Sex Education: What do your kids need to know about sex?
What do you do when your preschooler asks you where babies come from? Do you tell her to go and ask daddy? Or maybe laugh off the question? Or alternatively tell her that when she is old enough, she’ll understand?
In as much as this is a topic we would rather avoid altogether, we parents need to ask ourselves this question – ‘Is it better for our kids to learn about sex from us or from the kid down the road or maybe from the television or perhaps social media?’ The truth is that as our kids mature in age, they will begin to have some very serious questions and if mommy and daddy are too uncomfortable answering them, they will go looking for answers out there.
Now, even though we want to be the one providing the right answers for our kids, we must do so within age appropriate contexts. I have heard of books, which visually and explicitly describe sex between animals or even between humans, being used to teach young toddlers. In response to such explicit tools, I will ask this – At this age, when your kid asks you where babies come from, do you think he’s really after the sexual details or is he simply interested in the superficial ‘pregnancy and baby’ factor. I will go with the second option and would rather keep it simple and basic at this tender age.
Before going any further, let’s understand that the real sex education begins much earlier than we realize. For example, you see your one-year old playing with his penis. What do you do? Look away? Laugh about it? Or gently caution him?
Here’s another example – You turn on the TV and a musical video involving a man openly lusting after a scantily dressed girl, is on. Your response to the music is an indication of whether or not you support the act.
Yet another example – Your kid walks into the room when you’re naked and fascinated, tries playing with your private parts. What do you do? At the age of 3, are daddy and your little girl taking baths together?
Final example – You and your kid are in a public place and a sexual joke is made. Do you laugh out loud?
Well, all these and many more other examples are silent lessons in sex education, which we unknowingly offer our kids. So, do be careful!
Now at the tender ages of about 2-3, I believe it shouldn’t be more than maybe getting the kids to recognize their body parts. Lessons here should be kept simple and playful because we are not trying to get our kids to make sexual decisions. We are simply trying to get them to know their body. So for example, when giving your daughter a bath, you could engage her by saying stuffs like – ‘Let’s wash your armpit before your bum’. That way, you have taught her what her ‘armpit’ is and what her ‘bum’ is, without putting unnecessary emphasis on either and without giving either a false name.
However between the ages of 3 and 5, when your kid is probably wondering where his baby brother popped out from, you don’t necessarily have to say from heaven. Saying ‘Daddy and mommy made him together and then he stayed in mommy’s tummy until he was ready to come out’ is probably going to be enough for your kid. That way he is beginning to learn the reality of sex within his age appropriate context.
Or maybe you have a very inquisitive 5-year old that pushes you further with the ‘how’ question. You could let him know that mommy and daddy made a baby together because they love each other in a special, adult way. Don’t shut him down or fill him with lies. Just keep your answers simple and eventually he will be done with the questions. Also note that really, at the end of the day, the stuff you expose your kids to may influence the depth of their questions. So watch out for even the supposedly harmless cartoons which sometimes contain content too mature for little eyes and ears. Also, don’t always wait for your kid to ask the questions. For example, when you are pregnant, carry him along by regularly chatting him up about the fact that his baby brother is growing in your tummy.
In addition, at this tender age (3 – 5 years), with the unfortunate state of our society, it is important you teach your kid the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touches. Let her know that her private parts are her private and off limits, even to familiar aunties and uncles. Again, you can do this without making a fuss out of it. What is important is for him/her to know just enough to raise an alarm in case of anything inappropriate.
As they advance in age, you begin to teach them that all living things reproduce. As they approach puberty, you begin to take them through what to expect. A bit later, even the schools will begin to take them up on detailed reproduction facts and by the time real, pressing questions about sex begin to evolve, be sure to let them know what your own values are (don’t force them down on them). For example I would be careful to let my kids know that contrary to the picture painted by the world of entertainment, sex should be anything but casual and should actually exist between two married adults who love themselves. I won’t pretend that there are no protections such as condoms available. Instead, I will point out that based on my own beliefs and value system, the best type of protection is abstinence. I would work at getting to them before the world does
That way, I would have given them the truthful facts so that when they do go out there, they would appreciate the fact that mommy and daddy didn’t lie to them and they would also have enough information to make the right decision.
*Do you know that according to ‘betterhealth’ research shows that…
- Fathers tend to avoid taking part in sex education discussions.
- When fathers do talk to their children about sex, they limit the conversation to less intimate issues.
- Mothers are more likely to talk about intimate, emotional and psychological aspects of sex than fathers.
- Mothers talk more about sex to their daughters than their sons.
- Parents tend to leave boys in the dark about female sexual issues such as menstruation.
- Parents may assume the school system will take care of their child’s sex education, and so choose to say nothing.
- Parents may postpone talks about sex until they see evidence of the child having a relationship
- Parents tend to show embarrassed or awkward body language when talking to their child about sex: for example, avoiding eye contact.
So, what’s your own take on sex education amongst kids? What do kids need to know about sex? Do share your own view on the matter. How have you successfully handled your kids’ inquisitive questions?
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