Not Just One Conversation
About the Guest
What do kids want to talk about today? Youth culture expert Jonathan McKee says that our youth really want to share their hearts, but parents need to ask the right questions, especially regarding the topic of sex. The sex talk can't be just one awkward conversation when our child turns 13; it should be a series of conversations about sexuality starting when our children are very young.
Jonathan McKeeJonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; an...more
Youth culture expert Jonathan McKee says that our youth really want to share their hearts, but parents need to ask the right questions, especially regarding the topic of sex.
Not Just One Conversation
Bob: If you have teenagers, your son or your daughter has a lot of questions about sex. Where do you think they are getting the answers from? Here’s author Jonathan McKee.
Jonathan: I spoke to a bunch of teenagers a few weeks ago on the subject of Sex Matters. When I talked about this, the comment I kept getting from teenagers afterwards was: “Whew! You just talked about it. I had questions, but nobody else will talk about this stuff. Thank you for talking about it.” They were grateful that someone finally talked about it. To me, that’s kind of, actually, sad because I think, “Man, parents have got to be having these conversations.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. If you’re the parent of a teenager, you ought to be having regular, ongoing conversations with your son or daughter about sex. So, when was the last time the uncomfortable subject came up at your house?
We’ll talk more about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I always wonder how it’s going to work out when we’ve got a guest who is passionate about something that you’re passionate about—because it’s always a question of, “Who’s going to get more mic time on the program?”
Dennis: We make the soapbox available for outside guests to come in.
Bob: And you, sometimes, yank it back away from them. [Laughter]
Dennis: That is true too. We’ve got a young man from Northern California—Jonathan McKee joins us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome to the broadcast, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Hey, thanks for having me.
Dennis: He is a youth pastor. In fact, he’s been in youth work for more than two decades. He and his wife Lori and their three children live in the Sacramento area.
I just want to start with your experience with young people. We talked a bit before we came in here in the studio—I think parents are probably wondering, “What do kids want to talk about today?” I mean, what’s taking place among the youth culture that parents need to know?
Jonathan: Yes. You know, it’s funny—young people, I think, all have something they want to talk about. That’s the trick—is finding out what it is that they want to talk about. Sometimes, it’s plastered on the front of their shirt. Sometimes, it’s flowing through the earbuds they’ve got in their ears. The key is asking these good questions and asking them questions to find out a little bit about what’s going on in their world.
Sometimes, you have to do some digging / sometimes, you have to peel back some layers. But most young people—within about five minutes of asking good questions, you can literally get them to just start sharing their heart—
—just sharing what they’re excited about, whatever that is. And we, as parents—we need to be good at asking these kinds of questions to discover some of this.
Dennis: You’ve written a couple of books around one topic they want to talk about.
Dennis: The first book was called More Than Just “The Talk”—and that’s Becoming Your Kids’ Go-To Person About Sex. Then, a second book that is a companion book—called Sex Matters. It’s a book about hot questions that kids want answers to today—that you’re finding a great opportunity for adults, especially parents, to talk to their kids about.
Jonathan: Yes; absolutely. And it’s a topic that kids have tons of questions about and very often parents aren’t talking about—which, I mean, let’s be honest—it’s an awkward subject. It’s—I mean, think about it—we even always refer to it as “TheTalk”: “Have you had ‘TheTalk’ yet?”—right? As if there’s one talk you’ve got to sit down and—
—oh, man, everybody squirms / everybody is uncomfortable. “Have you had ‘The Talk’?”
So, yes, it’s one of those things where we know that young people are interested in it. We know they’re hearing it from everybody else. The question is: “Are we going to have a conversation where we can actually point them toward the truth on this subject?”
Bob: And it’s not just a conversation. In fact, Dennis, I’m sitting here thinking about the fact that, years ago, when we put together the Passport2Purity® weekend that our listeners have heard us talk about—the getaway for a mom and a daughter or a dad and a son—where they can talk about adolescence, and the fact that dating is around the corner, and sexual desire is around the corner. All of these things are headed your way for a son or a daughter. We recognized that that weekend shouldn’t be the beginning of the conversation, and it definitely shouldn’t be the end of the conversation.
