Q. How do I talk to my kids about the facts of life, from a Jewish perspective?

A. Talking to your child about physical intimacy can be difficult, scary, and certainly awkward, but it is absolutely necessary.

It gives you the chance to connect with your son or daughter on a very personal level for him/her. It also sets the stage for future conversations on difficult topics. And it gives you the opportunity to have input in one of the most important areas of your child's life.

You can use this discussion to touch on many themes, including responsibility, pleasure, body image, holiness, God, Torah, instant gratification, premarital sex, fun versus joy, love, marriage, healthy boy-girl relationships, domestic violence, respect for others and for self, and self discipline.

Most of life's issues are a part of a talk about intimacy.

In fact, most of life's issues are a part of this talk. If done well, your conversation can lead to a series of discussions. The catch, of course, is those three words: "if done well."

To help it go well, keep in mind some basic rules:

  • Use a matter of fact style; don't be too heavy or dramatic
  • Do not preach
  • Respect your child; this will be reflected in the serious way you speak to her, and in the way you respond to her comments
  • Be warm in your approach
  • Don't overdo it; pay attention to any signals that your child may be sending and back off if he needs you to.
  • Tailor approach to your child -- each is different and a talk with an 8-year-old cannot be the same as that with 10-year-old or 14-year-old or 16-year-old.


When tailoring you approach, you might think about some of the following:

The Torah views sexual relations between husband and wife as the deepest form of knowledge. It is the most intimate knowing of the other -- an extension of love, a deepening of love. Sex in marriage has always been considered a mitzvah in Judaism. It is the mitzvah of giving pleasure, of building and strengthening a marriage, and at times, of creating a human being.

Physical relations are a gift from God, the gift of emotional closeness, the physical expression of a committed, loving relationship. Judaism is clear about premarital intimacy -- this gift is given to strengthen and build marriage. Intimacy without committed love may be pleasurable but is superficial. Sexuality can be incredibly powerful, but must be merged with holiness to give it meaning.

Sexuality can be incredibly powerful, but must be merged with holiness to give it meaning.

The power of sexuality, according to Judaism, when used appropriately, helps individuals and couples grow; it enhances their sense of self and brings a spirit of holiness to their home. The same act engaged in for fun, is just that, fun. But fun can also be harmful -- it can water down the power of intimacy, lower the individuals, and bring an inner sense of shame.

Such ideas are probably too sophisticated for an 8-year-old. However, all children can be told about the differences between boys and girls and the incredible wisdom of the Creator. They can be introduced to the idea that pleasure is a gift which should be used at the right time and under the right circumstances -- when the gift can have the most meaning.

Whatever your child's age, you should talk about these concepts with enthusiasm, with the joy of how much God must love us to share this Eden-like experience with us, and with seriousness, conveying the gravity of the holiness of sexual intimacy.