There's No Place Like Home for Sex Education: 4 Years
Sex Is No Secret To A Four Year Old
Just how much sexuality education has your child had by age 4? Plenty. And where has most of it come from? Probably you … hopefully in thoughtful, purposeful and loving ways.
Parents are teaching about sexuality every day … from the moment their child is born. Showing love and affection to children—touching, hugging, cuddling…these are all ways of giving positive messages about sexuality. How parents respond (or not) to a child's natural curiosity about sexual differences, body parts, where babies come from, etc. certainly these present loud and clear messages about sexuality.
Beyond the homefront, children also receive plenty of sex education—some of it negative, or at least questionable. Media messages about sex bombard the senses…from billboards to TV, magazines and music.
You may think your 4-year-old is oblivious to these messages. S/he isn't. So why not use them as opportunities to share your own values and attitudes around sexuality? At age four, your child may not fully understand your message, but one thing will be clear: mom and dad think it's important to talk about sex openly and honestly.
Even at pre-school, children share lots of (mis)information about sex with each other. Some of their ideas can be pretty wild … and they may not check them out with you.
Considering all this "sex education" that goes on with or without parent consent, you'd be wise to get your two cents worth in too!
Wait a Minute. Haven't We Discussed This?
Don't be surprised if your 4-year-old's sexual questions are the very ones you thought were taken care of when s/he was three. Throughout your child's early years, you will be called upon to repeat the same "sexplanations" again and again … and yet again.
A 4-year-old learns by asking questions—LOTS of them! As you respond to sexual questions patiently, openly, and honestly, you let your children know, "You're important to me. I am willing to take time with you," and "I'm glad you asked me. This is a good topic for us to talk about."
Your child's sexual curiosity may surface at the most inopportune times: during dinner at grandma's, on a crowded elevator, in line at the checkout stand. If you're unwilling to discuss it at that moment, let your child know it's the timing that's bad, not the question. "I'm glad you asked me, Michael. We'll have time to talk about it on the way home." This is far more supportive and positive than a stern "Hush, Michael!" or worse yet, silence.
So your child's questions cause a bit of embarrassment, or the timing's awkward. Be happy s/he feels comfortable asking you.
When young children don't ask mom and dad about sex, it isn't that they're not curious. Typically they've learned it isn't ok to ask, or that the subject causes discomfort. Having such feelings reinforced as they grow up, children often turn elsewhere to satisfy their sexual curiosity … to friends, the media, personal experimentation. The unfortunate result is misinformed, vulnerable youth.
Clearly, parents want to provide (and children want to receive) information and guidance in the area of sexuality.
You can make that happen!
Reprinted with the permission of Advocates for Youth.
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