On Having “The Talk”: Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
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Justin & Lindsey HolcombJustin and Lindsey live in Orlando and are parents of two young children, for whom they wrote this book. Justin is a minister and seminary professor. Lindsey now works at home, but previously served as a case manager at a sexual assault crisis center and a domestic violence shelter. Together they conduct a variety of training seminars to service providers, churches, and organizations about how to prevent, recognize, and respond to child, sexual, and domestic abuse. Lindsey earned a Master of...more
When it comes to having “the Talk,” where do you start? Authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb hand parents pointers for establishing healthy sexual worldview.
On Having “The Talk”: Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
Justin: I yelled at one of my girls on the way to school, and I barked at them, and I felt bad, so I drove back a half-hour later [Laughter] and I took her out of class. Like hey, they were like what are you doing here and I’m like I need to apologize. I can’t, I can’t even go throughout my day [Laughter] feeling guilty. I can’t believe how horrible your day is going to be, just feeling the way like I left you in the car like that. I’m so sorry, so she was like “I forgive you.” “Will you forgive me?” “I will forgive you.” Then she went and told her at lunch. One of her classmates said, “Why did your dad come back? Did you forget something? Did you forget your lunch?” “Oh no, he came back to apologize.” [Laughter] And, the whole table was like, “What!”
Dave: Welcome to FamilyLife® Today. Where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Dave Wilson.
Ann: And I’m Ann Wilson and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® App.
Dave: This is FamilyLife Today.
We live in a day and age where our children are going to be exposed to questions, images about sex at an earlier and earlier age. It just seems like it gets younger and younger every year.
Ann: It was so interesting, I was watching a movie on the plane, kind of a teenage coming of age movie and —
Dave: —I saw you over there watching that movie.
Ann: This was a while ago though--.
Dave: I saw you over there, like oh she is watching another teenage—
Ann: —Yes, because these girls—
Ann: — were maybe 13 and they had these questions about, “Oh, what does this term mean and what is this?” And what do they do, they Google it or most likely they will YouTube™it. If kids don’t know questions or their parents aren’t talking about it, they are YouTubing it. So that is where their education about sexuality is coming from and I don’t know what you think but I think that is a scary thing, because the misconceptions, the ideas that they have, are not biblical based and God is the creator of this beautiful gift that He has given us, and our kids are just being warped. We’ve, I’ve been warped.
Dave: I think as parents we are scared to death. We know we have got to do something. We know we have got to step in there and yet. We are afraid and we don’t know what to do. We have got a couple in the studio that is going to help us out today. You are going to coach us and coach our parents. Justin and Lindsey Holcomb are back in the studio. You have written a book about this but more importantly your mom —
Ann: —lots of books about this.
Dave: —you’re a mom and dad. A whole bunch of books about this topic but welcome back.
Justin: It’s good to be back. Thank you —
Lindsey: Thanks guys—
Dave: You sit over there and you’re smiling as we talk about this [Laughter]. But how do you coach a parent to step into that conversation because as Ann says, it’s happening at a younger age, what the social media world is showing our kids is really scary. So how do you coach a parent to step into that?
Justin: Well, pick your pain. That is the phrase that we use. There are a few things from the previous conversation; go back and listen to that stuff if this is the first time you are getting because some of the stuff you need to hear from there, but picking your pain is the idea. You can either pick the pain of the awkwardness that many parents would feel of having conversations about how babies are made with their child. For various reasons that Lindsey talked about, and we talk about, perhaps it is guilt, because of what you have done. You feel icky, dirty because something has been done to you. You feel ashamed. Talking about this activates some old emotions, pains, wounds, your awkwardness. So being aware that is yours and not your kids. Most parents have some kind of guilt or shame connected to sex.
Ann: I was going to ask is that why it can be awkward?
Justin: Yes, that’s why it is awkward.
Lindsey: —because it is associated to our background.
Justin: As the parent, that is where you sacrifice. Parents sacrifice all the time. They sacrifice time, money, energy, emotion for their children. Think of this as a proper sacrifice for your child. I’m going to sacrifice some guilt or shame or awkwardness to actually be here to parent, and coach and teach, and train up, and disciple my child on this issue. And so, giving them that category, it is a sacrifice. You might have to go back to something from years or decades ago of guilt. Like who am I?
