If you have young children in the house, chances are, they start to notice that other bodies look different. It’s totally normal for them to ask questions like “Why is your chest so big”, ‘Why are your breasts bigger than mine?’, “What’s down there”, “What is a penis?”.
While the “Why’s & What’s” will be endless, here are some tips on how and when to have these important chats.
The earlier we begin the conversation with our children about protecting themselves, the better. With studies showing the majority of onset of sexual abuse happening between ages 3 to 8, it’s important to begin the discussion sooner rather than later. Also, an alarmingly increasing trend is of offenses being committed by another child. So make sure they’re aware of what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
Be straight with them
Experts seem to agree that teaching kids the proper names for private parts right from the start is the best way to go. So while it might strange to talk about your vagina or chat about your son’s penis, it’s best to treat the whole topic as completely normal and factual, instead of using cutesy terms like “hoo-ha. Being straightforward with them will help your kids better understand their bodies. You can also explain that their body will change as they get older and let them know you are available for questions when they come up.
Make it important
Our adult relationship with our sexual organs can be complex, but to a child, it’s simple. They’re important to our body’s function, and they’re vulnerable, so they must be protected. That’s really all your child needs to know, but their importance needs to be stressed.
Don’t freak out when they’re curious
If your child has observed how his.her friend’s private parts compare with his/her own, there’s no need to panic. If you catch your kids ‘playing doctor’, or inspecting each others’ genitals, ask them to get dressed and follow this up with a conversation around privacy and whatever rules you have about appropriate play.
Use teachable moments
Books are really helpful for showing what body parts look like and how they work. Teach your child from toddlerhood that there are different private parts on his or her body—the mouth, the breasts, the genitals and the bums—and that no one is allowed to see or touch them without permission.
Reinforce with repetition
When your child wants to listen to her favorite song again and again, it’s not because she’s being annoying. It’s because that’s how young minds learn. Harness this and repeat what you want your child to learn often.
No matter how uncomfortable you feel, make sure they develop a healthy relationship about their body and understand what’s right and wrong touch.