Many parents feel uncomfortable with talking about sex and prefer to avoid them. Some people understand the importance of sexuality education and believe that it is necessary to gather courage and tell everything “about it” in one sitting. Sex education, however, is not just a sensitive conversation. This is the gradual formation of the child’s correct ideas about his body, teaching hygiene skills and safety rules, and most importantly, it is building a trusting relationship with the child.
Yes, he will certainly find out. But when flat jokes of peers or videos on the Internet become a source of information, the child has a distorted picture of what is right and normal, and what is dangerous and unacceptable. Trial and error in this matter carries too many risks. Sexual violence, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections – all these threats often become a reality due to a person’s inability to assess the danger and seek help in time. And if those to whom their parents did not say anything about “this” managed to avoid serious problems, this is not a reason to leave their children in the dark. After all, the world does not stand still – the incidence of HIV is growing every year, the chances that a child will watch pornography already in elementary school or will face some form of sexual violence without really understanding what is happening increases.
Every day we are faced with many auspicious moments for discussing sex issues. Bathing is a great way to talk about body composition and teach your child personal hygiene skills. It is desirable that after five years he be able to independently care for his genitals. Teach your child the correct names of the genitals. Even if you are embarrassed to pronounce the words “penis”, “scrotum”, “vulva” and “labia” – the child should know them. This is not a tribute to the newfangled method of education – this is a concern for safety. Sex offenders are known to avoid children who know the correct names for their genitals. Such children, as a rule, have a trusting relationship with their parents and are warned of possible threats – this makes them less accessible to victims of crime. This does not mean that you need to say the word “penis” every day when you send your baby to the shower. Many parents, having introduced the child to the correct names, continue to use the words that they are comfortable with pronouncing. Some psychologists argue that such an approach is also justified: for the child, first of all, calmness and confidence with which parents are ready to answer his questions are important. But if you cannot squeeze out of yourself anything more definite than the mysterious word “THERE”, hinting at the child’s intimate area, it will be much more difficult for him to turn to you for help when he needs it. And then, there is nothing reprehensible in the anatomical names of the organs – after all, you cannot call the phallus of Michelangelo’s David a “tap”.
Of course it’s okay. Sex education by no means encourages a child to freely discuss and even more so to demonstrate their genitals to anyone, anytime. But it’s one thing to be ashamed of your nakedness, and quite another to be ashamed to touch on this topic even if necessary. Teach your child about privacy and teach him the rule of underwear. Its essence is simple: no one should see or touch the child in places that are covered by cowards – and the children themselves should not touch others in these places. Respect the child’s personal boundaries: knock before entering his room, let him give up hugs and kisses, teach him to say “no” – especially unfamiliar people. The “adult is always right” attitude often prevents children from resisting harassment from their elders. Teach the children the difference between good and bad secrets. Encourage them to tell you the secrets that make them fearful and uncomfortable.
Psychologists advise not to specifically focus on this issue. Give information gradually, making sure that it is in the interests of the child and his ability to absorb it. Start by saying “babies come out of mom’s belly” until the child has a new question. If the child is very curious (as a rule, this is exactly the case) and wants here and now to find out all the details about how exactly he got into the stomach and was born, continue to answer calmly until you satisfy his natural interest in this topic. You can talk about how babies appear in mom’s belly when she and dad love each other, that women have a special organ – the uterus, in which the child grows until she is ready to come out through a special opening – the vagina. You can choose a more familiar way of telling the story, the main thing is to talk to your child honestly, calmly and confidently. Usually children show interest in this topic at the age of 4-5, but this is very individual. If the child does not ask questions, do not miss the right moment to start the conversation yourself, especially if he has already started school.
The child needs to know that sex is a continuation of love and desire to be together, and not vulgarity and filth, as is often presented among peers. This is the form of intimacy that is possible between adults who love and trust each other very much. There is no need to tell the child about all the intricacies of intimate relationships, but you need to warn him about the dangers that such intimacy can carry. A child should learn about contraception before having sex, and about menstruation and emission before puberty (keep in mind that this can occur before age 11). Explain that any closeness between people is possible only by mutual consent. Remind them to be able to say no when they feel uncomfortable. Say that in any unpleasant situation it is better to seem funny, but to stay alive and healthy – and this applies not only to sex. Children tend to try a lot “for the company”, fearing ridicule, many children are embarrassed to scream loudly even when they are in real danger. It is also important to explain in time that pornography is a fiction for adults, which in no case should be taken as a guide to action.
If you cannot overcome your own embarrassment, honestly tell your child that you were not taught to discuss sex issues and you are still ashamed of this topic. But at the same time, you want to be sure that the child will receive the necessary information, and in which case he will undoubtedly share his experiences with you. Make sure that there is a close person in his environment who could become your confidant in this matter. Books will also come to your aid – study them together or invite your child to familiarize themselves with their content. Talk to other parents about the opportunity to teach a sex literacy class. Attend parenting lectures and workshops to help you overcome your fears.
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