It’s never too early to talk to your child about the birds and the bees. Think Psychological Services’ educational and developmental psychologist, Pamela See, notes that at age 1, your child is already mentally aware of gender differences, although they’re not able to point it out yet.
Talking to your child about sexuality, sex and bodies will help them understand that sex and sexuality are normal, healthy parts of life. It will also ease such conversations in the future.
A discussion about sex isn’t a one-off ― it’s a conversation that will continue and evolve as your child grows up. The way you talk about sex and sexuality matters, too. If you appear to be scared or embarrassed to discuss the issue, your child will shy away from sharing their thoughts. See states, “Parents should [aim] to educate and hold open discussions with their child.”
Ultimately, you want junior to know that that they shouldn’t feel embarrassed to ask you about sex and sexuality issues and can always approach you for honest and reliable information. Try these tips…
Infographic: Syahirah Maszaid
Ages 0 to 2
* Toddlers should be able to name all the body parts including the genitals.
* Most 2-year-olds know the differences between a male and female, and can usually figure out if a person is male or female.
Ages 3 to 5
* If your child asks uncomfortable questions about gender, answer as truthfully as possible with age-appropriate terms. See explains, “Children in preschool might ask very basic questions, such as ‘How do babies get into the tummy’, or, ‘what’s that?’ while pointing to an adult’s breasts or their genitals.”
* You should make full use of your child’s natural curiosity to kick-start a conversation on whichever topic they’ve brought up. When you do, explain it to suit your child’s level of understanding. For instance, when responding to your child’s questions about their genitals, you can briefly explain that it’s the part of their body where pee comes out from. Then remind them that they shouldn’t flash their private parts in public as it’ll make people around them feel very uncomfortable.
* Tell them about personal space and what to do when someone is standing too close to them. Advise your mini-me to say “Please excuse me” in a courteous tone and remind them not to push or shove at the other person because it’s rude.
* Teach them the difference between a “good” and “bad” touch, and what to do if they experience a “bad” touch. See advises that you tell your child, “It is okay for an adult to give you a pat on the back for a good job but no one should touch your private parts.” Explain that a good touch is something that makes him feel comfortable and happy like a hug or a hi-five.
* A bad touch can be either one of the following:
-An unsafe touch Actions or gestures that hurt your child’s feelings or body — like kicking, pushing, punching and pinching. Tell them it’s not right for others to touch them in an unsafe way, so they shouldn’t do it to others, either.
- An unwanted touch Such touches are given when the child hasn’t asked for it or touches that leave them feeling uncomfortable. This can be a hug when they are still angry or a stranger touching their private parts, especially when it isn’t for a medical purpose.
Help your mini-me practise how to politely and firmly say no to an unwanted touch. Then, tell them whom they can approach — like a loved one or teacher — for help if needed.
* By age 5, you should teach your child to use the public toilet for their gender (with your spouse’s help).
* If you’re expecting, tell them about your pregnancy (how a foetus will grow and that you will be delivering a baby). Try using kid-friendly books like Baby on the Way by Martha Sears or What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg to simplify the explanation.
Ages 10 and above
* Let junior know that feeling sexual urges is a natural part of puberty. Depending on your family’s beliefs, you may want to talk to your child about masturbation. See says when a child asks if it’s okay to touch him or herself, explain that it’s all right when it feels good and only if they follow the rules. They should only do so in the privacy of their own rooms or bathroom with the doors locked and not when other people are around. If your religion is against such sexual acts, seek help from your religious leaders on ways to explain it to your child.
* Explain that girls can get pregnant during puberty, so it is important that they know about safe sex and contraception. Regardless of your family’s beliefs and values on sex before marriage, it is crucial to educate junior about postponing sex until they are older and the importance of practising safe sex. You can use resources like the Health Promotion Board’s HealthHub webpage, which has helpful tips.
* Have an open and honest conversation to let your child understand that they may have feelings for members of the opposite or same sex. Boy-girl relationship problems are one of the leading causes of suicide amongst school children. Hence, it is important to always remind your child that they can come to you for help whenever they need to.
Approach local support groups like Oogachaga and SAFESingapore for help in guiding your conversations with your Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer (LGBTQ) child. See stresses that in your conversations, it is important to explore and discuss these feelings without judgement and allow your teenager to feel safe to discuss their thoughts freely.
Main photo: iStock
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