Most parents, the awkwardness isn’t because they are just bumbling around, or this is weird. It is actually hitting home. It is fearful, not just awkward. It is terrifying for most parents to think about having these conversations because they have to go to, “Yes, I did some stuff when I was 14, 15, 21, 30, last night, that I am not qualified to have this conversation.”
The biggest fear I have is regret. I’ve made decisions now, I sacrifice now because I want to avoid regret in the future. I don’t want my daughters to be like, “Dad, why don’t you pray with us?” Like why don’t you teach us about the Bible? Why don’t you talk to us about boys and girls and life and money and sex? Like, what were you doing?” If I am distracted or I don’t want to, it’s too painful for me, so pick your pain. It’s going to be pain now or it’s going to be pain later and that pain later sounds overwhelmingly horrible.
I think having that big picture can be helpful for parents to encourage them. We are not trying to dump guilt on parents. We are trying to say hey, God gave them to you. He entrusted them to you. Think through how you can best steward that trust that He gave you.
Ann: Justin, when you talk about your girls, who are 12 and 13, every time you are emotional [Laughter] and then I get emotional [Laughter]—
Lindsey: — And I am over here crying.
Ann: I know we are all over here wiping tears [Laughter]. You are so passionate about them.
Dave: It is beautiful! It really is.
Ann: — and you are passionate about this topic too, which I feel like we all need to be because our kids’ lives and their futures are at stake with this.
Ann: Lindsey, you have experienced -- you have been an advocate for sexual abuse survivors. This is kind of your ballpark. Is that why you are so passionate about it because you have walked that path?
Lindsey: I think for me just knowing a lot of people’s stories that are close to me. Growing up in a home where nothing was talked about, and my dad was abusive. Then I went on to date an abusive guy. I could have continued on that trajectory. I became a Christian in college and kind of started to realize that I wanted a different life. I wanted a different path then all the women in my family who had abusive husbands who left, and they raised the girls or their children. I could have easily continued on that path.
Now looking at our girls, I’m thinking I want to have as many conversations. I mean our home is not every single second let’s have a really tough conversation [Laughter]. It’s interwoven when we are watching TV, or we are laughing at the dinner table about crazy terms that people use for body parts. We are like, “That is bogus!” or you know at nighttime when one of our daughters is saying, “Hey, I heard the middle school boys joking about this. It seems like a dirty term. Like what is that?” It is interwoven throughout the week.
But it became so important to me, because I think when things happen at a young age or an adolescent to children and it is not discussed, it just lives in darkness, so much shame gets heaped and then that just continues throughout their life. I just think of, if a kid sees something or experiences something then that can frame -they may think that is how it is supposed to be. This is how a woman is supposed to act in marriage or how a husband is supposed to be towards a woman.
Or, in my case, seeing my dad abusive and then dating a bad guy in high school, I didn’t think that was bad until I experienced a healthy relationship. Then I was like, “Oh, that wasn’t normal?” You normalize things when you don’t see the opposite. I think as Christian parents we should talk about sex because we are free because of Jesus. We can have these conversations. It is a beautiful thing! How cool is it to say to our children, “God is sovereign, and He wanted you here. You are so important and so special.” Of course, we don’t want them to walk around thinking that they are a unicorn, like, I’m unique but God had a plan for you.
I was laughing earlier, when we were talking the other day, because I was thinking, when we had this conversation with our girls they were young and we talked about how God took a little bit you or a little bit of mom and a little bit of dad and knit, you know, you into my belly and then we had more and more conversations as they got older. I think when one of our daughters was maybe 10 or 11, she realized, ok, parents have sex to create children but also for pleasure; that blew her mind [Laughter]. She was like, oh my!
Justin: Wait! You’ve done this?
Lindsey: But how cool that we had had so many conversations with her that then she was able to add in that other element of like, ok, this is different. I wasn’t, we had talked about that when she was little, but she had forgotten so we were able to keep adding kind of different things to it. I think for a parent to just encourage them, if your child asks a question, what is that, like if they see a pregnant mom. Often times you could say, “Well what do you think it is?” Like if you feel a little bit awkward and you are not quite sure where to start, ask them a question back, “What do they think?” And then that will give you kind of a launching pad of where to set, start from.
Dave: Then you will find out what they are really asking.
Lindsey: Exactly! And then keep your response short and simple. Nobody wants a long-winded lecture [Laughter]. I think often times parents will set aside a weekend to take their child away, which can be a really beautiful time to connect and bond and talk about some things but don’t just start her in there. That is what I would tell parents. Make it frequent and short and simple.
