My parents had two methods of teaching me: preparative and reactive. The first was taught to avoid an issue, e.g., “Look both ways before crossing the street.” The latter was taught after an experience, e.g., “You can’t eat the paste in the kindergarten class.”
As parents, both methods are necessary, and let’s face it, you just do not think to teach some things until they come up. Teaching from experience may work with eating paste in kindergarten, but will not work with sex. You cannot wait for your son or daughter to have a run in with the wrong version of sexuality to teach them the right version. Sex can be a daunting topic – there is a lot to cover. Unfortunately, many people default to, “Don’t do it before marriage,” and let schools cover the biology and friends cover the “mechanics.” As a parent, you are called to play a bigger part in your child’s sex education.
The Catholic Church has a beautiful model that talks about the spiritual significance of sex in a way that recognizes the biological, psychological, and emotional drives, as well as how our faith binds it together. It is called “Theology of the Body,” and it is a series of talks given by St. John Paul II that talk about faith and sexuality.
There are various resources available for parents and teens that break open the Church’s teaching on sexuality using the work of St. John Paul II, but here are some of the most important aspects to stress when talking with your son or daughter about sexuality.
1. Sex is a “self-gift.”
God created us with a purpose. God created us to love. There are different and appropriate ways to express love. Everyone is called to give him or herself as a gift. Priests and religious make a gift of themselves to Christ and the Church; married couples make a gift of themselves to each other.
This “self-gift” is revealed in marriage through sex, and it creates an important bond that reflects the love God has for us, while also allowing us to participate in creating life. Sex is a sacred act; it is not something to be done with just anyone. We are designed to experience sex with one person, or to abstain from sex as a gift of God – as in the case for a priest or religious.
2. Sex is unifying and procreative.
God designed sex to bond a husband and wife and to create children. These two aspects of sex cannot be separated. Though children may not be created from every sexual act, every act must be open to children. When we eliminate one of these aspects of sex, it becomes disordered. If we have sex, but do not want to be unified to another person, we are using them for their body. If we have sex, but are not willing to receive children, we are holding back a part of ourselves – our fertility.
3. Men and women complement each other.
Men and women were made for each other and are called to protect the dignity of the other gender. Part of the first sin was that the man and the woman did not protect each other from sin. Adam allowed Eve to be tempted as he stood right next to her at the tree, and Ever gave Adam the fruit to eat (Genesis 3:6). Things like pre-marital sex, pornography, immodesty, and other sexual behaviors destroy the dignity of the opposite gender, and our own dignity.
4. Sex is very good in the right context.
Sex is not a dirty or bad thing – it is a good thing. It all depends on the context. The “good” context for sex is within a loving marriage that is open to life. If sex is used outside of marriage or in a context that is not open to life, sex can be evil. It is important that your son or daughter recognizes that sex is a good thing, and the Church thinks so, too.
5. Challenges to the Church’s teaching.
This view of sex – that it should be experienced in the context of marriage between a man and woman while remaining open to life – is controversial in our world. Your son or daughter may ask about homosexuality or contraception, and both may be taught as “normal” or even “healthy” behaviors in school or among friends. It is important to remind them that God created sex to be both unifying and procreative – sex between members of the same gender cannot fulfill the purpose of being procreative or self-giving because it cannot be open to life.
This is also why the Church teaches against contraceptive use. Contraception withholds one’s fertility from his or her spouse. It removes the procreative aspect of sex. Aside from this, there is an increasing amount of studies that show contraceptive use can lead to an increased risk of cancer (for hormonal contraceptives) and have a negative emotional impact on relationships.
If your son or daughter raises questions about sex or sexuality, remind them that we are all called to treat everyone with love and to remember their dignity. This does not mean, however that we can accept behavior that contradicts God’s plan. These five points give you a starting point with your son or daughter. Do not shy away from these topics, but approach them with love and truth so that your child can live God’s plan for their lives more fully and purely.
 “Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk”, March 21, 2014, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/oral-contraceptives. And “Study Links Birth-control to Rare Breast Cancer”, May 4, 2009, http://www.fhcrc.org/en/news/center-news/2009/05/birth-control-rare-breast-cancer.html.
 Ian Kerner, CNN Health. “Birth Control May Affect Long-term Relationships”, April, 5 2012, http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/05/birth-control-may-affect-long-term-relationships/. And Janelle Weaver, Scientific American Global. “Birth Control Pills Have Lasting Effects on Relationships”, March 1, 2012, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-problem-with-the-pill/. And Medical News Today. “Birth Control Pill Could Cause Long-Term Problems With Testosterone”, January 4 2006, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/35663.php