Dennis: That’s exactly right.
And really what Jonathan has found out is the same thing I found out in working with youth; and that is, really, the key players in this whole youth culture today are the parents. The parents have got to be in the game. They have to have the conversation when they’re young about sex, they have to have the conversation when they are a little older about sex, and they have to have a conversation again as they go through adolescence multiple times.
Bob: Well, Jonathan, in this day and age, we used to tell parents: “Maybe, right before adolescence, when your child is 10 or 11—maybe, 12—you ought to have a concentrated time where you’re focused on teaching them about sex.” A lot of 10-, 11-, or 12-year-olds have already Google®d this and know a lot more than moms and dads think they know.
Jonathan: Yes; I mean, we live in a world where the average age of first exposure to pornography is 11 years old. We’ve got kids in fourth and fifth grade hearing this kind of stuff at school / on their team sports.
That’s why most of the research today is showing, “Don’t have one talk, but have ongoing conversations.”
As a matter of fact, The Journal of Pediatrics actually had a report where they talked about that. I think it was called “Beyond the Big Talk” [“Getting Ready for the ‘Big Talk’ and Beyond”].They recommended to parents, “Don’t just have a talk—have ongoing conversations.” They, actually, even told parents: “And don’t just talk about body changes and those kinds of things. Be very explicit,” because they showed in their study—the more explicit parents were, the more kids benefited from the conversations and they felt like, “Oh, I can talk to Mom or Dad about this.”
Bob: Here’s the challenge with all of that, though—as parents, when you start having these explicit conversations with your child about sexuality, we refer to that as the end of innocence; you know? And who wants to destroy the innocence of an eight-year-old or a nine-year-old?
So, as parents, you kind of go, “I don’t want to have that talk because I want my sweet, little eight-year-old to just be a sweet little eight-year-old for years.”
Jonathan: I think a lot of parents, though, think that—like the word, “explicit,” for example—let’s look at what the word, “explicit”—the word, “explicit”—it actually just means very clear, precise, accurate. We always think of it as the naughty talk. No, that’s not what we’re talking about here. I mean, you open up the Bible—the Bible starts with a naked guy in a garden. God looks down at this naked guy and says, “Wow, it’s not good for man to be alone.” So, what does God do? Poof—naked woman: “Alright! Now, we’re cooking! This is good.” Then—and that’s what God says: “This is good,” / “This is good.” In fact, he even says, “Go forth and multiply.” Adam probably looked up and was like: “I’m actually already on that. That’s good. I’m there.” [Laughter]
This is how the Bible starts: “This is a good thing.” God looks down and says: “Man, I created husband and wife. They can enjoy this amazing gift I’ve given them—this gift of sex.” And when you look at—I mean, this amazing gift He gave—
—you know, the Bible is unashamed to talk about it. As a matter of fact, the Bible actually gives us all kinds of good stories of where people actually kind of went wrong. We kind of see some of the consequences that unveil from that. I think parents are scared and they think, “Oh, I’ve got to edit this.” Well, you better edit your Bible because the Bible loves to talk about this wonderful gift of sex.
And talking with our kids about that—we’ve got to be careful. Don’t make it the naughty thing. It’s okay to talk about this wonderful gift and what it is. The fact is—we are going to see a lot of lies out there. We need to teach our kids to start recognizing those lies.
Dennis: I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’d want the parent to kind of revisit the concept of destroying their innocence by having the discussion. I think that’s how parents feel; but I think the way that I’d approach it is: “Think about informing their innocence and informing them from the best-selling book in history—the Bible. It talks about some of these matters in terms of wanting us to know how it works, but it also has warnings about what happens when we do it wrong.”
