A recent incident helped me realize that I and my kids need to start thinking and learning a bit about sexual education. In this article, I share with you some ideas that I’ve come across in this delicate topic.
An incident that taught me some important things
This summer, our neighbor’s daughter crossed the line of our son’s intimacy. The positive side: our son told us what had happened, which gave me the feeling that we as parents managed to give him a sense of safety that he can trust us with delicate issues. Another positive aspect: this incident was just a heads up sign and did not lead to a trauma.
Negative side: our son felt uncomfortable with what he had experienced, but it was not clear to him why. Hence, I felt that it was our responsibility as parents to have clarified some basic principles in advance.
Early sex education
I won’t go into more details about what happened in order to protect the kids involved. I will only say that from that moment on I delved into researching and learning about sensitive issues such as sex, intimacy, abuse and strategies to preserve my kids’ psychological and physical integrity.
I am just starting out, so I am hoping that anyone interested in the topic will share with me online or offline resources that you recommend on sexual education for kids. Below, I am describing main resources and ideas for which I am very happy to have stumbled across.
What sex ed means for me
My three kids are under 6 years of age now, so I feel that it is premature for me to be busy with tricky topics such as masturbation and pornography. However, I think that all the other related topics make sense from an early age.
I like to be clear and analytical, so I divide sexual education for my kids in several layers:
- Human anatomy
- Concepts and social rules
Learn about the genital and evolution of the human body to maturity.
My insight no. 1:
Yap, for more than a month now, I’ve repeated in my mind hundreds of times “penis, vulva, penis vulva, penis, vulva”. When I get tired of these words, I start with “vagina, spermatozoon, anus, ovule”. It seems that repeating these words helps me become more comfortable around them. Let’s turn these words into common ones, I say. After all, we don’t call other organs by fictitious names, do we? So child might wonder: “Why would mom and dad nickname only my penis or vulva, unless there was something wrong with these body parts?”.
Yes, I secretly get amused when I hear my kids using the old term “koko” (guess what that word refers to 🙂 ).
Nope, I’m not up to asking my kids “Do you need to urinate?” After a small inner struggle, I’ve decided: pipi and kaka it is! Let somebody else tell their kids “urine” and “feces”.
My insight no. 2:
My boys were particularly (and surprisingly, for me) interested in learning about menstruation. For several days, my middle son ran all over the house (I truly hope not in kinder, too J) shouting that I am wearing a diaper until he could remember the word “tampon”. Once, he even asked me to put one on him, as well. I find that it is highly important for kids to also learn as much as possible about how the body of the opposite sex works. I admit to being biased and wanting for my sons to learn about girls more than wanting my daughter to learn about boys. I have this secret desire for my boys to grow up into men who respect, know and understand women.
My insight no. 3:
Only yesterday, I told my oldest son (6 years old) about puberty. Before one month ago, I wouldn’t have imagined myself describing puberty as I did yesterday. Simply because I didn’t know. But after reading a bit lately, it became clearer how I would describe it. For him, it seemed very interesting: starting around 12-13-14 years old, depending on how each kid develops, the boy’s penis starts to produce sperm. Also, the boy’s voice thickens, hair starts to grow in certain body areas, including on his face and slowly, not at once, the boy becomes a man, fully capable to make babies.
My son wasn’t interested girls’ evolution and I was relieved, because for now I’m not so well documented on this subject 🙂 .
Concepts and social rules
What do private parts mean, intimacy, what is acceptable to do in public versus in private, about different people’s life options that, whether we like it or not, are associated with their genitals and who these people have sex with.
My insight no. 1:
I’ve described to my kids private parts as the ones that most of the people cover up with a swimming suit. However, I made sure to tell them that some choose not to cover their private parts and there are beach areas were these people go. I also added in a neutral way that my choice is to cover them up and I feel good about my choice.
My insight no 2:
I had the opportunity to talk about what public/privacy means once when we were in a restaurant and we needed to use the toilet. I mentioned public toilet, they asked what it means and I told them that it is a toilet in places where people don’t know each other.
My insight no. 3:
I have not yet told them about people of the same sex who live together because I believe that first they should know about some basic concepts that I value. It also helped that they haven’t expressed interest or knowledge of this topic, yet.