Dave: I once had a friend of one of our sons say, “Gee Whiz, I guess the way to raise sons that are virgins when they get married is you just talk about sex all the time because every time I’m at the Wilson’s house, you guys talk about this; and I’m like no we don’t. But what he was getting at was a conversation that was comfortable in our home.
Dave: And, again, it wasn’t every day, but it was every week. You know from probably seven, six, seven years old all the way until they got married - even now as grown men and as adult men - and they are married men; they are husbands; they are dads. But it was a conversation that was comfortable. Lindsey and I grew up in homes where we never talked about this. Ann grew up in a home—
Dave: —that sort of talked about this, but she drove this in our home. We are talking about this because it’s not going to be allowed to not talk about it.
Ann: Well, a lot of that came from the pain of my past where I shared yesterday, just living in captivity and those feelings of unworthiness were overwhelming to me. So, I didn’t want our kids to live in the bondage of that. That is what I feel you are saying. Jesus said, “I came to set the captive free.” Our kids are in bondage and as adults I see people in bondage over this. I love that you are like, where do we start? Oh! We start with little kids. That is where we start. It is beautiful!
Dave: But is it like a weekly conversation now with your daughters who are teenagers?
Justin: It is easily multiple times a week. It just emerges because the groundwork was laid early on, where it was intentional. Lindsey was very intentional. I was very intentional to ask questions, “What do you think about that?” One of the key things that Lindsey taught me was and is an example of was ask why they are asking the question. That helps because at least you know where they are coming from. Doing that early on, they would say something, “Well why did you ask that?” because I don’t want to answer a question that they are not actually wondering.
Ann: That is a great question.
Justin: Let that pop up later on.
Justin: So, “Why are you asking that question?” OK, and you do that groundwork, and you keep it simple, you answer the question and then you ask, “Does that make sense to you?” OK, “Yes or no.” “Do you have any other questions? No?” Well, that lets me know I can stop. It’s a little mini conversation and then you go back to talk about the school day or volleyball practice or fishing or whatever. It is woven throughout [the day].
But now because they are noticing and hearing more, now it just pops up in conversation. I don’t know what the next thing we need to talk about is. We’ll figure it out, but it does pop up and it is regular. It is something you heard at school. something they heard us talk about. In every parent’s life they have stories they can point back to in their own or family members. And so just kind of letting, not shielding them, we do want to protect their hearts and guard their hearts from just evil. I mean some of the stuff we deal with is overwhelming because you are looking at darkness and evil on a regular basis. I get the desire. I don’t want to freak my children out about evil in the world, but I also don’t want them to be clueless about reality.
So, asking for wisdom, God cares about these kids more than you do. Ask God for wisdom and opportunities. - Because here is the deal about prayer, I don’t know how it all works out, but I know one of my friends, Glenn Lucke, said back in seminary, “When I stop praying the coincidences stop happening.” [Laughter] So I’m just going to keep on praying. So, pray. Pray that God will give you opportunities. Pray He will give you wisdom. Pray He will give you the right things to say and ask because Jesus told us that is the prayer He likes to answer.
Ann: Yes. And He hears everyone.
Ann: There is not a prayer that we have prayed that He hasn’t heard. He may not be answering the way we want right now, but He is hearing it. What about the family that has never talked about this? They have middle schoolers or high schoolers, and they are thinking, “It is awkward, it’s painful. We have never talked about it.” How do they jump in now? Is it too late?
Justin: Never, too late.
Lindsey: It’s not too late. It’s never too late. I have told parents before, you have a middle schooler, any age on up, you need to apologize to your kid first and say “Hey I have not done a good job for, you can say whatever reason it is or just say I have not done a good job in talking to you about really difficult topics. I am so sorry, will you forgive me?” Start with that.
It still needs to be small and often conversations. They are not going to want a whole long lecture. You know, don’t sit them down with PowerPoint. But just start talking to them and just you are going to really going to have to be intentional and say “Have you heard anything at school from your peers? Do the boys tell dirty jokes? Do the girls, you know, talk about their bodies?” You know because we are going to start getting into topics about body security as our girls are going through middle school and high school and they are starting to think through just how they are growing. - So, that is a whole other topic that is going to build from this - just as we are thinking about body development and changes.
