The Whole Truth About Sex
About the Guest
- Mom, Dad...What's Sex? by Jessica Thompson and Joel Fitzpatrick
- FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting™ video series
- FamilyLife has developed Passport2Purity® to assist you in building heart-to-heart communication with your preteen while laying a foundation of purity that will prepare them for the turbulent years ahead.
Jessica ThompsonJESSICA THOMPSON is an author of several books including Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Christ and frequent conference speaker. She is part of the podcast Front Porch with the Fitzes, and is the director of church life at RISEN Church in San Diego, California.
Joel FitzpatrickJoel Fitzpatrick has served as an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America with a focus on youth and family. He received his MDiv from Westminster Seminary California. He is the co-author of Mom, Dad . . . What’s Sex? and contributed chapters to The Sinner and Saints Devotional: 60 days in the Psalms. Fitzpatrick lives in Southern California with his wife and their two children.
Siblings Jessica Thompson and Joel Fitzpatrick felt like they got the message loud and clear that “sex before marriage was bad.” Now parents themselves, they wanted to build a better view of sexuality for their children.
The Whole Truth About Sex
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 10th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. Are you ready, as a parent/equipped, as a parent, to have a series of ongoing conversations with your children, throughout their growing-up years, about sex and sexuality? We’re going to talk about how you do that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m going to tell you guys a story. You remember a book that Dennis Rainey wrote, years ago, called Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date; do you remember that?
Dave: Yes; it had something to do with a baseball bat? [Laughter]
Bob: That’s right—questions for dads to ask the young man, who was going to take your daughter out.
Well, we recorded some radio programs about that after he had written the book; and all of a sudden, we were getting flooded with emails and letters from moms, who were saying: “Okay; that’s great, but here is my problem. I’ve got a cute 15-year-old son, and he is getting inundated with text messages and pictures from 15-year-old girls.” That led to the book, Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys, that Dennis wrote as a follow-up; because the reality is—in a wired, connected internet world, there’s a dynamic going on with our adolescent sons and daughters around the issue of sexuality.
You can teach your kids about the birds and the bees when they are young. In the elementary years, you feel like: “This is great,” and “They get it. They want to honor God.” Then, they get into middle school; and it feels like somebody just undammed the river [sound of flooding waters]: “Here it comes!” Do you know what I’m talking about?
Dave: I remember asking my oldest, when he was in middle school—so, what is that?— 12-and-a-half/13—
Dave: I said to him one day—he was on the wrestling team—and I said, “Hey, CJ, how many of your buddies on the wrestling team look at pornography?” He goes, “Everybody.” I go, “Everybody?!” He goes, “Everybody.” I go, “How often?” “Every day.” “Where?” “In our locker room.”
Dave: Every day, on their phones—this is years ago—
Dave: —but that’s the world we now live in.
Ann: Well, I overheard a conversation with our sons. The oldest one was schooling and mentoring his younger brother—not knowing that I was in the other room—and I could hear him say, “Now, listen; these girls are going to come up, and they are going to be grinding on you at the dance.” I’m thinking: “What?! What?! [Laughter] What are you talking about?!” I didn’t even hear the rest of the conversation—to hear what the advice was—but that’s all I remember. Yes; so there is a lot more to learn.
Dave: She came running to me and said, “You need to go in there and talk to them about this!”
Bob: It’s one thing, as parents, to say, “Okay; we’re going to have a proactive strategy for introducing our kids to the issue of sex—
Bob: —“and making sure they understand it,” and “…understand it, biblically,” and all of that. You can do all of that; but come adolescence, it’s a whole different ball game. If you think, “Well, we had that talk; so I guess our kids are okay,” you are in serious trouble—
Bob: —because your kids are getting bombarded every day.
I remember one of my sons, who said: “Here’s what happened to me today. This girl was giving me a hug; and she just whispered in my ear, ‘I want to have sex with you’”; and he’s 14 years old.
I go, “So what do you do with that, as a 14-year-old?” [Laughter]
Dave: Bob, you never had that happen?!
Bob: Never! [Laughter]
We’ve got joining with us, again, today our friends, Jessica Thompson and Joel Fitzpatrick. Guys, welcome back.
Joel: Thank you.
Bob: Now, Jessica and Joel are brother and sister. They’ve written a book, together, called Mom, Dad…What’s Sex? You wrote this because you’re both parents—
Bob: —and you’ve both got kids, who are swimming in this stuff.
