by Tess Frohock
“SEX!?” Talking about sex with our children can be one of most frightening things we face as parents. As both a parent of three young daughters and a youth pastor, I think often about future conversations about sex with my girls and anxiously embrace every opportunity I have to begin the discussion now. In her book Facing “The Talk”: Conversations with My Four Daughters About Sex Wendy Elizabeth Chapin narrates her experiences and various approaches of talking about sex with her four daughters. I find Chapin’s narration and perspective refreshing, written with humility and wisdom and much-needed in a world where parents and churches are taking a back seat to media when it comes to defining sex for children.
As if talking to a friend, Chapin offers candid advice from a Christian perspective on how to get the conversations going about sex and sexuality with young girls. She shares her efforts, both her successes and missteps, on her journey to communicate honestly with her daughters. Throughout the book almost every topic involving sex and sexuality for girls is discussed—from PMS to homosexuality to wearing make-up and everything in between. Chapin also inserts #facingthetalk and #selfcare boxes to give advice, help the reader understand more of her conversations and to encourage the reader to care for their mental and emotional state as they face “the talk” with their own children.
The majority of the book retells stories from Chapin’s intentional getaways where she took each of her daughters individually on two trips for the purpose of talking about sex. The first getaway she entitles the “How-To Sex Talk” and the second she describes as the “How-Not-To Sex Talk.” Although some of the specific conversations she narrates are a bit long and oversimplified, they are helpful for understanding her various approaches. And the fact that she took each of her four daughters on two, multiple-day getaways to talk about sex is distinctive. What parent would not want to hear what she learned?
Before I first opened the book I was pretty sure Chapin was going to attempt to provide some form of instructions on how to have the perfect “sex talk” with my daughters. But Chapin does not intend to provide right answers in her narration. Having the right answers, she contends, is not the point. The book points to the fact that all we need is to be intentional to talk about sex in a way that leads our children to understand more of God’s creative goodness in the world. Throughout the book Chapin typically maintains a conservative Christian view of sex in her conversations with her daughters; however, parents of all traditions can glean wisdom from Chapin’s grace-filled conversations.
More than anything I appreciate Chapin’s honest discussion of her struggle to overcome fear and shame due to her difficult past. She writes about her conversations with her daughters around her own fear and shame. She also shares the story of one of her daughters’ personal struggles with sexual shame. In this narrative we see how she surrounded her daughter with love and grace when she was full of regret. I am grateful for Chapin’s transparency on a topic that is too often ignored.
As much as I enjoyed reading about Chapin’s conversations with her daughters I think the resources provided at the back of the book may be equally as much of an asset. In Appendix A Chapin provides a large selection of resources for facing “the talk” at various ages. I plan on using a few of these resources with my own children and look forward to doing more research on each of them.
Overall, Facing “The Talk” is a useful resource for Christian parents with daughters and youth pastors working with female adolescents. I plan to keep it nearby for reference in the years to come.
by Tess Frohock