Guidelines for talking with children about sex
BY PAT HANSON, PH.D.
It’s never too early or too late to start talking about sex and relationships
Sexuality is something we are, not something we do sometimes. It is a quality we possess whether or not we have a partner. It involves our identity. i.e., who we are as male or female or transgender, and who same or opposite sex we choose to live with and love. With so much media attention to sexual harassment (#metoo) and bad role models like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby; it is more important than ever for us to address these issues in ways that contribute to healthy emotional, physical and spiritual development, There are guidelines to use at different age levels. It’s never too early or too late to start talking about sex and relationships.
Birth through toddlerdom: 0 5
Use correct terms for body parts as you change diapers and toilet train. Penis and vagina are better than the slang terms. Bring inclusive language into everyday speech. Switch “welcome, boys and girls” for “welcome, kids” or “welcome, friends..” You might say these are very special parts of the body that shouldn’t be touched by others.
6 to 8
By age eight most children have begun to explore their bodies. Frame masturbation as something that, while normal, is done in private. Even if your child won’t be using the internet unsupervised for a few more years it’s important to be prepared since they may stumble upon pornography. Explain calmly that those sorts of websites are about grown-ups doing grown-up things. This is the time to let them know sharing nude or sexually explicit photos is illegal.
9 to 12
Present the facts before you think your child is ready. Prepare your child for the changes coming to his or her body with puberty when their body’s growth appears rapidly. Start and continue conversations about sex and pregnancy. Keep it simple, honest, and accurate, and don’t forget to include your family’s moral or religious beliefs about the wide range of gender expression.
Research reports that teens who have regular conversations with their parents and caregivers about sex and relationships are less likely to take risks with their sexual health. Teens need real talk about birth control, and consent in sexual relationships. They need to know how to protect themselves against pressure and dating violence and the impact drinking and drugs can have on that. You want to empower your child to be able to evaluate risks and make good decisions.
We Grands need not have all the answers to questions about sex. When we’re not sure of an answer we can admit it and use that as an opportunity to look the answer up together. It opens the door to find out more about their circumstances. You can use a question to answer a question. ”Can you tell me what you already know about that?” or “What other questions about stuff like this do you have?” And a word of warning Grands, it is time to get ready to have young adults of any age ask you about your own sexuality. Good luck!
What’s the Big Secret?: Talking about Sex with Girls and Boys
The Girls’ Guide to Sex Education: Over 100 Honest Answers to Urgent Questions about Puberty, Relationships, and Growing Up
The Story of Me (God’s Design for Sex) by Stan Jones (1994-09-2003) (Christian Perspective)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – DR. PAT HANSON
Pat Hanson. Ph.D. is a seasoned health educator, public speaker, and workshop facilitator. She is the author of Invisible Grandparenting: Leave A Legacy Of Love Whether You Can Be There or Not. She lectures nationally on Aging Positively and is a columnist for the magazines: Crone: Women Coming of Age and GRAND
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