Dennis: And our children need to be informed, from a biblical perspective, as they face this issue—starting in grade school, adolescence, and beyond. They have to understand it. In fact, if you look at the book of Proverbs—I’ve said many times—it’s in there. I mean, it’s a warning for young men to avoid the seductive woman who wants to destroy a young man’s soul. That’s what you’re really getting at as you empower parents to step into the lives of their kids and inform them what the biblical perspective of sex really is.
Jonathan: Well, and I’ll tell you—the Bible provides so many good nuggets to talk about this subject. Also—now, our kid, who desperately is kind of looking for answers—right now, the number-one place that young people go to for answers about sex is Google. What do you think they find there; you know? But for them to realize: “I can talk to Dad about this. I can look to the Bible about this, and the Bible is giving me guidance—
—“because, when I have these feelings, when I’m walking through the mall and I see that Victoria’s Secret poster—I’m having these feelings like there is something—I like looking at that. Is that wrong for me to be attracted?”
And if we, as parents, can start having these conversations—plural—where we’re talking about: “Hey, God created us so that someday, man—when we find that special woman,” / as we’re talking with our son or “that special man,” / as we’re talking to our daughter—“it’s going to be amazing.” That’s where we can start to talk about what a special gift it is between two people. When we go outside of that—when we have sneak peeks / when we actually say, “Oh, if it’s so great with one person, maybe, it’d be even better with more people,”—and we start talking about, “What happens when you do that?” and start looking at some of the consequences and “Man—that’s not as good.”
Dennis: You grew up in a Christian home. Your dad was a pastor.
Dennis: What about “TheTalk”? Could you have the“The Talk” with your dad? Did it occur over multiple seasons in your life, as a young man growing up?
Jonathan: I think that my experience was probably really similar to the experience you guys had and a lot of us had in Christian homes back then.
But I, as a young teenager, had so many questions that I didn’t want to really—I was a little scared to ask my dad. My dad was a great dad! But I mean, I didn’t want to ask him about lust. I didn’t want to ask about this because, one, I was afraid: “What’s he going to think of me if he knows I’m having these thoughts / if I’m struggling with this?” So, yes—no—there was—it was very much like “TheTalk.”
Dennis: And frankly, that’s what I would say to a dad or a mom, at that point, is: “Understand that your children are as frightened about this as you are and are as uncomfortable as you are; but this is a subject we can’t leave to the world to educate our children about. So, we have to have, not just ‘TheTalk,’ but we have to reengage numerous times as they grow up into adolescence because of the sheer number and the volume of messages that this culture is sending.”
What I found—with a number of moms and dads I’ve talked to, who have been on a Passport2Purity weekend—they get away with the same-sex child, and they pop the CD in there and listen to a talk that spawns all kinds of conversations at a level that I think, in this culture today, kids have to have with their parents because, frankly, they’re not going to have this level of conversation with their youth pastor. The only group of people they’re going to come anywhere near close to having that kind of conversation with is their peers, and that isn’t who you want [them] talking to about this.
Jonathan: Yes. Yes; absolutely. It’s one of those things where we can become, as the parent, that go-to person for this conversation. We prove ourselves when we don’t freak out because that’s what they assume, right away—and they’re going to go: “Oh, see, don’t talk to Dad about this. Don’t talk to Mom about this—she’s going to flip out.” If we cannot freak out, but actually, buy time—maybe say, “Hey, I need to think about this,”—
—then, as we approach them / actually have a dialogue—well, so much, also, with these weekends or any conversation we have—kids appreciate this.
I spoke to a bunch of teenagers a few weeks ago on this subject—on the subject of Sex Matters. When I talked about this, the comment I kept getting from teenagers afterwards was: “Whew! You just talked about it. I had questions, but nobody else will talk about this stuff. Thank you for talking about it.” They were grateful that someone finally talked about it. To me, that’s kind of actually sad because I think, “Man, parents have got to be having these conversations; and we need to become that go-to person where our kids will come home.”
I’ll tell you—I learned constantly through my mistakes. I just write it: “Well, don’t do that again,”—write that down / stuff like that.