But first and foremost, I would say repent and then kind of figure out where they are. You have got to figure out your starting point. So, you are going to need to ask some questions and pursue them. You can’t wait, and I think there is going to be some kids that are more apt to ask questions. Just that is their personality and some kids you are going to have to just pursue over and over and over again.
Ann: Is it appropriate to say to our kids at that age, a middle school, high school like my past was pretty painful when it came to this area.
Justin: I think in middle school it would be good.
Ann: It would?
Justin: Well you and I share a similar background. I was just not much older, and I forgot that we hadn’t talked to the girls about that. A few weeks ago when I was preaching somewhere further away, and it was on a livestream. - The girls didn’t drive all the way there, Lindsey and the girls didn’t drive all the way there. - But, in the sermon, I didn’t have it in my notes, I was just talking about shame, and I just kind of went for it.
While I was saying it, I was thinking, “I wonder if the girls are watching. I wonder if I had this conversation with them.” And then I was like, “no, I did - surely, I would remember that.” And [I] came home and Lindsey said, “By the way, they have some questions for you.” [Laughter] It was really sweet because my 11-year-old, she had some questions. She was like, “What! Can I ask what happened?” She became like the listening ear in the conversation. When you are 11-year-old —
Ann: The mini one that is ministering.
Justin: Yes [Laughter]. She was the gift of God to me at that point. She said, “Can I ask what happened?” And I told her basics. She said, “How did you feel? Why did that person do that?” And then she started crying. She said, “The idea that my dad, your dad, like you are the one who helps people on this. Why would God let that happen to you?” I mean she was going big questions [hmm] and I loved it! We just sat there for an hour and a half just kind of and then —
Ann: Did you cry with her?
Justin: Oh yes! I cry all the time with them.
Ann: That is the best! If my dad cried with me, I would just be a puddle on the floor.
Justin: I cry all the time with them. [Laughter] It’s a common thing. They make fun of me.
Lindsey: They vote, they vote when he preaches. They are like “how many times do you think dad is going to cry?” [Laughter] And they will cast their votes. [Laughter]
Justin: Oh yes! It is a joke around the family [Laughter] about how much I cry. And then my oldest, that night I was like “Hey do you want to, I pursued her, and I said you know about this, do you want to talk about it?” And she said, “Not right now.” I just respected that. Later on I brought it up the next day and said, “Hey, I don’t need to talk about it, but do you want to talk about this?” She said, “Yes, I do have a few questions.”
So again, it’s age appropriate, you don’t want to harm them with your story but there is a certain power in that where they, now they look at me a little bit differently. I like the fact that they know they can actually, if they ever feel threatened, they know, ok, this is mom and dad’s field, but they get it.
Justin: Dad gets it.
Dave: I was just going to say, it is so beautiful to hear you talk about this. It is so wise what you are teaching us and our listeners because so many men I know would have run from that conversation.
Dave: Even myself, I would have an easier time preaching to an audience of strangers. I did it for 30 years, thousands of people and come home and then my son once asked about something that intimate. It is easier to be intimate in public with people I will never have a relationship with then my own sons. There are a lot of parents when their daughter or son would ask for something a little deeper, like your daughter did, 11-years old by the way. You know, it’s just wow! It would be like I don’t want to talk about it, or this is inappropriate. You went there! Way to go. I mean that is coaching for us.
Ann: And it blessed you, Justin.
Justin: Oh, yes.
Ann: It blessed you.
Justin: Yes, it sure did.
Ann: She ministered to him. She is sweet.
Dave: Yes, and I just want to stop and say to the dad who is afraid to go there, “Go there!”
Justin: Go! Absolutely! You are missing out.
Dave: You want to be able to say I didn’t miss this opportunity. I, actually in an appropriate way shared my heart with my son or daughter who was asking for it. This is for a mom too. But I just know so many men would run. Like I am awkward; I am scared; I don’t know what to do. But guess what? Pray a quick little prayer and say, “God here we go!” [Laughter]
Dave: And open up your heart. It is going to bond you to your kids in a way that you’ll never regret. It is going to be a beautiful time.
Justin: Most men are so afraid of looking weak, because we have this American masculinity picture that we need to be strong all the time. Honestly, the most courage and strength comes from vulnerability.
Justin: If we stop believing the lie about what manhood is all the time, we would have some dads who would be like, I’m going to pull back the veil and just be weak. I still remember, I yelled at one of my girls, probably both of them but, on the way to school and barked at them and I felt bad, so I drove back half-hour later. I took her out of class.
