Sex Ed: Inoculating in Pre-Puberty

How can parents best prepare our kids to handle the messages they will be bombarded with from outside of our families? In teaching them what is right and true, can we also protect them against the messages they will get from elsewhere that undermine Christian truth? What are our options?

One is to try to shield them from all non-Christian influences. The problem with this approach is that it is impossible; we cannot totally shield them. And it doesn’t seem to help to simply tell them vaguely that other people will tell them bad things and that they should not listen. When kids hear the other messages and find them seemingly plausible and much more popular than traditional Christian views, they may be unprepared to stand by what parents have taught them. So why not inoculate kids against the wrong messages and negative influences they will inevitably face?

Principle 8: You can and must “inoculate” your children against destructive beliefs.

A physical inoculation mobilizes the body’s natural defenses that protect us from disease. To protect us against such diseases as polio, smallpox, or the flu, doctors isolate the virus or bacterium that causes the disease, grow a culture of the germs, kill or weaken the germs, and then inject the much-less-harmful germs into the body. The body’s immune system responds by manufacturing antibodies and other agents to find and destroy that type of germ. Our bodies now have a defense against the threatening disease.

We want to psychologically immunize our children against the germs of the non-Christian moral messages they will encounter. This inoculation work should begin early in life; inoculation works best when you can get to the child before he or she has actually begun soaking in destructive messages from television, social media, school chums, or sex-education classes.

Inoculation involves parents deliberately exposing their kids to the counterarguments and pressures they will be exposed to later in life but in the safe environment of the family, where you can show them how those non-Christian influences are unconvincing, false, and destructive. We become the first to tell them the arguments they will hear and help them reason against these destructive messages, thus inoculating them.

A rich body of scientific research in the field of social psychology supports the effectiveness of inoculation. When adults or children are sheltered from views that oppose those they have been taught, their attitudes are easily changed. But when they are challenged with a strong but not overwhelming counterargument to the position they are being taught, and then are helped to develop counterarguments, their beliefs will actually be strengthened. It’s just like building muscle: If our muscles never meet resistance, we cannot get strong, but when we tax and strain our muscles, they respond by growing stronger. Challenges can be disputed, and so we can teach our children how to refute counteropinions.

<This discussion of inoculation is a brief summary of the chapter in the book on the subject.>

Some content taken from HOW AND WHEN TO TELL YOUR KIDS ABOUT SEX, by Stan and Brenna Jones. Copyright © 1993, 2007, 2019. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. To purchase books in the GOD’S DESIGN FOR SEX book series, go to