How to talk with your young child about sex (2)
In my therapeutic work with children and in consultations with parents the issue of sexuality and how to talk about it often comes up. I recently saw a youtube video where young children were giving 'the talk' about where babies come from. The environment was a quite sterile and gray environment with the parents sitting quite awkwardly at a table with their child, to whom they were going to deliver 'the talk.'
Rather than planning on having the talk at one specific moment, it might be a better idea to start talking to children as soon as they have explicit or implicit questions. When you are giving a 2 year old a bath, and he points at his penis, name the part by its actual name. The same for the girl. Typically around age 3, when they discover sexual difference, children start to have more questions. Sometimes they pose them explicitly: They make a comment on the difference between boys and girls, or they volunteer an idea on how they think babies are made. Or the question is implicit: Suddenly they start to make a lot of 'butt jokes,' or 'fart jokes.' Valuable opportunities are missed when those questions are not responded to, or when the 'inappropriate behavior' is punished without the underlying question being heard.
These are all great opportunities to explore the child's thoughts about the subject more, and to give them simple information, in a matter of fact way, in the line of the truth. These kind of conversations will need to be repeated as the child grows up, as the child tends to 'forget' those things. It is important to take the child's questions at face value, and to not get embarrassed about it. Simplicity and a matter of fact approach are key in responding to the child. If not they might feel there is something wrong about the topic, something that cannot be spoken about.
Here are some examples mentioned at the website of the Mayo Clinic:
- How do babies get inside a mommy's tummy? You might say, "A mom and a dad make a baby by holding each other in a special way."
- How are babies born? For some kids, it might be enough to say, "Doctors and nurses help babies who are ready to be born." If your child wants more details, you might say, "Usually a mom pushes the baby out of her vagina."
- Why doesn't everyone have a penis? Try a simple explanation, such as, "Boys and girls bodies are made differently."
- Why do you have hair down there? Simplicity often works here, too. You might say, "Our bodies change as we get older." If your child wants more details, add, "Boys grow hair near their penises, and girls grow hair near their vagina's."
It is these kinds of little conversations, where the questions of the child are heard, and then responded to without embarrassment, giggling...
Sometimes, if you feel too embarrassed to answer certain questions, it does not hurt to be open to your child about that. You can tell them that you have to think about how to answer that question.
Sometimes a therapist can also help you out how to explore these important topics with your child.
To schedule an appointment call An at (530) 321-2970