Quick poll, dads. When the topic of sex comes up from your daughter, what is your response?
- Run for the Man Cave.
- Say “Go ask your mom.” from behind your tablet while in your recliner. (Because no one reads a newspaper anymore.)
- Look at your wife and ask her why she didn’t cover this in The Talk.
- Ask about the boy she’s obviously seeing and threaten his life.
If you selected any of the above answers, this article is for you.
There is, hands down, no other man in your daughter’s life that wields as much power and influence as you, dad. From the early stages of being a toddler right through the teenage years, your daughter has imprinted on you as a force in her life. While I would never presume on the influence of a mother’s love for her daughter, I am clearly in a position to speak to men.
I’ve spent the better part of 35 years working with teenagers. I personally have two daughters (17 and 21) whom I’ve raised with my wife. I’ve made mistakes along the way. I’ve said things I shouldn’t have and not spoken up when I desperately needed to. I’ve watched teen girls come and go from my ministry and from my house during parties and overnighters. I’ve counseled teen girls and their parents. I’ve heard a lot. I’ve seen a lot. Bottom line: It all comes back to you, dad.
Your daughter’s self-image and how she sees the opposite sex stems from the kind of relationship she has with you. So, it’s a no-brainer that her views about sex and her own sexuality will be greatly influenced by you as well.
Honestly, there’s a growing segment of women that would argue this point with me. With a world of deadbeat dads and passive fathers, we’ve shot ourselves in the foot to have much of a voice in this conversation. I don’t blame them for being wary of much of what men have to say about relating to daughters. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But, since I’m not a dead-beat dad and I fight passivity with every ounce of my being, I feel the freedom to speak to this issue.
My goal is to write this to dads. I’m going to give pointers, examples and some simple steps to take. Guys love that stuff. If you’re a dad, welcome. If you’re a female reader, please underline, highlight, write in the margins, and pass along to the dads in your life.
As dads, we must become much more involved in the conversation about sex and relationships with our daughters. We are in a great position to give advice that’s helpful for our daughters. Here are four attitudes to have when approaching conversations with your daughters about sex.
Four Healthy Attitudes About Sex Education With Your Daughter
- Be tastefully transparent about your own intimate relationship with your wife.
A picture truly is worth a thousand words. You can talk all day long about how a guy should treat a girl, but your daughter is going to learn this lesson by watching you engage with our spouse. Make sure your daughter sees and hears your care and affection toward your wife.
When it comes to sex, you can be transparent without it getting weird and inappropriate. While my wife and I will take appropriate steps to hide our sexual escapades from our girls, I refuse to apologize for my sexual relationship with my wife. There have been times when my wife and I have openly told our girls to make plans for the evening because their parents have made plans for the evening. That is usually followed by an “ew” and “get a room” to which I reply “We do have a room and we’re not afraid to use it.”
This kind of friendly banter takes the edge off the conversation, but sends a very clear message; sex is important to married couples. It shows your kids the value of a healthy sex life and normalizes the act of sex. It removes levels of shame that can be associated with sex being minimized and constantly hidden from them.
- Be non-judgmental about their questions and views.
Your daughters have questions that you need to answer. Your wife can cover the basic anatomy questions and give a woman’s perspective on relating to boys. But, you have a treasure trove of insight into the male brain.
When your daughter asks questions about relating to guys, flirting with guys and responding to guys, you can give honest assessments and advice. If your daughter is asking about affection, discussing desire or talking about things she’s learning from her peers, don’t run! It’s a test as to whether or not she can trust you to give her advice versus responding to her supposed behavior.
I remember sitting at the table talking with my younger daughter about her boyfriend. We were discussing her struggle with feelings since her guy was getting ready to travel abroad for a semester. My mind immediately went to what she meant by “struggle”.
My mind was racing, assuming the worst about their physical relationship. But, I had to step back and keep the conversation open. We talked about the challenges of getting involved physically with guys. I shared my own struggles as a guy when my wife and I were dating and were miles apart for months. We talked about the moral stance our family had taken. It was a win for me and left the door open for future conversations.
