Parents, start the conversation about sex young
23 March 2018
Where do babies come from? How does a baby get inside your tummy? How does a baby come out? Some wonderful questions your preschooler or young child may ask you as their curiosity about the world around them grows.
When should I talk to my child about sex? What should I tell them? How do I start? Parents lay the foundation from a very early age on how a child will learn about their sexuality. When a child is very small, their trust in their parents is the highest and the parent’s influence is the greatest. The first messages children hear about sex is powerful and parent’s influence on their child’s sexuality is significant.
Starting the conversation
Talking to your child about sex requires more than a one-off conversation or reading a book with them one time. It’s an open dialogue, an ongoing conversation with your child that you can start to create when your child is a toddler and continues to evolve and build upon all the way into their adult life.
Name the correct body parts correctly
Its funny how we name every other body part yet we can use different names for the genitals. Teach boys that they have a penis, scrotum and inside the scrotum are two testes. Teach girls that all the genitals they can see are the vulva or about the significant parts which is the labia and vagina. Explain where urine comes out of, for a boy it’s the penis, for the girl its hard to see the opening as its just above the vagina.
Don’t talk about the genitals as dirty
For a child to hear that their genitals are dirty can have destructive long-term effects, especially in their adult sexual relationships.
Create teachable moments.
Whether its bath time, you are toilet training a child, or walking by a pregnant woman, there are ample opportunities to create teachable moments. Use the opportunity to share about your family values, beliefs and how it can build into the character of your child.
Praise your child when they ask questions “That’s a great question, I love that you have asked that question!” Most parents would prefer their child comes to them first seeking answers rather than taking their to others (friends, adults, internet, chat rooms etc) to answer. Building this culture in your family early will reap benefits when they are teenagers and they know you are a safe place for them to share what they are going through.
Answer questions in an age appropriate way
Give accurate, clear messages in an age appropriate way shows your child that you respect their question and they can trust you with their curiosity.
A 4-5 year old may asks ‘Where do babies come from?’ you can ask them ‘what do you think?’ to help you know how much your child understands and what they are really asking. A simple explanation could be all they want, ‘Babies grow in a place inside their mother called the uterus.’
A 6-8 year old may asks ‘How does a baby get into a woman’s uterus?’ you can first ask what they think as this allows you to correct any misunderstandings they have and give them a simple and factual answer ‘To make a baby, a sperm from a man and an egg from a woman join together.’
Teach children that their genitals are private
‘Nobody is allowed to touch your private parts except mummy and daddy and the doctor who are helping you keep healthy and safe.’
‘You are not allowed to touch other people’s private parts. They are private, just like your private parts are private.’
This gives the child accurate information and boundaries that helps them feel respected and empowers them to keep safe in the world.
Reading books about body parts, where babies come from and keeping private parts private can help make these discussions a normal conversation like every other conversation you have with your child. Leave the books in your children’s bookshelf for your child to pick up and read whenever they want to. They may even become part of the bedtime story routine