Bob: You’re coming to each other and saying, “What are you doing?” “I don’t know. What are you doing?”—right?
Jessica: Right; we both grew up in a home, where all we heard was “Don’t do it!” What we wanted to do for our kids—and hopefully, what we want to do for other people and their families—is build a better view of sexuality/build a better view of identity.
Bob: Jessica, your mom would not mind us sharing this; because she’s shared it. She has shared that she was promiscuous—
Bob: —as a young woman.
Bob: So, given that as her background—
Bob: —you can understand why, as a mom,—
Bob: —her dominate message was: “This will mess you up. Don’t do this.”
Jessica: Right; right.
Ann: And I think, as parents, we have a fear: “If our kids don’t know that we did that, we shouldn’t tell them; because it might make them think it’s okay.”
Jessica: “It’s okay”; right.
Jessica: Right. Listen—you know, your kids—if they are thinking about having sex—they are not going to be like, “Huh, I wonder if my parents were promiscuous, and they think it’s okay.” That’s not the thought on their mind; okay? [Laughter]
If what we’re building in them is just this sort of “No,” only—like only “No,”—right?—so it’s the whole thing. My mom talks about this a lot. What if—and Paul talks about it in the Bible—like the very thing that the Law tells you not to do, you want to do it; right? So, if what you hear all the time is, like, “You can’t have peanut butter for a year.” What is the first thing you think? “I want to eat some peanut butter.” If all you are hearing is, “Never have sex,” you’re like, “Something must be really cool about that.” Honestly, it kind of skews our kids’ perception of sex.
God’s answer/God’s view of sex is not just “No.” Like, His is like: “Yes! Here are the boundaries…”
Dave: Okay; I’m your 13-year-old son.
Dave: And I’ve heard you say, “No,”—
Jessica: I don’t—a bald 13-year-old son is kind of—[Laughter]
Dave: Hey, wait, wait, wait. [Laughter] I mean, come on.
Jessica: That’s going to be a stretch for me. [Laughter]
Joel: Let’s make this a little bit more realistic. [Laughter]
Dave: What just happened here?! That’s the coolest 13-year-old that you’ve ever seen—I shaved my head on purpose. [Laughter]
Okay; I’m posing a question. I’ve heard Mom and Dad say, “No,”—I know what you think; I don’t know why.
Dave: So, I’m that parent, out there, saying: “Would you please tell me what’s this conversation look like for me to tell my 13-/14-/15-year-old? What’s the answer to ‘Why not?’”
Joel: Because sex is a picture of something that’s very beautiful. Sex is actually not just about the act—sex is about something different. The Apostle Paul—and I think all throughout the Bible—we see the imagery of Christ and His church being portrayed as a marriage. In fact, that’s what we see in Revelation; right?—in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 19, what goes on there?—it’s the marriage supper of the Lamb—it’s this consummation; right?
The intimacy that we have in the act of sex is not just about physical pleasure—it’s about something far greater than that. It’s about a relationship that we are building that actually points us to the intimacy that we have with our Savior.
There’s an old analogy—if your kid is holding a knife, there are two ways to go about taking that knife away. You can run up and grab it out of your kid’s hand, which then makes the knife mystical; right? Or you can give them something better.
You give them something more beautiful for them to grab onto—that’s the conversation. You don’t have to say: “Okay; we’re going to sit down now at the table. Take out your Bible. Turn to Genesis 1, and we’re going to unpack this passage together and talk about sexuality.”
You asked me what I would say—well, it’s 20 conversations. If you want to have 20 conversations—like, I’m glad to have that.
Jessica: You don’t want that. [Laughter]
Joel: No; I don’t doubt it: “I’ve already heard you talk enough as it is.” [Laughter] But it’s really inviting them in to see that sex and sexuality is something much more than just the act and something much more beautiful. It’s designed to be something that’s beautiful.
Ann: How would you get into that conversation? Would you offer it up if you do have a past that’s been—that you’ve been promiscuous? Would you offer that, or would you wait for your kids to bring it up? What if they never bring it up? Is that something that we just—it comes out at the dinner table?
Jessica: I think that you need to know your kids; okay?
