Private Parts and Privacy: Talking to Your Kids
Talking to kids about sex?? Most parents of younger kids think they have YEARS before they have to worry about that! Many of us choose to wait until our kids are in the middle elementary school years (or later) to explain how babies are made or what our private parts are “for.”
On the EverydayFamily Facebook page, parents have been asking great questions about younger kids and body privacy issues.
I want to know how can I tell her about all this in a “right way”?
How can I explain to my two year old what constitutes as private? He gets that it is ok to check out his body and explore, and he also gets that sometimes it is not okay, but I don't know how to teach him what “in private” is.
In developmentally appropriate ways, there are dozens of opportunities to help preschoolers learn what is important, what is allowed and not, what is OK regarding our own and other peoples’ bodies.
Start at your first chance. When your toddler notices a difference between boy bodies and girl bodies get into conversation.
Use the real names of body parts. This will empower your child as they get older, and sends the message that these are not parts that need to be hidden by “pretend” names. Boy bodies have penises, girl bodies have vaginas.
Explain which are “private.” Anything that is covered when a person wears a bathing suit is off-limits to touching on anyone else or by anyone else EXCEPT: unless your parent is with you and allows it (the doctor/nurse loophole).
Touch yourself when you’re “in private.” That means when you’re alone in your room or in a bathroom by yourself. If your child is confused by this, you might compare it to bathing, or using the potty. This is not shameful, and everyone does it, but not in front of company!
This is not one conversation! This is lots and lots of short talks. You want to build your reputation with your child as the expert to go to with questions, one that will listen and answer respectfully.
Why does my daughter like to shimmy on the floor when she lays on her belly? She is almost three I am guessing she is “discovering” herself? Should I yell at her, kindly ask her to stop, or just let her be?
Sexual interest has its first peak between age 3 and 6. Masturbation, exploration, and questions are a normal part of development. The more your child gets simple, clear, and respectful answers at home, the less they will search for these answers elsewhere. Make your expectations about this clear.
If your family allows innocent touching of Mom’s or Dad’s private areas, make sure your child learns to ask first. He or she must ask permission every time before touching. The skill of asking first before any kind of touching or kissing (even hugging) is a great lesson for kids. Imagine a world in which teenagers always ask permission before touching someone else in a romantic way?
Talk about sexual and body issues early and often. It’s a great idea (as someone suggested on Facebook) to explain that not every family talks about this as freely as yours and that is why their curiosity and questions about bodies should be answered at home, not with friends.
Image via iStock