We live in a world struggling to distinguish between good conduct and misconduct. News headlines riddled with victims and predators. As we raise our children in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, it is incumbent on parents to step back and revisit their approach to “The Birds and the Bees”.
Building a positive understanding of sex begins at home, at least it should. Parents and children struggle with approaching this sensitive yet necessary conversation effectively. Fathers need to play an active role in making this a productive and healthy discussion with both their boys and their girls.
It is a common belief that discussing sex should only start when your child is a teen. This isn’t true.
1. Teach your baby the anatomically correct terms for their genitals. They must understand that girls have vaginas and boys have penises in the same way that they have a nose, fingers, toes and nipples.
2. As a parent, you need to accept that it is normal for your 1 to 3-year-old to begin touching themselves. Tell them to do so gently and educate them on when and where it is okay to do so. There is nothing shameful about it.
3. Preschoolers and young children need to comprehend and differentiate between a safe and unsafe touch. They need to learn the dos, don’ts and boundaries associated with touching others and being touched by others. This is the age where the foundation of consent is formed and curiosity about the human body is at its peak.
4. The foundation of tolerance is also developed at a young age and is often directly linked to a healthy conversation around sex. Children need to be educated on how babies are born and that there are more ways than one. Families and relationships are built in different ways and that gender isn’t binary. While there may be cultural barriers to how far this conversation will go, remember, education and information don’t need to endorse an alternative way of life, but it does need to be imparted to develop an inclusive approach to the world.
5. Children today are more tech-savvy than ever before. Open access to the internet enables access to pornography and other adult websites. It is important not to rely entirely on device-based “parental controls” but actually have a conversation with them about the adult nature of such websites. Talk to your children about the legality of accessing adult content and sharing nude images of themselves over social media. Approach the discussion calmly and objectively
6. Between the ages of six to eight, it is important to talk to your children about sexual abuse. Shweta Shivprasad, a counselling psychologist practising at the Presidency School in Bangalore, India, gives us some pointers on how to talk to children and protect them from predators.
7. Talking about sex isn’t just about wet dreams, masturbation, erections and intercourse. It’s about gender (and gender stereotypes), how they fit in this world (glass ceilings), the portrayal of sex in popular media, of how their bodies will change (puberty) and being respectful of themselves and others on social media.
8. Taking a well-rounded approach and systematically breaking down barriers over time will make harder conversations easier when your child is a teen. You have already sown the seeds of difficult concepts like consent, respect, tolerance and inclusiveness. It is easier to reiterate than it is to teach from scratch. What’s left then is the conversation around intercourse and how to be safe.
Reviewed by: Dr. Melanie Schlatter
Date reviewed: 15th November, 2018
If you feel like we have missed anything, do share your thoughts with us via our contact form. It is important that you seek the guidance of a professional when in doubt and use our pointers as a guide.