There's No Place Like Home for Sex Education: 1st Grade
This is it. First grade—real school. The big time. Time to experience delight and pride as you watch your child learn, develop, grow. It's also a time when many parents feel a twinge (at least) of discomfort—some anxiety about the dose of "outside influences" to which their children will now be exposed. First graders are gaining a stronger sense of themselves in relation to a larger social world; they begin to measure themselves against new friends and school acquaintances; what they see, hear and read makes an impression. The importance of having that backlog of trust and open communication with your child suddenly becomes perfectly clear—especially in the area of sexuality. If such a history hasn't been established, it's not too late to begin. But please, do begin now—for the early years are critical as your child develops attitudes toward sexuality. And, it's far easier to initiate discussions about sex while children are young. Open family discussions about sex can:
- Allow parents to share important family values;
- Assist children in forming a positive attitude and healthy respect toward sexuality;
- Ease fears and anxieties children often have around sexual curiosity;
- Build trust, understanding, and support;
- Increase the likelihood that children will seek out parents for information and guidance in the future.
Your child is launching his school career. What better gift to give him than your commitment to support growth and understanding in all aspects of his personhood—including sexuality.
OK … Where Do I Begin???
Begin by appreciating where 1st graders are at with their sexual curiosity. At this age, many children are hesitant about asking questions related to sex. By the time they're six, children have developed a fairly perceptive "radar" alerting them to topics, behaviors, etc., that adults find unacceptable or uncomfortable. So they're wary of saying or doing things that might cause trouble. The early grade school child is naturally curious about many sexual issues—whether that interest is verbalized or not. It is the wise parent who encourages communication. You might try asking questions about sexual issues you think may be of interest to your child. For the 1st grader these usually include:
- Where babies come from;
- Body parts/functions;
- Male/female differences, roles, and expectations;
- Sexual language.
In discussing these issues, with your child, remember:
- You are the expert at passing along family values about sexuality. You do have the answers in your heart, though you may need some practice with the words.
- Listen to your child's questions—and be sure you understand what s/he's really asking.
- Answer simply and honestly.
- You needn't worry about telling "too much, too soon." Children absorb what they are ready to, and are not overstimulated, encouraged, or whatever by more detail. The real danger lies in "too little, too late."
Family sex education offers you, as parents, a wonderful opportunity to speak from the heart to the children you love. Enjoy!
Reprinted with the permission of Advocates for Youth.