Often, parents worry about how and what to teach their kids about sexuality. Sensitive subjects include, body parts, puberty and sex. As children, we may have had varying experiences ranging from no discussion, to brief embarrassing moments or healthy conversations with our own parents.
Children, at a very young age, discover their own bodies. Any parent who has had a young child in diapers knows that he/she is curious about their “diaper area” or “privates”. Boys often giggle with glee as they are being cleaned, or grab their “self”. Girls sometimes do the same with their own bodies. In “A Parent’s Guide” (available for purchase for about $4 or an online version in both audio and a download), it is suggested that, as parents, we do not make a big deal of such a situation, but remain neutral. Also, it is recommended that we use appropriate names for body parts.
In our family, if a question is asked, we answer it honestly and accurately. That is after we have taken into account the child’s age and what exactly the child is asking. For instance, if a child asks us how a baby gets in the mom’s stomach, it may not be appropriate to go on a full discourse about intercourse, but rather a simple statement that mom and dad put it there. You may find that asking a simple question before answering may help you know exactly what your child is really asking.
Additionally, we have chosen to teach our kids at the age of eight years about the “birds and bees.” Why so young? It is my observation that children are hearing information from their peers at a younger age, puberty is starting earlier, and some are sexually active before or during middle school. Our goal is to talk to our kids and introduce proper terms with our kids beforetheir friends taint something so important.
By introducing sex to them so early, we can
Talk to them before they are embarrassed about it.
Invite them to keep an open dialog if they have questions or wonder about things they hear at school.
Teach them about puberty and the changes that could likely start taking place soon.
Bring up important values pertaining to sexuality and explain why we have such values.
For us, we believe in teaching our children to abstain from sex until marriage. Laura M. Brotherson, CFLE, in her book “And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment” asserts, “Knowing that the physical attraction placed within men and women is a glorious gift from God when used in its rightful time and place, can provide youth with a healthy sexual understanding and put them in a more positive and powerful position to resist temptation. Respect can replace recklessness as youth gain a more inspired understanding of God’s promised power and the blessings that come from reverencing the body and sexuality.” If you can teach them more of the why, rather than just saying “don’t, don’t, don’t,” your children will be more likely to understand the principle and thus make wise choices.
Another important idea Brotherson mentions is to be careful not to make sex and guilt synonymous. Many people, especially women, are taught “no, bad and dirty” when it comes to sex. Thus, when sex is okay, they will still feel guilty about it. This is important to remember so you can properly teach your kids. Perhaps, the aforementioned quote is part of the key to teaching “guiltless.”
It is important to have healthy relationships with your children to effectively teach sexuality. Children and teenagers need to know that they are loved, safe, trusted, and that their parents understand and will not overreact to questions or situations that may arise. Providing and welcoming such an environment will make teaching easier, and help your children have a comfortable place to learn.
We teach and believe that sex and our bodies are sacred. Used properly, they can bring us much happiness and joy, which we believe is between husband and wife, one man and one woman. Everyone has a body. Everyone has gender specific body parts. We all go through puberty and experience attraction and sexual feelings. They are natural. However, it is up to parents to teach children the importance of controlling desires and understanding correct principles.
You may also want to include in these discussions topics of a sensitive nature including, pornography and molestation. It is imperative for children to know that pornography is a danger that can damage healthy sexual thinking and relationships. Molestation can occur anywhere—at home, at a relative’s house, at school or even at church. Teach your children to know what it is, how to avoid it, and what to do if it happens.
Some keys to teaching children of any age:
Educate yourself and your spouse so that you can adequately understand and teach about sexuality (attend “maturation” class with your child).
Build strong and healthy relationships with your children so they trust you and feel safe and comfortable enough to talk with you about sexuality.
Be sure to answer any and all questions your children may have about their bodies or sex.
If you do not know an answer, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know and get back to your child after you know the answer.
Keep an open dialog.
Set an example for your children of respect and love for your spouse.
Besides the aforementioned resources, “A Parent’s Guide” and “And They Were Not Ashamed”, also notable is Richard and Linda Eyre’s “How to Talk to Your Child About Sex” as well as their website www.valuesparenting.com. Use these tools or others you have found to study and learn how best to teach your children (and yourself).