It was funny—in this one moment of clarity, I’ll never forget—my fifth grader came home. She comes home / she throws her backpack on the ground, and she kind of walks in, as casual as ever:
“Dad”—and she asked me about a very specific, explicit sex act. My wife was doing the dishes. She kind of looks up and stops. The room was just silent. I think you could hear a cricket in the background—chirp/chirp—I mean, just total silence. My son was drinking milk out of the container, like he’s not supposed to do. He’s like [pfft sound] just like everything just stopped in the room. My wife just kind of looked at me like: “Yes, what are you going to say now; huh? How are you going to answer this one?”
First thing—I just—by God’s grace, I didn’t flip out. I tried to buy more time. I was like: “Tell me more about why you are wondering this. Where’d you hear this so I can better answer your question?”—you know? She was: “Oh, from Tyler. I heard it from Tyler.” And all parents—we all have a Tyler that our kids are friends with—just a different name.
Bob: “Who you’re never going to hang out with again for the rest of your life!”
Jonathan: Exactly. “Tyler!”—another opportunity to freak out.
Dennis: “Put the FBI on Tyler.”
Dennis: “Trail him!”
Jonathan: We all have a Tyler. The thing is, “Oh, okay.” And so, I started fumbling about with this answer: “Well, you know, we’ve talked about intimate moments that mommies and daddies can have.” So, I’m literally—and my son’s like laughing / he’s just laughing as I’m trying to explain this.
Bob: He’s older.
Jonathan: Yes; yes.
Bob: Is that right?
Jonathan: Yes; yes.
Bob: So, he’s clued into this.
Jonathan: She was fifth grade—so he was ninth grade at the moment—and he’s just sitting there, just loving every minute of this; you know?
But I’m sitting there, and I’m like: “As you know, parents have these intimate moments together as we’ve talked about.” And I said, “But as you know, sometimes, people that aren’t married also can be intimate with each other, even though that’s not God’s plan. So, some people will do that.” She goes, “So, have you and Mom done it?” At this point, my wife just sets down what she’s doing and just walks out of the room. She didn’t even want to—she’s like: “I don’t even want to know.
“I just don’t even want to be here.”
My son drops to the ground, laughing hysterically. That’s why I started with: “Well, Ashley, that’s a funny question. Just so you know—when a man and wife are intimate, we usually don’t go around bragging about what we’ve done—
Bob: “It’s private.”
Jonathan: —“and this kind of stuff.”
Jonathan: Yes; “This is one of those private things. It’s not a shameful thing or whatever.” I said, “But as you know, you see Mommy and I kissing and”—and literally, when I said—she holds her hand up and says: “Okay; okay—enough. That’s all I wanted to know. That’s it.” She was just like, “That’s it.” The hand—I got the hand immediately.
But the funny thing for me / the sobering thing was—this was one of those moments, where you know my wife and I go back later—like: “Wow! Fifth grade—I’m being asked.” But I look back at that and say, “I’m so glad that my fifth grader was comfortable enough to come and say, ‘Hey,’”—and she knew the category this question was under—
Jonathan: —and she was comfortable enough to ask this question.
Fast-forward to now—
—senior in high school / going off to college—her senior year just this past year—she’s got a bunch of friends over at the house. They’re talking, and the friends—somehow the subject of sex comes up. I’m in the room; and she even says: “Oh, ask my dad. He’s the one who just wrote the book, Sex Matters. He’s the sex expert.” I didn’t know if I liked being categorized as that. I’ve had three kids—I guess I know something about it; but she goes, “Yes; ask him.” All of a sudden, I am being asked questions—I’ve got this room full of teenagers, and they’re all asking me questions about this and that.
