Safe Spaces for Tough Topics

written by Dave Howe
4 · 17 · 23

“Worthwhile Warning To Grandparents #18: “Please don’t initiate conversations about death, religion, or sex with your grandchildren.” 1 This quote comes from Jay Payleitner’s new book, Hooray for Grandparents! This is a great book, especially for soon-to-become grandparents. Grandchildren grow quickly, so you want to be well prepared. Number 18 is one of his many great warnings Jay has in the book’s Worthwhile Warnings list. 

I understand Jay’s concern. These are sensitive topics you want to clear with the parents before discussing them with your grandchildren. You want to agree about what can and can’t be talked about and how it is to be done.

Dr. Josh Mulvilhill gives a similar warning to grandparents in his book, Preparing Children for Marriage: How to Teach God’s Good Design for Marriage, Sex, Purity, and Dating. I’ll talk about his book later.

“The Talk” is obsolete.

Dispel the thought that you can’t talk about sexual things until a child is about 13 years old when it becomes necessary to have “the talk.” You might ask, “Why can’t we wait to talk about sex, or can we not talk about it at all?” We need to talk about it because our society is hard at work, bombarding the kids with unhealthy, unbiblical information every day on TV, movies, and on their phones.  

We can no longer wait to have “the talk” because by then it will be too late. They’ll already have compiled their own information and opinions about love, dating and marriage. Either we help shape their views, or society will. There is a clear, urgent need to impart the biblical view of sexuality to children, but how do we do it? 

Take a new approach.

Paint a vision for your grandkids’ future. What if we talked about men and women in terms of God’s design for marriage? This type of conversation can happen at a very early age. Talks like these start quite naturally. 

Dr. Mulvihill suggests grandparents should communicate three things to adult children.

  1. Tell your adult child that you have been given an important role by God to disciple your grandchild. You may want to show your adult child Deuteronomy 4:9 and 6:2. 
  2. Tell your adult child that one way you want to invest in your grandchild is to help him or her prepare for marriage.
  3. Ask for permission and discuss how your adult child would like you to be involved. 2

Talk with young grandchildren about their future marriage. 

 Try these conversation starters: 

  1. How many kids do you think you and your wife would like to have when you get married? 
  2. What kinds of activities would you like to do with your kids? Would you take them skiing in the mountains of Colorado? 
  3. What kind of house would you like to live in with your wife and family? 

Season your conversations with affirming statements, such as: 

  • You and I love fishing. It would be awesome if someday you had a cabin on a lake and could take your kids and your wife out fishing and boating.
  • We’ve been going to the same lake area together every summer since you were three years old. I would love to see you continue this tradition with your own grandchildren.

Sometimes my grandson just starts talking about the log house on a lake he would like to have for his family, or the kind of cars he wants to own. You may ask, “But, were you talking about biblical sexuality?” Of course I was! I have been talking about a man and a woman getting married and having children as described in the Bible. Without giving a biology class, I have talked about it. I don’t think any Christian parent would object to this. I have reinforced the marriage of one man and one woman raising their children. 

Be a safe place for grandkids to talk about anything.

When your grandchild asks you a direct question about sexuality, turn it around and ask a question: “Tell me, what do you know about sex now?” You don’t really know what they have experienced, been told, or found online. This is your opportunity to ask. If they have had some type of sexual experience they probably are dealing with shame and have questions. 

Don’t shut down the conversation by getting angry. Create a safe environment, show love and grace without excusing sin. Listen, then consider what you’ve agreed to with his parents. Be sure to make yourself a safe person to talk to about sexuality. Thank your grandchild for sharing that with you. You can follow it up with prayer. Let mom and dad know that he has some questions.

Don’t be intimidated. They may have simple questions about bodily changes when they are 12 or 13 years of age. Perhaps, they are starting to feel emotions about the opposite sex they never felt before, and simply want to talk about it for reassurance. 

Concluding thoughts:

I encourage you and your spouse to have a discussion about these ideas. You might also discuss it during a small group for couples, grandparents, or others at church. Here are a few questions to help navigate the topic. 

  1. Have you had a conversation with the parents of your grandkids about the topic of sex? What was their reaction? Did you come up with a plan? If so, what was it? 
  2. What are some of the ways you bring up the subject of sexuality or future marriage with the grandkids?
  3. How can we make the discussion of future marriage quite natural and fun with the grandkids?
  4. What are some of the things grandkids have said to you that started a conversation about marriage, dating, crushes, or their future spouses and children?


1 Payleitner, Jay. “Hooray for Grandparents!”  San Francisco, Chronicle Books, September 6, 2022, 75.

2 Mulvihill, Josh.  “Preparing Children for Marriage: How to Teach God’s Good Design for Marriage, Sex, Purity, and Dating,” Phillipsburg, New Jersey, R&R Publishing, September 29, 2017, 240.

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Dave Howe

Dave Howe is an author, group leader, speaker, musician, consultant and retreat leader. Howe co-founded a men’s purity group at his church and led it for 10 years. He felt compelled to share what he had learned to help even more men find their freedom in Christ around the world. He wrote a devotional/workbook called: Live Pure and Free- The 90 Day Game Changer. Visit his website at


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1 Comment

  1. Laura W Roesler

    This blog post gives such an easy-going way to talk with your grandchildren about our closest relationships in life. I never would have thought about bringing this topic up with my grandsons. The suggestions here make me feel that I could have meaningful conversations with them about it now.


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