Jessica: So, this is not a one-size-fits-all answer. You need to know the way your different kids operate. For my daughter, when she talked to me about it—and she was—what?—seven. My boys never did that. So, you need to know your kids: you need to know how to communicate with them; you need to know when to communicate with them.
Most of all, you need to be available to communicate with them; you know? Put down your phone and look at them in the face—I’m talking to myself, right there. It isn’t just a one-time conversation, but you have to find ways to bring it up if they’re not. If they are bringing it up, then you need to sit down and stop what you’re doing—no matter what it is. I mean, there’s not a lot that’s going to be more important than talking to them about this.
Bob: You know, they are bombarded, like we’ve said. It’s all around them at school. It’s around them—it’s what their friends are talking about. It’s in the wrestling locker room, where everybody is looking at porn. It’s aggressive girls with boys; it’s aggressive boys with girls. This is the reality they are living in.
I think, as parents, we just have to be aware: “It’s a jungle. It’s a battle that they are going into every day.” If we think, “Well, we had that conversation six months ago; so I’m sure they are fine,”—no; you’ve got to be having this conversation the 20 times, because they are facing it daily in the world that they are living in.
Jessica: Not even just like, “Oh,”—like, I can hear parents thinking, in their mind, right now—“well, their kids go to public school.” [Laughter] Listen, please don’t think that, because you homeschool, your kids are not exposed to porn.
Jessica: Please don’t think that, because you have the Circle from Disney on your internet, your kids can’t find porn—they can. I’ve heard story, after story, after story of parents—who’ve put safeguards on their computers/of parents who only homeschool, whose kids only go to church—I’ve heard story, after story, after story of parents finding out that their kids have seen pornography on the computer.
Ann: Well, let’s get into this a little bit; because parents, today, are facing something that no other generation has faced; and that is, the social media world. Talk about that and “How can we help our kids?” Let’s talk to the parents, because they are desperate for answers.
Jessica: Right; I think we’re going to keep going back to the same thing over, and over, and over again. We need to give our kids something better than a like on social media.
Jessica: We need to give them something that is key to their identity—
Ann: What is that?
Jessica: —it’s the love of God.
Joel: Yes; that’s good.
Jessica: The love of God for sinners. What builds their identity, right now, is whether or not they get 200 likes on their Instagram® photo. You need to be building their identity, telling them: “There is something better than that. There is something lasting for you.” Again, it’s not just grabbing the knife out of their hand—it’s: “Let me replace that knife with something that’s more beautiful; and that is, the love of God. Nothing beats it.”
Bob: You know if I was having a conversation with a teenager today—or a preteen—I think I might say, “Would you someday like to have a smartphone?” They go, “Yes; I can’t wait until I have a smartphone.” I say: “So, let’s say I gave you the good gift of a smartphone today—right today, you could have a smartphone; and you said: ‘This is wonderful. I can’t wait to go swimming and take my smartphone with me when I go swimming.’”
I would say: “Well, now, wait. That’s not how the smartphone is designed to be used. In fact, you could do damage to your smartphone if you take it swimming; so you need to be really careful. The smartphone needs to be something that you pay attention to what the manufacturer said about how it ought to be used, so it can keep functioning for you. But if you try to go swimming with your smartphone, you’re going to go, ‘Oh, I messed up my smartphone.’ Now, if you mess up your smartphone, there is grace,”—right? We don’t want to say, “You do permanent damage and, now, you can never have a smartphone again.”
“But you just need to recognize: ‘This is something that is a good gift; but it’s designed to be used in a certain way. If you use it outside of that way, it won’t work the way it’s supposed to work, and you’ll be unhappy.’”
Joel: Yes; yes. I think this especially goes back to things like social media, because social media—
Ann: Are your kids on social media?
Ann: Okay; that’s what I wanted to find out.
Joel: My 12-year-old isn’t, and there are reasons for that; but my 15-year-old is. For me, a really important thing is to be on Instagram with my kids—
Joel: —right?—not so that I can track them/not so that I—but so that I understand what’s going on in their lives. I see who their friends are; what their friends post about. I’m friends with a lot of my daughter’s friends on Instagram; because they love my social media feed, because it’s weird and it’s funny. They go on there and like laugh at the things we do together; right? What I’m doing is—I’m participating in something that they love.
Ann: So, you’re entering their world.
