us talk about sex in assuring and inspiring ways. If not from you, where will they hear it? It is essential they see the beauty of sex as God created it, not simply all the ways it has been corrupted. Sexuality is good and enjoyable when rightly ordered in our lives. It is part of who we are and how we live out our lives before the Lord.

Second, talk often. Talking to kids about sex (or any important subject) should never be a one-time conversation. Children and teens are always processing, thinking, and coming up with new questions, and trying to make sense of it all. They will be hit with new issues at each stage of development. Make sure they are not doing this alone. Actively pursue conversations with them.

Third, talk freely. Foster a spirit of openness in your home and in your relationship with your children. Let them know that no topic is off limits, too hard, or too embarrassing to talk about. The more comfortable you are talking freely, the more likely you are to make your kids comfortable and listen to what you have to say about sexuality.

Encourage questions and conversation whenever you can. For example, when you are in the car together, find reasons to ask what their friends are talking about at school or if their teachers teach on such things. Ask your kids what they think about what they are hearing. After a movie, ask them questions about what you just saw portrayed on the screen. Give them freedom to have opinions and voice them; it is a window into their thoughts. You will then know how to pray and better speak into their lives.

Fourth, talk soon. Be the one who shapes your child’s view on sex and sexuality. It is far better to proactively inform your child’s view on a subject, than to have to go back and debunk an inaccurate view. Even small children need to start learning essential things. You can do this by considering what is developmentally appropriate. Teach them proper names for parts of the body. Explain privacy and respect for each other’s bodies. Always be a step ahead of your children, educating and shaping their views. Give factually accurate information. Keep it simple, honest, and direct. Ask if they have questions. As they grow older, encourage them to think and explore what God says about it—and why.

We live in a sex-crazed culture that threatens to form your child’s morality. You cannot afford to remain silent. We want our kids to grow up knowing how God intended life, relationships, and sexuality to be lived out. Young people will hear the voice that is the loudest or the most persuasive. Let it be God’s voice in and through you.