How to talk to your toddler about Sex: Starting Sex education early
Did you just roll your eyes over sex education that I’m going to discuss with you about? Do you think your child’s school syllabus & the obnoxious mindset of the society about sex is to blame for making sex education skewed for him/her?
A few months ago, the following Q & A became part of a very random conversation with my 4.5-ish year old daughter:
Kid: Ma, why did you marry Papa?
Me: We were BEST FRIENDS. So, we thought getting married would be great! So that we could be together for life.
At this point, I mentally pat myself on the back for telling her something right about the idea of marriage – that you need to be fond of the person you marry, somebody like a friend. *No FRIEND-ZONE jokes, please.*
Kid: Does that mean that Motu & Patlu, too, are husband & wife? (Motu & Patlu are the popular male characters of the Indian cartoon series by the same name)
Me: No. They’re just friends & by the way, in many countries like India, marrying somebody of the same sex is illegal.
Note: This conversation happened almost 4-5 months ago; i.e., much before the Indian judiciary scrapped the law that penalized gay sex.
Now, why I shared this is because, children have thousands of questions that in some way or the other lead to your most dreaded topic with kids than math. SEX.
We live in a world that’s becoming more toxic towards children by the day, specially in the sexual domain. You hear about sex crimes against children almost on a daily basis & we certainly need to evolve beyond the “bees & birds” level of talking about sex with our kids. And it’s high time that we stop limiting sex education to only reproduction. (Something that still sends jitters to a majority of biology teachers. Duh!)
Because, seriously, trying to have a baby is not the only time we have sex! And, it would be a crime if we even subtly try to tell our child that apart from reproducing, sexual intercourse has no practical meaning. Well, quite strangely though, I’ve known friends who grew up with this thought & considered sex as something to be ashamed of thinking about or doing, other than wanting a baby. It does affect your sexuality or libido as you grow up to become sexually active some day. It’s essential to convey to your kid that sex is a way of bonding closely with somebody you love romantically, or is your spouse.
Why you need to talk Sex Education early?
The more you hide something, the more curiosity it will arouse. And then the curiosity soon turns into shades of shame, fear & guilt. As a result, when your kids someday will know about the act of sex & that they were born out of it, they will naturally doubt your embarrassment & hunt for details elsewhere, specially from the internet porn!
Sadly, that’s how a lot of millennials grew up. And then the internet serves it with a dash of misogyny & sadism. Porn should NEVER be a source of ‘sex education’ for young teens. Because, it just isn’t. So, isn’t learning about it from a wrong source more dangerous to the emotional development of your child? You want to raise gender-neutral kids, who respect & regard both the genders & then suddenly tell them that knowing about sexuality is forbidden for them right now & that they need to “wait till they grow up”.
How to prepare your child for Sex education?
Starting sex education at home with your child isn’t easy too. But it can definitely get simple if you prepare yourself mentally. Treat it like a topic which is as normal as facts about daily life & the usual body anatomy. You never hesitated to teach your children to call out their body parts aloud. Haven’t you marveled at them adorably when you made them say those in front of somebody & felt proud when they did?
I’ve often seen some parents teach kids all their body parts, but when they point out to their genitals, they snub them with either a ‘cute’ “Shee!”, “Shame! Shame!” or something strangely similar. I mean, why? Isn’t it a part of their own body? Similarly, when an infant or toddler is found to touch his/her privates, he/she is reprimanded rudely or yelled at. Some even hit over the hand gently. It’s just a tiny mind trying to explore a body part. This, indeed, confuses the child as to why he/she isn’t scolded when he/she touches his other parts like the thighs, belly or even hair.
- Tell the kid that a boy’s private organ is called the penis & that of a girl, a vagina. It’s better to make them familiar with this proper nomenclature than calling their privates some apparently ‘cute’ or fancy name.
- Let them know that it takes a man & woman to create a baby human. You need not tell them how though; as it’s easy to get off with a simple idea of mixing & making. I’ve told my child that 2 cells each from the mom & dad mix to form a baby’s first cell that keeps growing in the mom’s womb. That’s because, kids of this age are not usually interested in the ‘creation’ part of the baby, but are instead more curious to know how the baby grows inside the mother.