Justin: Oh, I’ve done this numerous times.
Ann: I would do the same [Laughter] Yes.
Lindsey: To apologize Yes. And not to continue the rant.
Justin: So, I go back and I’m like, “Hey” and they are like “What are you doing here?” I’m like, “I need to apologize. I can’t even go through my day [Laughter] feeling guilty and I can’t believe how horrible your day is going to be just feeling the way like I left you in the car like that. I am so sorry.” And she is like, “I forgive you.” “Will you forgive me?” “I’ll forgive you.”
Then she went and told her, at lunch, one of her classmates was like, “Why did your dad come back? Did you forget something? Did you forget your lunch?” “Oh no, he came back to apologize.” [Laughter] And, the whole table was like, “What!” Said, “Yes.” Said, “Why?” Said, “Because he wasn’t really nice to me, and he came back to apologize.” And they were like, “Has he done that before?” “He apologizes a lot.” [Laughter]
And one kid at the table said, “My dad has never apologized to me.” And all the other kids around the table said, “Mine neither.” So, she came back from school that day, at dinner, she, I remember her saying to me with tears in her eyes. She was like dad, and she told me the story and then she said, “None of the other kids have dads that apologize to them.”
Well, that’s because I know that that is not weakness. Like to be able to say, “I sinned against you and God. So, I have already repented to God. Will you forgive me too?” Like she is on the side with God granting forgiveness. Not with me rationalizing it. Like that is not weakness. That is vulnerability and strength. And that is the kind of stuff that I’m banking on. That when they start getting a relationship, they are going to have an expectation. Like, no, no, no, you are supposed to repent, and they know how to apologize to each other. And I know this because —
Ann: — I already feel sorry for their husbands. [Laughter] They are not, they are going to be like I can’t live up to your dad. [Laughter] It’s pretty cool!
Ann: It’s really sweet!
Ann: Well, I feel like you guys have given us a picture of what these conversations can look like, not only about how to talk to our kids about sex and God’s creation, of how God created us, but also just how to have an open home, where we are talking about all the difficult things that are going on in life, in our own lives, what we feel, we are repenting, we are apologizing. It is so beautiful and so doable with the help of God and with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. We can go to Him and ask Him for wisdom, pray for our kids, pray for one another. What a great, you guys are inspiring. Thank you!
Lindsey: Well, thanks for having us on, guys.
Justin: Are we ending?
Lindsey: He is like, “I got more.” [Laughter]
Justin: No, but [Laughter] what you said works only because of the gospel.
Justin: I mean, if this is not a moralistic lecture of “Hey you guys, let’s do better on this.” The freedom that we are exploring of a family that is open and has conversations can only enjoy that - because of the freedom in Christ, because the barrier between us and God has been taken care of. God has reconciled the world to himself in Jesus Christ and because of that, that actually unlocks freedom to be honest about ourselves - because we don’t have to hide the guilt or shame - because that stuff has been dealt with. We don’t have to put our best foot forward all the time. We are actually free.
The vulnerability comes from the freedom of being made right with God and that is the fruit of the gospel. All of this stuff is not because, we have learned from great examples and from negative examples. We have learned from doing it the wrong way and having to apologize to each other as a married couple and to our kids - because we have sinned against each other and them. This is not a victory story. This is a redemption, restoration story. This is the fruit of the freedom from the gospel, not because we are smart enough and got it all figured out. We are testifying to God’s goodness, throughout our entire lives but also in the thick of it right now.
Shelby: You are listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Justin and Lindsey Holcomb on FamilyLife Today. If you are enjoying this series and want to start incorporating these kinds of conversations in your house, we have Justin and Lindsey’s book called God Made Babies: Helping Parents Answer the Baby Question. We have that available in our bookstore. We will send you a copy as our thanks when you financially partner with Family Life and help make more conversations like todays possible. You can partner on-line at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329. That can be a one-time gift or a recurring monthly gift. Again, the number is 800, “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”
In marriage, secrets can be as dangerous as flat out lies. Well tomorrow, David and Ann are joined by Phil and Priscilla Fretwell, to tell their downward spiral of a story which started ten years into marriage when Priscilla found out Phil was watching pornography. It is a compelling story. You won’t want to miss that tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another addition of FamilyLife Today.
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