This is a great question and one I have been asked often. In a society where women and girls are objectified in marketing, media and music, it leaves parents with a very tough decision of when to begin talking to their child about sex.
The reality is our children are growing up in an over sexualized society that creates imagery and a message that a girl and woman’s worth often lies in her looks and body. As parents, it is important to begin having conversations with kids at a much earlier age than ever before. In most instances schools are prohibited from teaching kids about sex and sexuality until middle school, and we can all agree kids should not be learning about these things from their peers. The safest and most nurturing environment for kids to learn is from loving parents.
Now that we have determined that home is the best place to have these tough and even uncomfortable conversations, let’s talk about how much is too much.
It is imperative that parents use wisdom and wise judgment when talking with their children about sex; being careful to reveal information at a level their child can understand. Often times, when kids have questions about sex, relationships or their bodies, as adults we freak out because we are looking at the question(s) through the lens of an adult. However, when it comes to kids, they are usually asking questions based on something they have overheard, and/or introduced by their peers or oftentimes seen or heard through some form of media. It is important for parents and adults to realize that kids, especially those who are very young, are often looking at certain issues about sex or sexuality from a totally different lens.
One mistake I often see, is parents who decide to ignore the questions or curiosity in hopes it will simply go away, but unfortunately that doesn’t work. Instead, it is important for parents to ask questions of their child to find out more about exactly what and why they are interested. Great questions include, “What would you like to know about ______” or “Tell me what you know about ________”. No matter how embarrassing the question, it is important to take the emotions out of it and thank your child for coming to you. Let them know it is important that they come to you with any questions they have regarding any topic.
In the book, So Sexy, So Soon by Diane Levin, PH.D., she shares great tips for beginning dialogue between daughters and parents. She points out that curiosity about sex and sexuality at an early age is not new. However, what children are learning today about sex and sexuality is neither normal nor good for them. She further states that the sexualization of childhood is having a profoundly disturbing impact on children’s understanding of gender, sexuality and relationships.
I would focus the majority of your discussions with young children on developing a strong sense of self and on sexuality opposed to focusing on the act of sex. Teaching kids, and girls especially, to understand and respect their bodies is essential. Teach them the importance of creating boundaries, and on appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Use everyday situations and teachable moments to talk to your child and be sure to keeping dialogue going. For instance, when you see a character on television, discuss their behaviors (good and bad). Whether you have daughters or sons, help them become wise consumers and teach them, even at a young age, to ask questions as you help them form healthy images of sexuality and true worth.
Nicole Steele is President of GEM Makers, LLC and Executive Director of Diamond In The Rough a faith-based leadership program that provides group mentoring, life skills training and career coaching to girls ages 4-18. For more information on Diamond In The Rough visit www.ditr.org or call (678) 376-9676.
Copyright 2014, Nicole Steele and GEM Makers LLC. Used with permission. Image-courtesy-of-stockimagesat-FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Through Her Priceless Posts, Nicole Steele shares her Priceless Perspective on real life issues pertaining to women, girls, families and youth workers.