For example, I started making a conscious effort to talk with them about diversity. Once, I told them about human races. I watched this video that troubled me and I did the same experiment with my oldest son when we were in a toy store. Two dolls were exhibited on a shelf, a white one and an identical, but dark colored. I asked him which seems more beautiful to him, he hesitated and asked me what I think. After several seconds told me that he prefers the white one because it’s white like him.
Unfortunately, my son strongly integrated the label blue for boys, pink for girls. Today, I bought juice for him and, as usual, he picked a blue straw. Because I knew from other discussions why he chooses like that, I told him that even if he will take a pink one he will not be more or less HIM, it is just a choice like any other. He replied to me that he is afraid that someone with laugh of him, if he chose a pink one.
Also, to teach them about my vision about diversity, I make small remarks such as: “I really like the way this shirt looks on you (which happens to be orange)” to my son or to my daughter “I like the way these sandals look on you” (which are blue with dinosaurs, actually designed for boys). I also tell them when the occasion arises that some men use nail polish or let their hair grow long. Actually, one of my favorite stories is about how cute their father was when he had long hair.
The child learns safeguarding techniques of their mental and physical integrity, avoiding the risk of abuse of any kind (not just sexual), what to do in possible, but unwanted situations (as getting lost), that it is ok to say “no”.
If in the 2 steps above I already did the first steps, in this field I was almost a novice. I was in a lethargy mood and more than that I was thinking only at the fact that they are still little and I need to oversee them all the time. I have two reasons for which I started to work much more in preventive techniques.
- Actually I do not watch them all the time
- My kids are actually old enough to sometimes feel that they can take care of themselves; they sometimes take initiatives which put them at a potential risk.
I believe that talking with them about possible unexpected situations, provide solutions and detect safety mechanisms when we are in different situations (like the beach or the park) has a major importance in’the kids evolution. First of all, it prepares them for the unexpected. It prepares them for life. It motivates them to use their thinking and it tells them that mommy and daddy are trustworthy companions that they can tell uneasy events to.
My insight no. 1:
I choose to show caring for my kids even at the beach, when I teach them different ways of finding our position on the beach. I do that although I stay with them when they are in the water. I teach them that not so much because I am afraid that they will get lost, but rather because I am trying to offer them tools for future moments when I won’t be around.
My insight no. 2:
I believe I am caring for my kids even when I have them wear swimsuits on the beach, even if they are very young and many parents choose to have their own kids naked. When I do that, I’m not trying to teach my kids about shame or to to protect them from possible predators (as I’ve read in an article recently, a true predator can be attracted by a fully dressed kid). I do that because I’m trying to build for them such concepts as public and privacy. In our home, we sometimes walk naked around, we use the toilet while the door is wide open, we take baths together. When we leave home, we go into the public.
My insight no. 3:
When we’re in the street and they’re riding their bikes, I practice with them the protocol for taking a turn on a different street. You stop, you look left and right to see if any cars or other vehicles are approaching, then you slowly move forward. I do that not because I am afraid of a possible accident but rather because I am preparing them for future moments when I will not be around.
My insight no. 4:
When we are in a highly trafficked public area, I write my phone number on their arm. One can also buy various devices for kid tracking, such as bracelets with contact details written on them, or GPS watches. My boys already know our address, full name of each family member. Phone number is next.
I’ve read this article and learned many things, so I highly recommend it, including the end list with further resources.
If this topic is interesting for you, these further resources may be useful:
The “Talking to kids about Sex” summit that ended in July consists in 31 amazing interviews. Price for access to all the interviews is of 97 USD.
Again Anya Manes, the coach who organized the summit, also created the Facebook group “Talking to kids about sex support group”. There, you can post questions or ask for opinions on sexual education for kids.
Again Anya Manes (isn’t she wonderful?!) has a list of books for kids on sex ed topic.
Later edit: another list of books for kids that I discovered after I had posted this article is here.
I read about kids’ developmental stages and what they may be ready to learn from sex ed in Meg Heckling’s book “The New Speaking of Sex: What Your Children Need to Know and When They Need to Know It”. She also wrote the book for kids that I intend to buy “Boys, Girls & Body Science: A First Book About Facts of Life”.
I am only at the beginning, but I’m looking at such an adventure ahead of me! 🙂 If you have thoughts, experiences, links, or book recommendations, please share with me.