Awareness about body changes
It’s time to start telling your kids during relevant situations about the changes their bodies will undergo in the years to come. I remember my mom telling me about the appearance of breasts, pubic & axillary hair at puberty when I was about 6 years of age. And then she went on to explain hair removal & periods to me when I was just 8. Those conversations hit when I asked her what that pad advertisement was about. This made my transition to puberty feel like a cakewalk as compared to many of my peers who struggled with cartloads of doubts & fear when they began menstruating. And I can’t thank my mom enough for thus letting me feel guilt-free about discussing sexual matters & queries with her.
Likewise, I’ve explained all of the above to my 5 year old without her asking me any related stuff. And I’m sure it’s only going to make the bond between us stronger & friendlier. Very recently, I told her how a ‘normal’ birth was different from a C-section (that she believed was the ONLY way a child was removed from the womb!) And like I expected, she took to accepting it without any trace of surprise. So, when you tell kids these real things early & they tend to see it normally like any other life process.
Here’s what my friend, Parenting Blogger & Social Media consultant, Shailaja shares about having the puberty talk with her daughter.
If you have a son, too, make him aware of the changes he will go through with his body. Tell him that a male grows facial hair & makes semen, which becomes his vehicle to reproduction, while the female counterparts are her ovaries & the ova.
In fact, it’s preferable to tell both the sexes about the phases of puberty & adulthood in both of them as they can remain sane & empathetic towards friends of the opposite sex without any kind of awkwardness.
Sexual Abuse: What’s supposed to be an SOS?
Better make your child aware of the Good Touch & Bad Touch. Encourage to raise an alarm when he/she finds himself in such a dangerous situation. Most importantly, make them know that nobody can touch them in a certain uncomfortable & inappropriate way, photograph or film them when not properly dressed or during bath time, whether it’s a family member, friend or a stranger; & that it’s a prosecutable offense.
Sexuality & Orientation
There’s nothing wrong in telling our children that not everyone likes to be associated with the opposite sex romantically & that not everybody is necessarily STRAIGHT. Encourage them to see homosexuality as something as natural as heterosexuality. By inculcating this mentality of acceptance, you can really help making the daily lives of homosexual, bisexual & transgender people less miserable & humiliated.
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Are you always uncomfortable when you confront instances of SEX when you're with your child? * * ? Do you think you have to wait to discuss sexual matters with your kid only when he/she turns around 12 or 13 years of age? * * ?Do you think it's wrong to tell them things in legitimate details? Do you think it will defile their minds & turn them into a pervert? * * ?Is the classic scene of embarrassment a common occurring at your home when a lingerie/condom/sanitary pad ad pops on your TV? Are you scared that your child will ask you what those things are? * * ?Or do you think it's only your job to explain things if you have a DAUGHTER & the son shouldn't be told about periods & 'girlie' stuff? * * ? You avoid hugging or kissing your spouse in front of the children dreading it will send them wrong signals? * * ?But don't you think that the barrier between you & your kid will only thicken if you set yourself limits of age/time/details in discussing about sex & puberty? * * Why all this inhibition when you've always loved explaining all other things in pretty much detail to them? * ?What about you starting Age-appropriate Sex education at home with each growing phase? #comingup #sexeducation #knowingsex #puberty #comingofage #comingsoonontheblog #menstruation #periods #adulttalks #growingup #sexeducator #parenting #positiveparenting #modernparenting #modernparents #kids #children #love #parentingblogger #mombloggers #bloggers
Prepare yourself for the ‘sex talk’ much before you do. Take a deep breath & vow not to even smile, let alone giggling or sporting embarrassed looks without those occasional stutters out of nervousness. Come on, it’s your own child. Not your VIVA examiner!
With this composure, it gets easy to go ahead with the explanation of sex, risk of STDs, birth control, partner loyalty, etc.
Every stage of a child’s life is a learning phase. So, there isn’t any RIGHT TIME. It’s just that you need to articulate sex education to fit your kid’s understanding ability at that age.
So, when you believe that sex education is every child’s right to knowledge, it’s high time you realize it should begin at home ASAP.
What do you think about discussing sexual & private matters with children? Are you a parent? What do you say about the ‘appropriateness’ of age with it? Let me know in the comments.