Joel: I’m entering their world, and I’m not condemning them for what they are doing on it. I tell this to every kid, who I’ve followed on Instagram—or who follows me—“If I see you do something stupid, I’m just going to call you out on it”; right? “I mean, you just know that”; but I don’t condemn.
What I do is—I enter in, and I have fun with her on it. Then we’re able to talk about it; we’re able to discuss it. I can see when her mood shifts when she doesn’t get all the likes that she would like to get.
Ann: And is that conversation?
Joel: She and I can talk about that—
Joel: —and say, “Hey, I can just see this.” I mean, look—as parents, what are we talking about?—we’re talking about being clued into your kids’ lives. I mean, this is just what you need to do.
The reality is that social media isn’t the problem. Sin is the problem; right? Social media isn’t the enemy—sin is the enemy; the devil is the enemy. Social media—things like video games that your kids play, where they like to do group chats on that—that’s the way kids hang out now; that’s their friend group. That’s the way they communicate, so be involved.
Dave: I would add this—as I read your book, I could see you, as parents, are involved; and number two, at the end of the chapter, I love the “Note to Dads”/“Note to Moms”—really helpful. You’re speaking to men; you’re speaking to women. I think it’s so easy, as a parent, to almost disengage. We’re almost afraid—
Dave: —of what we’ll find, so the great way to engage is to disengage—terrible—but we do that.
I’ll never forget, as a young dad, learning I should be checking the computer—just even the history. I remember going down and looking at it and finding porn—
Dave: —and going to Ann and saying, “I found this on our computer.” We set—we had an idea who it might be—the oldest. We asked him; and he said, “Yes.” I’ll never forget that day; because I had always thought, “What will my response be the day I discover this?”
Dave: It wasn’t if; it was when—that’s the world we live in. When he said it was him, I started weeping.
Dave: It was because I’ve been there. I looked at him and I said: “CJ, you don’t know what box you just opened.
Dave: “It is something that does not go away.
Dave: “It could be a struggle the rest of your life.” It started a conversation that’s never ended—
Joel: Right; right.
Dave: —for the last 30 years, where we, as father/son, battle this area together. It was actually a good thing—that we can travel together.
Bob: And here’s a great teaching point for all of us, as moms and dads: “Are you ready for that day when…?
Bob: “Do you know what your conversation’s going to be? Don’t wait for it to happen and, then, go, ‘Now, what do I say?’—
Bob: —“but think, now: ‘What do I want that conversation to look like?’ and ‘What should it be?’”
I look back on my conversation with my son about that and go: “I wish had done things differently.
Bob: “I wish I had said, ‘I have to struggle with these same temptations,’” rather than saying, ‘Okay; these are the consequences,’ and ‘You’re grounded for this long... You’ve got to memorize these verses...’”
I just want to read—because Chapter 6 in your book is all about social media—
Bob: —it’s a—“Comments and Likes” I think is what you call it—“Likes and Comments.”
At the end—the talking points, Dave, that you were talking about—you say things like this: “Social media is not necessarily good or bad. It’s how we use it and what we do with it that makes it good or bad.”
Bob: You say:
We’ve got to find our identity in what God says about us instead of how many likes and comments we get from a post.
Affirm your kids for more than their physical appearance because so much of what’s going on in social media is “Hot” or “Not”—
Bob: Ask your children if they enjoy social media and what they get out
Every emotional need we desire is fulfilled in what Christ has done for us. Then, justification will help your child find his or her settled self. They need to understand that their identity is not in what the peer group affirms or doesn’t affirm on social media; it’s in who they are in Christ.
Joel and Jessica: Right.
Jessica: Right. That is a conversation—again, here’s another one—a conversation you need to be having with your kids over, and over, and over again: “What does Christ say about you? Because of Christ’s work for you, what does God look at you and think?—you are hidden in Christ’s work,”—sharing that with your kids, even in the middle of their sin.
I think, a lot of times, as parents, we like to use, maybe, the guilt they’re feeling as a way to try and change their behavior. Free them from that—give them what God has given you: forgiveness of sins.
Joel: Yes; I think that there’s the sense in which dads—we have a special place in representing God, the Father, to our kids. Obviously, it’s not a perfect analogy; but we have this special place, where affirming our kids for things other than just what they look like is so important—telling our daughters—like: “Honey, you are strong; and I notice that in you”; “Honey, you’re so brave for doing that, and I notice that in you. That’s just a picture of the bravery that Christ has shown”; “Honey, you’re a beautiful artist. Isn’t that so great that, in your artistry, you get to be like God in His creativity?—and you get to show the world that.” Affirming them in that really helps to decouple their humanity with what they look like.