It was interesting because, as I’m having these conversations—one, I couldn’t believe what these kids didn’t know because they’ve heard the lies about—they’re like, “Is it wrong?” And I would just come back with—again, buying time with another question like: “Well, what’s the Bible say? What’s the Bible say?” “I don’t know.” “Well, where does…” “It’s probably wrong!” “Well, does the Bible say that? Where does it say that?” “I don’t know!” And these were, by the way, all kids from a Christian school, who all have Bible-classes kind of stuff.
But again, I was excited that, not only did my daughter, but that these kids actually felt like: “Here’s a safe place we can talk. We can get some of these answers.” And we started having these conversations about, literally, what the Bible says about sex. And I think we, as parents, constantly need to look for these opportunities, where we can dialogue about truth.
Dennis: You’re describing being a safe person and a parent. This is something—as a parent / as a mom and a dad—you have to work to, not only attain, but to maintain with your child where you really have to be very careful about freaking out. I mean, when you hear something or you’re shocked by something, you’ve got to bite your lip. You’ve got to somehow have an out-of-body experience—[Laughter]—ask God / to say, “Lord God, give me the right response here,” because, as you raise teenagers today, these moments will happen. It may not be the same topic, but it—there will be some topics that will cause you to want to go outside and scream, where you go, “I’m not believing my little girl / my little boy just asked me this!”
Bob: Well, increasingly, there are going to be categories and topics because the culture has increasingly expanded the vocabulary and the dialogue on this subject. So, don’t be surprised if your fifth grader is asking questions that are way out there. I think a lot of moms and dads think: “If I got asked that question—whatever the category is—I wouldn’t know what to say! I mean, I can say, ‘What does the Bible say?’ If my child says, ‘I don’t know. Show me!’ I’d go, ‘I don’t know either!’”
Dennis: This is when you need a youth expert—someone who has spent a lot of hours with a bunch of young people, where he’s put all the questions in a book called Sex Matters. And I’m going to tell you something—there are a lot of questions in here. It’s like: “Well, you’ve tackled some tough ones; but this has to be talked about, and it has to be talked about by moms and dads with their kids.
“We’ve got to be able to do this.”
Then, your other book, More Than Just “The Talk”—this gives parents a game plan to approach this subject as they raise their kids. This is a subject you have to be on the offensive about. You’re going to play defense sometimes because—just like you did—you bought some time to find out: “What exactly is the question about here? Where’d she hear this?”
But these are days when a parent does need to be ahead of the kids in knowing what questions are out there. And we’re not talking about kids that are in secular schools / we’re talking about kids that are growing up in the church because that’s who you’ve worked with for the past two decades.
Bob: One of these books is aimed at parents—that’s the book, More Than Just “The Talk”: Becoming Your Kids’ Go-To Person About Sex. And then, the other book, Sex Matters, is written for teenagers. We’ve got both of these books in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
Our listeners can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to order either or both of the books. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Let me just say—we have a resource that parents have been using for years now called Passport2Purity that is designed to help a mom or a dad have a conversation with a preteen and begin to open the dialogue on this subject before the hormones hit. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and get your copy of Passport2Purity. If you have a son or daughter, who is in that age group, plan to have a couple of days when you can get away together and begin this kind of a conversation, using the Passport2Purity resource. Again, there is information, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Ask about Passport2Purity. We’ll answer any questions you might have about that resource.
Let me just mention—next month, we have a brand-new resource that is coming out called Passport2Identity™. This is another getaway time, where you can talk about issues related to your identity because every teenager is asking: “Who am I? What am I good at? How do I define myself?” This helps you have conversation around that subject with your son or daughter. That’s going to be released next month. So, we’ll be talking more about that, here on FamilyLife Today.
Now, we want to say, “Happy Anniversary!” to our friends, Jimmie and Ida Carpenter, who live in Glenwood, Illinois. They have been married 36 years today. “Congratulations!” to the Carpenters. They listen to FamilyLife Today in Chicago on WNBI, and we’re glad that you tune in and hope you have a great anniversary celebration.
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk more about how you promote healthy human sexuality with your teenager in an age where the internet is offering them all kinds of options. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. Hope you can join us back.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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