Before the Talk: Dealing With Our Past

By Linda Klepacki
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The first step in raising our children to honor their sexuality is to come to terms with our own.

You put her to bed as your precious baby; she awoke as a nearly fully developed adolescent, full of questions — questions you sense her stifling in deference to your obvious discomfort. Time flies when you’re avoiding “the talk.”

Do you remember how important the topic of sex was to you when you were a teenager — and how your parents skillfully evaded it? You promised yourself you’d do better as a parent.


Thinking back to your own teen years, you remember your obsession with boy-girl relationships. Still the question rattles around in the back of your mind: Why haven’t I talked with my teens about relationships and sex?

After a little honest reflection many parents will realize that their own sexual history is the roadblock. It’s nearly impossible to talk frankly with our children about sex until we have acknowledged the wounds from our past — and worked to heal them.

Back to childhood

When we begin to process our sexual past, some of us must begin in childhood because that is where the pain began. As we lived through our childhood, some people loved us well — appropriately and unconditionally. Their love was not dependent on what we did or how we looked. Others experienced poor loving relationships. Some of us may have felt we had to earn love and approval with our appearance or through our achievements.

Poor loving relationships also may have been manifested in sexual abuse from family members or close family friends. Typically, children deal with such abuse by blaming themselves: I’m not pretty enough or handsome enough; I deserve this mistreatment. Or maybe they thought they were too pretty or too handsome: Older people cannot help themselves around me.

As we grew into adolescence these assumptions may have led to unhealthy behaviors, such as eating disorders, as we tried to make ourselves more attractive — or less so. They may even have led to suicidal thoughts or attempts. We may never have heard the truth: The abuse was NOT YOUR FAULT.

It is never appropriate for one person to sexually abuse another.

Back to the teens

Some of us may still be tending wounds from what we believed, at the time, to have been appropriate teen behaviors. Some were a part of the “sexual revolution” generation. We spent our teen years in the “free love” 1960s and 70s. During those decades, sexual behaviors that had been taboo became common. “The pill” mitigated the consequences of sexual activity outside of marriage.

Parents, along with schools and churches, were caught off-guard by society’s rapid changes in sexual mores. It took years for the educational system and processes to begin to catch up with the changes.

Many reaped the consequences of being impressionable teens during the sexual revolution. Some carry the scars of being sexually active outside of marriage. For others, emotional scars have persisted. We may have had trouble bonding or really being in love with our spouse because we emotionally bonded to several previous sexual partners. Many of us are haunted by mental scars. The images of past lovers may inhibit our efforts to be psychologically exclusive to our spouse. The physical scars of teen pregnancy, abortion, or sexually transmitted diseases may have taken a fierce toll on our health.

For others, pornography has insidiously captured their minds and souls.

Back to the present

As parents, what can you do to get healed so that you can talk about Scriptural truth?

You may feel like a hypocrite if you insist that your children avoid behaviors you engaged in. But, this is to avoid the teachable moment that constantly springs up for those watching for it. Assessing your child’s age and maturity level, you can speak frankly with your child about the damage — initially and lasting — that resulted from such behaviors. You can also point them back to Scripture and God’s warnings to His people to avoid the things that will hurt them and cause separation from Him and others.

In the King James Bible, God says,

  • “Flee fornication. Every sin that man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.”1 Corinthians 6:18.
  • “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”1 Corinthians 7:2.
  • “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies…”Matthew 15:18-20.

These passages use the word fornication (sexual intercourse with someone with whom a person is not married) as an evil sin. We are to run from sexual immorality. God designed the gift of sex to be given to one another as husband and wife. Therefore, Scripture counsels us to marry so that we don’t sin sexually.

Furthermore, Scripture uses the word fornication in the same context as other grievous sins, such as murder, adultery and thievery. And these are but a few Scripture passages that tell how we are to use our sexuality according to God’s plan.

Many people — even some Christians — look at these passages as proof that God is angry and vengeful. Yet, if you have gone through the heartache of violating his precepts and principles, you know first hand that his boundaries were put in place to save us from a multitude of pain and sorrow. His Word will guide us to the best life we can live; a life full of His blessings and free from guilt and shame.

On to the future — yours and your child’s

Whether we like it or not, parents are pressed into God’s service to tell the good — and often difficult — news to our teens. Our past does not disqualify us from telling our children the truth. The good news is that your teens will hear God’s Scriptural truth from the person who loves them most — you. The difficult part is that some parents will still be going through a painful healing process even as they talk with their kids.

Here are some suggestions to begin this process:

  • Talk with your spouse about your past. This discussion will allow your relationship to become closer and free of secrets.1 John 1:9.
  • Talk with your pastor about your past. Your pastor may provide wise counsel for support and healing.1 John 1:9.
  • Talk with a professional Christian counselor. Keep in mind that this healing process may require a series of counseling sessions.
  • If appropriate, schedule counseling time for you and your spouse together.
  • Persevere. Continue working through your difficult issues until you resolve them. For some of us, healing is a lifetime process, but one well worth undertaking.

If you are still afraid of or unsure about your role as your child’s spiritual and sexual teacher and role model, take some time to examine what the world and the culture is cramming into kids’ minds every day. If you do not take the time to teach your child, the only teacher he or she will ever have is a world vehemently opposed to Jesus Christ and His truth.

Copyright © 2004 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

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About the Author

Linda Klepacki

Linda Klepacki is the Analyst for Sexual Health in the Issue Analysis Department at Focus on the Family.

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