Teaching children about sexual orientation and gender

We’re created in God’s image from the beginning—it isn’t a status that we acquire when we come “of age.”

Being created in God’s image means that each human being is given the gift of sexuality, which includes gender, sexual attraction, and the way we express both our sexual orientation and our gender.

As young people grow and mature, adults have a responsibility to provide them with accurate information about sexuality as well as a context for developing positive attitudes and respectful, responsible values related to sexuality.  Few of us have had good role models to show us how to do this.

Here are some ideas and resources to enhance your skills at having age-appropriate conversations about sexuality with children and youth.

Children need caring adults

Children need caring adults as guides as they learn about their bodies and about relationships, gender, and sexual orientation.  Adults can have a powerful impact by:

  • Listening to young people’s questions, providing accurate answers, and helping them sort through the mixed messages they receive. (Check out our Glossary to help you get clear on language.)
  • Modeling openness and respect and standing up for the rights of each person.
  • Affirming that each person, regardless of differences in gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, is a beloved child of God.

Open and caring conversations about sexuality help children build a foundation of acceptance—acceptance of themselves and of others—from an early age.

Where to look for more information

All God’s Children—Teaching Children about Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity

Childhood Developmental Characteristics & Basic Messages About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

It’s Not the Stork! A Book about Girls, Boys, Bodies, Families and Friends, Robie Harris and Michael Emberley, Candlewick Press,(2008) For children aged 4 – 8

It’s So Amazing: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies & Families,Robie Harris and Michael Emberley, Candlewick Press,(1999) For children aged 7 and older. Helps children with issues that are on their minds and provides adults with the language to share with them.

It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health, Robie Harris and Michael Emberley, Candlewick Press,(1994) For children aged 10 and older.

Ultimately, we want our children and youth to grow up to be sexually healthy adults.  Openness and guidance from caring adults can nudge young people toward that goal.

Along the way, be open, be honest. Remember you are living, breathing, loving examples as you both talk the talk and walk the walk.

Your example is important because faith, values, and beliefs about people, sexuality, and relationships are caught as well as taught.  Boldly take on the awesome responsibility of being a guide to young people in the process of exploring the wondrous gift of being created in God’s image!