Ann: Well, it’s funny—I have a picture of that when our son was—one of our sons was 18. He’s getting ready to go off to college; but it was spring, and I could tell—as you were saying it—I know my kids, and I could tell he wasn’t in a great place.
Ann: He came into the bedroom, and he was getting ready for bed. I just said: “Hey, I just want you to know you’re amazing. God is going to use—you’re a leader; you’re passionate. When you speak, people listen to you. I can tell, when you go somewhere, people want to follow you.”
He’s like, “Whatever, Mom.” He left the room, and he came back—he said, “I’m not that person”; and he was crying. I said: “No; you are. You are that person.” He goes: “No; I’m not. I just got wasted. I partied last weekend, and I got drunk for the first time. That’s who I am, Mom.” I said, “That’s”—as I was trying to hold myself together—like, “What the heck?!”
Jessica: You’re wanting to strangle him and encourage him at the same time.
Ann: Exactly; but I did say: “That’s not who you are. That’s what you did.”
Ann: But I think it’s easy—we need that, as adults—
Ann: —we need reminders of: “This is who we are in Christ.
Ann: “He died for us. He loves us, and there is nothing we could do that would make Him not love us.”
Bob: Well, and I think the great lesson for us, here, in this conversation we’ve had this week is: “We’ve got to, as parents, be intentional, and strategic, and purposeful. We’ve got to start young, and we’ve got to not quit.”
I mean, we may think: “Well, they are 15/they’re 16. They don’t want to hear about…”—no; you’ve got to keep having conversations. You’ve got to keep pressing in; you’ve got to keep asking questions. You’ve got to keep talking about your own challenges, and your own temptations.
You guys—Joel and Jessica—give us a blueprint for how we can do that in the book, Mom, Dad…What’s Sex?. We’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to request your copy of the book; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order by phone. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
By the way, I should mention this—Jessica is featured in the Art of Parenting™ video series—a lot of great input in that series from Jessica. You can order the Art of Parenting from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. The kit includes your copy of the movie, Like Arrows. It’s [the series is] great for use in small groups, or church studies, or just for you and your spouse to go through together.
Look for information on the Art of Parenting small group series when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Then, of course, we’ve got the Passport2Purity® resource that we’ve designed for parents to help give you something that is interactive—something you can use to jump start conversations with your preteen on the issues of sexuality. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for information on all of these resources; or call, if you have any questions—1-800-FL-TODAY is the number—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Well, a lot for us to kind of grapple with and digest today as we think about the important call, as parents, to teach our children about sex. We’ve got the President of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, with us again today.
David: Hey, Bob; good to be here. You know, I think what Jessica and Joel have been exhorting us to this week is really the call to take God’s truth to others—in our family or homes around us—but it’s really putting the glory of God on display for others to see it—it’s an exhortation to families.
At FamilyLife, we’re not about providing great resources just for the sake of having good resources—and we’re not about having great resources that can help families simply be happy and healthy but, ultimately, isolated and self-absorbed—because that’s not God’s better story. As they talked about today, it’s about crafting a better story. We believe God has called us to help equip families to enter into His better story—a story where families know Him, find their identities in what He says about them, and who are seeking to help other families discover and live into that grander narrative of God’s kingdom.
One of the ways it starts is like the conversation today of helping families navigate the realities of what culture says about sex and finding our identity in Jesus; or maybe, it’s not being held captive by social media like we discussed—but those are all means to an end. Ultimately, we want every family to thrive and participate in God’s grander story of making much of Jesus.
I just want to say: “Thank you. Thank you for being a part of FamilyLife and pursuing this better story of building God’s kingdom together.”
Bob: Yes; we appreciate those of you who partner with us in the work of this ministry. Thanks, David.
We hope you can join us back again tomorrow. We’re going to talk about issues facing blended families. In fact, we’re going to tell you about a brand-new podcast that FamilyLife Today is putting together. Our friend, Ron Deal, has a new podcast called FamilyLife Blended. We’ll tell you all about it and listen in together to a part of Episode 1 tomorrow. I hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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