There's No Place Like Home for Sex Education: 4 Years (page 2)
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!
A Question of Birthday Suits
"At what point do I insist that my child—or my partner—wear clothes around the house?" Parents often wonder what impact nudity in the family has on children.
While their children are young, many parents have a relaxed attitude about nudity. Beyond the toddler stage however, especially with children of the other gender, parents may begin to question its appropriateness.
Parents should examine their comfort level around being undressed in front of their children. Comfort suggests a feeling of "ok-ness" or self-acceptance about the body. This is a healthy attitude for children to learn. During pre-school years, nudity among family members in natural situations (taking a shower, getting undressed) provides opportunities for children to find out about body parts and sexual differences … between males and females, kids and grown-ups.
If parents are uncomfortable being undressed around their children, they can certainly use another method, such as picture books to teach about bodies. It's important to talk with children about when and where nudity may be appropriate (i.e., at home, with family members vs. in public places). A natural follow-up could be a discussion about respecting privacy:
Q. Mommy, why can't I take showers with you anymore? Steven showers with his mom.
A. That's something each family decides on, David, depending on what they feel ok about. I like having my privacy now when I shower.
This is reinforced when parents in turn respect their children's right to privacy. Knocking on a closed door, allowing private use of the bathroom—these let your child know you honor his/her wish for privacy.
Often the whole question of nudity in the home takes care of itself when the young child (perhaps as early as age 4) begins to act a bit more modestly. S/he may be less inclined to be seen undressed in front of others, and may even prefer that parents remain clothed. Families should respect those feelings.
Realize too, that many children may be quite comfortable with nudity in the family, even through their elementary school years.
Reprinted with the permission of Advocates for Youth.
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