The power of parenting is often underestimated when it comes to helping children experience their sexual development in a positive way. However, parents play a pivotal role in helping their children develop healthy attitudes and behaviors towards sexuality. Although talking with your children about sex may feel outside your comfort zone, below are some common guidelines to discuss with your children about their sexuality more so now when we have so much time together due to the pandemic lockdown.
Every day, parents around the world are faced with situations of being caught off-guard by young children’s self –exploration and curiosity about their body parts. Sexual issues is one of the uncomfortable realities of parenting which can raise a host of troubling questions, such as, “Is my child normal? ”Should I be worried?” “What should I say?”
Although talking with children about bodily changes and sexual matters may feel awkward, one of the most important things parents can do is to provide children with accurate, age-appropriate information which ensures that children grow up safe, healthy and secure with their body image.
Parents want to provide the guidance and knowledge that their children need to become responsible and happy adults, but they can also sometimes be afraid of talking about sexuality with their children because:
How to tell that it is the right time
As a caregiver, it is important to provide information that is appropriate to the child’s age and developmental level. No need to bombard children with information overload all at once.
Usually your child will cue you on how much information to divulge. For example your child may ask, “Where did babies come from?” Let children know that you are ready to listen and to answer whatever questions they may have.
For Preschool children, that is children aged four years and below, they should at least be aware that boys and girls are physiologically different and train them on accurate names of their body parts.
Train them about privacy
Train them on rules about keeping private parts covered when changing or bathing and instruct them not to touch other children’s private parts. As the child asks various questions, provide simple answers to all questions about the body and bodily function.
As children get older into the pre-teen years, educate the child on the body changes to expect such as budding breasts for girls and breaking of the voice for the boys. Girls should be educated on what to expect in their menstrual cycle and boys taught about wet dreams and how to manage these changes. Risks of sexual activity (pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases-STIs) should be discussed.
Remind them about rules about personal boundaries and mention boundaries about touching their own private parts which can feel nice but it is wrong and shouldn’t be done. Masturbation is common but not okay and can have long term effects. Also educate them on basics of contraception??
Begin giving some simple explanations of how babies grow in their mothers’ wombs and about the birth process ie Basics of reproduction, pregnancy, and child-birth.
As the child proceeds into teenage hood, create fun instruction opportunities to discuss dating rules and how to relate with the opposite sex. This topic is not complete without talking about sexual abuse which happens when someone touches the private parts inappropriately.
Explain ‘OK’ touches and ‘not OK’ touches such as someone touching their private parts or an adult asking the child to touch their private parts. Sexual abuse is NEVER the child’s fault. Therefore, provide escalation paths for the child to report if ‘not okay’ things are done to them. For example, when a stranger tries to take the child with them, the child should report to a parent, teacher, neighbor, police officer, or other trusted adults.
More than ever we need to train our children on how to maintain safety and personal boundaries on the digital platform. Especially for those children who are doing their education online. Train the child on how to maintain safety and personal boundaries when chatting or meeting people on-line as well as dating rules, how to avoid risky social situation and how to relate with the opposite sex.
Be intentional about providing close supervision, and providing clear, positive messages about modesty, boundaries and privacy as children move through the stages of childhood. By talking openly with your children about relationships, intimacy, and sexuality, you can foster their healthy growth and development and provide an entry way into sexuality conversations even when they get into adulthood.