There's No Place Like Home for Sex Education: 5 Years
Kids Need to Know... Parents Need to Tell Them
Certainly by age 5, a child has a good idea about where mom and dad stand on the subject of sex … and whether it's ok to even talk about it. From birth, children receive an array of messages about sexuality from their parents: infants who are held and cuddled learn about loving touch; toddlers exploring their bodies quickly discover their sexual parts—and their parents' reactions to their exploration; the preschooler who asks her dad, "Where's my penis?" becomes aware if sexual questions are ok to discuss (or not) in her family.
The 5-year-old has had a bit of experience in the world: interactions with family; exposure to other children and differing beliefs; TV, movies, magazines, advertising, music … which influence the developing sense of sexuality, either directly or indirectly. Children cannot avoid the sexual messages that permeate life today.
Natural situations, everyday moments and events lend themselves to a child's sex education. With or without your consent they occur, as the life and learning processes of your children unfold.
Parents may respond with silence, disgust, scolding … implying that sexuality is negative or dirty. Or, they may respond with delight, using these opportunities to offer loving, honest explanations … teaching the child that sexuality is a wonderful part of being human.
Families have so much to gain from open communication about sex. Taking the initiative to develop a dialogue of trust, parents can pass along important family values. Children have the opportunity to gain accurate information and a positive regard for sexuality.
The time to start this dialogue is early—earlier in fact than many parents would suspect. In today's complex world, perhaps even more so than in the past, children need and deserve thoughtful, purposeful sex education from day one.
But it's never too late to begin. And while you as a parent will not be your children's only sex educator, you can be (and are) their first and most important.
Reprinted with the permission of Advocates for Youth.
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