Early, often, and in little doses: How to Talk About Sex.
The minute we are born, we begin our journey as sexual beings. Why is it then that so many parents find it difficult to have conversations with their children about sexuality and sex?
The more crucial question is: why should we? Parents are routinely ranked higher than friends by teenagers when asked to rate who impacts their choices surrounding sex, according to experts, and adolescents desire their parents would speak to them more often about sexual matters.
It seems that beginning conversations about sexuality before to the onset of puberty is the best course of action. Dr. Jenni Skyler, a registered sex therapist, the director of The Intimacy Institute, and the mother of two young children says that beginning the dialogue as early as possible…
enables you to provide your children with information that is reliable.
Make sure your children are aware that they may feel comfortable talking to you about sexuality and their bodies.
Helps avoid sexual abuse
Even though young children don’t necessarily need to know about sex, it’s vital for parents to speak to them early and frequently about sexuality. This conversation should begin with parents giving their children honest answers to any questions they have about their bodies.
According to the findings of one piece of research, pre-school children are more likely to successfully learn the names of their genitals when the knowledge is delivered by a parent rather than a teacher.
Here are two straightforward considerations to bear in mind if you find that you are unsure of what to say or how to express it.
Talking should be easy for you (and listening)
It is recommended by the authors of “Off Limits: A Parent’s Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse,” Sandy Wurtele, Ph.D., and Feather Berkower, M.S.W., that parents have candid conversations with their children about their bodies and sexuality on a frequent, honest, and condensed basis.
If your preschooler asks how babies are produced, for instance, rather than asking him why he wants to know the answer, provide him with a basic response that is suitable for his age group. They also underline the need of providing encouraging responses to the inquiries of children.
If your kid, for instance, expresses displeasure with the nanny, rather than reassuring her that the nanny loves her and discourages her from speaking negatively about the nanny, Wurtele and Berkower recommend that parents refrain from cutting off the dialogue altogether.
Instead, parents should show an interest in their children’s activities and ask their children follow-up questions to learn more about the scenario. Take, for instance: I don’t like the nanny, says the child. Parent: Why do you say that? Why? Because she’s a mean girl, said the child.
Concerned Parent: What was it that she done that was so bad? She put her hand on my vulva and then warned me not to tell you about it. Parent:
I really wish it hadn’t taken place, but I’m really happy that you informed me about it. Know that you are able to modify your feelings about discussing sexuality with your children if you now do not feel comfortable doing so.
Practice should be done in the company of another adult, such as a friend or a spouse, according to Wurtele and Berkower. The author of “The Sex-Wise Parent,” Janet Rosenzweig, recommends acting out a hypothetical discussion that you may have with your kid and then reflecting on how it went.
Although you should make yourself available to answer any questions that your kid may have, you are not required to provide them with a lecture on biology. For instance, if your preschooler asks you how a kid is born, you may respond as follows:
“Usually the baby comes out via the mom’s vagina, although occasionally a doctor makes an incision in the mom’s tummy to take the baby out through her belly.”
This would be an adequate response. If your kid asks more questions, be sure to respond truthfully to them. However, keep in mind that you don’t have to provide them with all of the information at once.
Use anatomical terminology
Since the day my daughter was born, I have always chatted to her when I changed her diaper. I would say things like, “I need to get your vulva completely clean,” in the same matter-of-fact manner that I would speak to her while dressing her. “First, put your right arm inside the right sleeve,” the instructor said. Now about the left arm…
When discussing a child’s genitalia with their children, it is essential, according to Berkower and Wurtele, for parents to make use of the correct anatomical terminology.
This sends the message that there is nothing embarrassing about the bodies of our children. When it comes to labeling the different parts of the body, Rosenzweig advises parents not to “jump from the elbows to the belly button.”
According to Berkower and Wurtele, when a child uses the proper terms with a sexual predator, it is a signal that this child talks openly with an adult about his body and is not likely to keep abuse a secret.
Furthermore, when a child uses the correct terms with a sexual predator, it is a signal that this child talks openly with an adult about his body. Skyler suggests explaining to children what their individual body parts are, where they are located, and what function they provide.
For instance, if a child wonders what the purpose of his penis is, you may simply answer him, “Your penis is for peeing,” and that would satisfy his curiosity. You are not required to elaborate on it more unless your youngster specifically requests for it.
Don’t become alarmed if he asks a follow-up inquiry such, “Why does it feel wonderful when I touch my penis?” This does not imply that he is asking you to explain the workings of sex to him in any way.
You may say something along the lines of, “Our body is designed to appreciate touch, and particular bodily parts, like your penis, feel nicer to touch than other parts of our body.” Even while it may be more difficult to see females’ genitalia, it should not stop people from talking about them.
Generally, according to Skyler, it’s enough to start by informing preschool-age girls, “You have various holes for different things. “One is where a baby comes out, one is where a baby pees, and one is where feces goes.”
If your daughter has shown an interest in discovering the differences between the two holes, Skyler recommends elaborating on the topic with the aid of photographs, or even while seated on the ground in front of a mirror, if you feel at ease doing so.
It is sufficient to point out that the urethra is the opening via which urine exits the body. A baby will exit your body via the vaginal opening.
Your anus is the opening through which your feces pass. In a similar vein, even if you may not be able to see the clitoris, you should take advantage of the opportunity to educate your daughter about it whenever she touches it or asks about it. You can start by just informing her of its name.
Skyler stressed the need of providing children with knowledge about their bodies in “bite-size” bits, beginning these talks at a young age, and having them often. She also emphasized the value of these dialogues being “non-events.”
In other words, you should do your best to answer your children’s questions about their bodies in the same way that you would answer their questions about where clouds come from or why they need to take a bath.
That is, you should do so in an honest and comfortable manner, providing age-appropriate explanations that aren’t too detailed. It is interesting to note that in the Netherlands, where parents often have these kinds of informal chats with their children at age-appropriate levels, the incidence of adolescent pregnancy is far lower than it is in the United States.
If you are a parent of a preschooler and a toddler like I am, you probably place a higher priority on concerns about head lice, swimming pools, and trampolines than you do on the possibility of sexual abuse, STDs, unplanned pregnancy, and rape.
But the best approach to deal with issues involving older children is to get started as early as possible when concerns about younger children occur. Instead of jumping off the high dive into the icy water later, you may think of it as starting to wade into a warm pool now. This is preferable than jumping off the high dive head first.