Moms in Babeland

Toddlers and Preschoolers: Too Young for the Sex Talk?

It’s easy to think that your child is too young for a discussion about sexuality. But the continuous flow of information through the media makes it likely that your children are regularly exposed to messages about sexuality, even if they don’t exactly understand what they’re seeing and hearing. By using language they understand you can begin to explain sexuality in ways that are appropriate for their age.

This may seem like an advanced topic to discuss with babies and toddlers, but as their main teachers it’s important for parents and caregivers to help them develop a healthy attitude toward sexuality. For children up to age two you can begin by naming all the parts of their bodies, teaching them that their entire body is natural and healthy. (“This is your arm.This is your elbow.This is your vulva/penis.This is your knee.”) By reacting calmly when they touch their genitals, you are teaching them that sexual feelings are normal and healthy. By holding them, hugging them, talking with them, and responding to their needs, you are laying the groundwork for trust and open discussions as they grow up.

Preschoolers, at aged three to four years, are learning about their bodies. They learn about their world through play. They begin to ask questions about where babies come from. They can understand simple answers but do not understand abstract ideas or adult sexual behaviors.They can learn simple things about health, such as bathing, washing their hands, brushing their teeth, eating nutritiously, and napping.They can begin to accept the need for privacy. The best thing a parent can do at this stage is to create an environment where children will feel comfortable asking questions about their bodies, health, and sexuality. Children will then learn that sexuality is something that you are comfortable discussing in your home.

Sharing information about sexuality when your children are young provides a healthy, communicative environment that sets a precedent early. Through understanding that sexuality is a normal part of their lives, your children will be able to make more informed choices as they grow older.

Excerpted from SIECUS FAMILIES ARE TALKING Newsletter,Volume 2, Number 2, 2003. Learn more about SIECUS.

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topics: Parenting

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