Parents love to teach their children about life, living and everything possible, but one aspect about life something all parents dread teaching about is sex. Many are complacent that o.k. we will face it once the child is nearing puberty, which means we have a good 12 years before we have to worry about talking about – sex.
But a child’s first escapade with sex does not happen with puberty, it starts as early as the preschool years. First a child becomes aware of his/her sex organs, then realizes that there is a difference between girls and boys and then many of them also become aware of the fact that babies are born from mummy’s stomach. The ugly term sexual abuse also makes it presence felt more often at this stage, because the perpetrators feel the child will not come to know that anything wrong is being done to him/her.
So parents need to address – sex and sex education – quite early with their children. So what should be the method of interacting with your child about sex and sex related questions? Should we wait for children to ask us or should we make them aware of it? These are common confusions raging in most parents minds. Here I have always relied on German educationist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s definition of what children need at each stage of life. According to him from0 to 7 children learn best and thrive on imitation, from 7 to 14 they learn from authority, which means they need supervision, constant monitoring and a firm hand in rules and regulations and from 14 onwards they need and thrive on independence.
So keeping the above in mind for parents to develop their rapport with kids about sex education, parents of children in the age group of 0 to 7 need to understand that since children learn by imitation they need to see you having a positive concept about hugging and kissing, they will imitate whatever they see, so please let your child sleep separately especially when you and your partner are indulging in sexual activity. And lastly they need to develop a positive concept about their genitals, it should not make them feel that genitals are dirty, something to be ashamed about etc. They should be taught about ‘manners’ to do with genitals. Girls are taught how to sit without showing their panties and boys about not touching their genitals. To ensure that your child is safe from sexual abuse, it is important to teach them about good touch and bad touch as early as 4 to 5 years. This can be done with a story, a teddy bear etc and they should know basics like
- It is o.k. to hug someone or if someone hugs you.
- It is not o.k. to touch someone’s genitals (between their legs) and not o.k. if someone touches yours
- Only daddy and mummy can touch your genitals. If anyone else does then let mummy know
- Do not allow anyone to kiss you on the lips.
- Close the toilet door while doing your ‘wee wee’ and ‘potty’
- We should not put any objects in our genitals
The n.a.e.y.c (national association of education of young children- u.s.a) has good material on how children develop their self concept – research in their journal ‘understanding preschooler development’ by Margaret Puckett and Janet Black - says that
Some behaviors embarrass or worry adults — such as when children ask direct questions about body parts and functions, giggle about and tease member of the opposite sex, engage in "bathroom talk" or "playing doctor." However, these are normal behaviors that simply show that children have a growing awareness of the differences between genders. As a parent, it's important that your response to such behavior is positive, informative, and age-appropriate. Acting shocked or embarrassed or ignoring questions is unhelpful.
Another aspect of modern life that is slowly having its negative impact on early puberty and sexual awareness in children is television viewing. Children’s brain expert Dr. David Perlmutter says in his book- ‘Raise a smarter child by kindergarten.’
That children who spend an inordinate amount of time in front of an electronic screen may also be at risk of premature sexual development.
Many girls these days are showing signs of precocious sexual development, including well-developed breasts and pubic hair growth, well before these ages.
Although no one knows for sure why watching TV would cause premature sexual development, there are several explanations. First, excess TV viewing is associated with childhood obesity, which can boost levels of the female hormone estrogen, which, in turn, can' hasten sexual development. Second, TV viewing as well as prolonged exposure to artificial light suppresses the production of a hormone called melatonin that helps regulate sexual development in both boys and girls. As children enter early adolescence, melatonin levels fall naturally signaling the start of bodily changes that culminate in puberty. Artificially suppressing melatonin, however, could cause a child to go into puberty prematurely!
The intense sexual content of many television programs could rev up hormone production in children who are not meant to be exposed to this type of stimulation at so young an age. Adults often forget that even though very young children can't talk, they can listen and observe. Their brains soak up everything in their environment. You may think that 1-or 2-year-old is not observing sexy soap opera scenes or the casual sex on a sitcom, but she is. And by the time a child is 4 or 5 and beginning to develop a sense of her sexual self; she is definitely picking up the suggestive themes on TV.
So as your child enters the age of 7 to 14, he/she is definitely now more prone to experiencing bodily changes as he/she nears the age of puberty. Here as Steiner said authority is what will work, so monitor what your child is watching, reading and talking to friends. Close supervision is a must. Give him the freedom to ask you questions as otherwise he may get wrong answers from somewhere else.
A child brought up with this kind of focused attention on sexual understanding and sex education, by the time he reaches the age of puberty of 14 years would have a healthy concept of and about sex. He would be able to understand that sex is another need of the body, but a need that cannot be treated as lightly as hunger etc. It is a need that should be understood, something that one has to take responsibility for. This is the right age to talk about sexual diseases, masturbation, aids and HIV and pregnancy and condoms.
‘mantra’ for this age remember? So put the onus of responsibility on the
growing child, be vigilant but not overtly so. Call his/her friends over, let
him/her have a party at home and you would be able to gauge the sexual talk etc
among his/her friends. Independence
Sex is something that can be positive, healthy and a conscious part of life or sex can be intimidating, disappointing, give you feeling of being ashamed, but it is up to us as parents that we make sex and its education a continuous part of the growing up years of our child. Let ‘s not wait for sex to rear its ugly head one day, lets remove the ugliness in sex and make it a controlled and healthy aspect of our kids lives.
AND YES BE ALERT ABOUT CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE-
From an early age make children aware of GOOD TOUCH-BAD TOUCH, download a copy of a PowerPoint that you can show your child from www.jumbokids.com