HOW TO TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT SEX (1)
Talking to your child about sex may seem a daunting task. You might wonder what to say and/or how to convey the information. First and foremost, keep in mind that being somewhat nervous and awkward is perfectly normal; one of the most important aspect is to focus on being honest and not being afraid to admit you do not have all the answers. Experts recommend that you have regular conversations with your child about sex. The best way is to weave it into everyday conversations, adding more information as your child grows up, and introducing certain concepts at specific ages.
Here are a few ideas about how/what to say to your child about sex depending on their age:
1. For children from birth to 2. As surprising as it may sound, it is recommended to start the process of talking about sex when your child is not verbal. This means using the proper names for genitals for every day activities such as bath time. You may use cutesy names as well, but the proper names should be known by your toddler to communicate health issues or injuries. Try to be casual and treat these terms as you would for any other anatomical terms such as "hand" or "ankle". The more natural you are, the more your child will be when using these terms herself.
2. For children from 3 to 5. The main focus for this age group is to learn about boundaries. Through your guidance, your child needs to learn what is and what is not appropriate when it comes to touching or being touched. Children have a say over their own bodies which helps them build a feeling of safety. At this age group, tell your child that others should never ask to or try to touch their genitals. If your child has a tendency to touch her genitals - which is perfectly normal - explain to her that it is something we do in privacy (her bedroom for instance). Be gentle with your child as you do not want to instill a shameful message.
3. For children from 6 to 8. By this time, your child probably has deeper questions. She is ready to hear the mechanics of sex. A good book might help to introduce the topic. Then, you may want to hear the questions your child has about sex. If you do not know how to respond to a question, let her know and tell her you are going to get more information before getting back to her. At this age, it is also a good time to talk explicitly about sexual abuse. Start with the basics as no one should be touching her without her permission. If it ever happens, then she should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible so that the adult can take action to protect her and thus prevent any potential repetition.
Talking about sex is never easy, but not talking about it is actually worse as your child will get information her own way. So, it is best to establish from a very early age a safe dialogue based on trust and openness so that your child knows she can come to you to ask any questions she may have.
Stay tuned for the next blog that will cover this topic for children from 9 and up
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.