Saturday, February 20, 2010

Let's talk about sex

A child’s sex education should start at an early age

Following on from last week’s topic of the importance of role play in a child’s development, I only briefly touched on the subject of how children come to understand sex.
Sex education is a lot different nowadays to when I was a girl, and certainly a lot different to when my parents were growing up where the subject was completely taboo.
Many parents feel that sex education is not appropriate for young children.
They may fear that their child will use this knowledge to participate in sexual play resulting in promiscuity.
But the normal young child lacks a sexual appetite and therefore lacks the desire to be sexually active.
Parents may also fear a child will lose their innocence, but there is a greater risk of a child losing their innocence through someone else.
There is more risk of a child being shocked with details about sex through the media or peers, than through the appropriate and trusted perspective of the child’s parents.
Most parents will wait for the first question on sex before discussing it with their children, but often the first question is a result of incorrect information received from friends, who will probably tell them to keep it a secret.
The more a parent avoids the topic, the more it conveys the message that the parent does not want to talk about sex.

Children need to know that their parents have a positive, natural sexual relationship, and that sex is not something to be ashamed or, or something secretive.
Research shows that children who are educated about sex (including boundaries) are less promiscuous when compared to friends who have no boundaries or sex education.
Sex education from the parent also eliminates the curiosity of the child.
It is important to realise that young children want to learn from their parents so they should use this opportunity to communicate, provide them with the correct information and mould their child’s perception of sex before society does.
So how do we educate our kids, and at what age should we start?
I recently read an article that said “sex education is just another lesson in shapes and sizes”.
Perhaps this is true to some extent as many children will first ask questions about their own body, or questions about how babies are made, or why grown-ups have pubic hair.
Try to use simple terms, but don’t lie. Always give a child the correct information, even if you assume it is inappropriate for the age of the child. This will also set the stage for open, and honest, communication in the years to come.
If you don’t give them answers to their questions, they will turn to their friends instead which may lead to them getting the wrong answers.
Teach young children from an early age the proper names for their sex organs when they ask, and make sure they understand which parts of the body are private.
Teach them that no one is allowed to touch the private parts of their body without permission, and that is it not okay for them to touch the private parts of another person.
Don’t laugh at their curiosity, just take their questions at face value.
Sex education isn’t just one single tell-all discussion.
Everyday opportunities to discuss sex will arise throughout their childhood. For example, if there is a pregnancy in the family.
Masturbation in young children is a normal part of human sexual development, and not a sign of sexual deviancy.
Make sure your child knows that it is OK, but that it is something they must do in private, just like going to the toilet.
Parents should make sure they discuss their children’s sex education together so they can offer a consistent approach to their learning.
Treat their requests for information like you would any other request about how things work.
Avoid silly explanations such as “the stork brings the baby” as this is a lie that will only confuse them more. Using non-human examples to explain sex may also confuse them.
Some parents find picture books on human anatomy and sex education useful to help educate inquisitive minds.
It’s a good idea to also question your child about sex, to let you know just how much they understand.
Some children may never ask their parents about sexual issues, but this doesn’t mean you should not education them.
Look for opportunities to get the conversation started, such as a pregnancy in the family, and get age-appropriate sex education books that you can read together like you would any other story.
Parents who delay sex education believing their children are “not ready ready for it” are merely admitting that they are not ready to discuss it with their children.
It’s important to reinforce sex education throughout your child’s life because the message seldom gets through the first time. However, be aware that too many “lectures” will bore them and should be avoided.
For more advice, talk to your GP, visit Family Planning Queensland for some excellent resources (, visit your local library, or check out


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