- Don’t assume the worst about your daughters or the guys they date.
The tendency is for us to become defensive or to question their motives when our daughters talk about the boys they are interested in. We may even deflect the questions to our mistrust of the boys in question. This doesn’t help our cause. This merely shuts down any future conversations you may be able to have with your daughter later. Listen, share your stories and give advice that shows trust and assumes the best about your daughter and her ability to make good decisions.
Not every man wants to get into your daughter’s pants. Your daughter isn’t itching to lose her virginity to the first guy that comes along. Your daughter is learning about relating to the opposite sex. Help her set boundaries and give her space to explore relating to the opposite sex. Communicate your availability to talk that feels safe for her. When she makes mistakes, walk with her through it.
- Be available to talk about uncomfortable issues
This is hard for dads. This is hard for girls! It can get awkward at times. It’s only awkward because we’ve not normalized the conversations about sex in our families.
When we normalize sex conversations with our kids, we remove the barriers of communication about sexual issues.
I remember a time talking with my oldest daughter about getting married. We were discussing the fun side of sex and she brought up that she knew we had fun because she found her mom’s vibrator under the bed next to the wrapping paper (I’ll admit, it probably was not the best place to store it.)
I remember looking at my wife who was visibly shocked. Without missing a beat, I walked right into that conversation and told her there were more where that came from. I told her that we enjoyed our sex life and loved being creative in the bedroom.
I felt pride at that moment. My then 20-year-old daughter felt comfortable talking about her discovery with us. I was also proud of myself for not leaving the table to let my wife have the conversation.
Was it uncomfortable? Absolutely. But, it became a defining moment for my daughter and me and communicated my willingness to talk about sex openly with her.
- Peer instruction if left as the stand-alone isn’t good instruction.
You must be living under a rock if you don’t think your kids are learning about sex from their friends. The things my daughters have shown me and told me about conversations they’ve had or overheard at school can make your toes curl. Many parents skip sex conversations entirely, assuming their kids are learning what they need at school.
The problem with depending solely on peer training for sex-related topics is akin to the blind leading the blind. Misinformation can be dangerous and scarring. I speak from experience. My own lack of information and misinformation growing up, destroyed YEARS of healthy sex with my wife.
Five Key Moves
Now, let me give you five key moves in having conversations with your daughter.
- Apologize for former mistakes
If you’ve been passive up to this point, simply apologize to your daughter for not being more of a help in the area of sex and relationships. Let her know you’re going to be more open and honest and trusting with the topic because it’s important to your relationship.
- Have the conversations
There have been times when the topic of sex turned awkward and uncomfortable. Our teenagers have a tendency to shut us down as parents when it comes to these uncomfortable conversations. Don’t let this discourage you. There have been times my daughters have responded to me with plugging their ears but later have thanked me for being open about the topic. If they keep coming back and asking, you’re headed in the right direction.
- Don’t defer instruction to your spouse (breakups, new beaus, etc)
Again, your wife knows the female body better than you. But, you have a lot to offer when it comes to a breakup, new boyfriends and dating and relating. Lean into these conversations and don’t place all of this on your spouse.
- Stay classy. It’s not locker room talk.
While it may be more comfortable to use locker room talk when talking about sex with your kids, they need you to be the grown-up. They get plenty of crude talk from their peers. You need to take the high road and talk logically and tactfully when it comes to the topic of sex.
- Don’t apologize for your own sexuality.
You are a sexual being. You understand needs, desires, and passions. Never apologize or hide this fact from your kids. The more you can normalize sex for them, the more comfortable they will be in talking with you about it.
Your teenage daughter needs you, dad. You have so much to offer when it comes to topics of sex and relating to boys. Your wisdom and concern for this area of her life will speak volumes to her about her worth and your interest in her as a whole person. You can either live with the regret of conversations not had, or you can watch as the young girl under your care walks into womanhood with a solid foundation on her sexuality and healthy view of sex as she enters into her own sexual experiences.