Sexuality combines the whole mind and body, not just the genitals. Many things shape a child’s sexuality, which starts developing at birth and continues throughout life. You might feel uncomfortable speaking to your child about sexuality; even the most seasoned professional can find it difficult. But like everything, it is never too late to start, and it gets easier with practice.
Communicating about sexuality starts with how you:
- play and touch your child. They learn how to express affection and emotion.
- react to sensitive situations. They learn by watching how you react with others.
- speak about sexuality and what language you use. They learn about how you think and feel about sexuality and gender expression.
How do I talk to my child about sexuality?
If you talk about sexuality with your child from an early age (e.g. a child’s body parts, feelings, attractions) there never needs to be a big talk. It just becomes a series of small conversations spread out over many years. In fact, teens often name their parents as the biggest influence in their decision about sex.
It is important for you to:
- be aware of what your child already knows.
- let your child know this is an important subject that you are happy to talk about.
- help your child feel good about themselves, their bodies and their relationships with others.
- realize that talking about sexuality will not make your child sexually active. Actually, teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners and use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex.
- recognize the lifelong benefits of communicating openly and honestly with your children about these matters
- Answer questions honestly and accurately
- Use correct names for body parts (e.g. penis and vagina).
- Listen to your child’s questions to determine the reason for asking.
- Share what you believe in and why it is important for you.
- Suggest looking for the answer together (e.g. internet).
- Stress the importance of making healthy choices.
- Prepare answers to possible questions, ahead of time.
- Take advantage of everyday moments to start a conversation.
- Discuss expectations around proper dress, behaviour, television/internet/social media access.
Common questions from young children:
Q: How does a baby get in your tummy?
A: A man's sperm joins a woman's egg and then a baby begins to grow in a mommy's womb (pointing to your lower abdomen) and comes out of her vagina.
Q: A little boy asks, “What’s that?” (Pointing to mommy’s breasts)
A: They are called breasts. Women have breasts and men don’t. Is there anything else you would like to know about that? They may point to their nipples, opening the door to explain that both men and women have nipples but only women have breasts.
Q: Is it okay to touch myself?
A: Yes, it often feels good to touch ourselves. But some types of touching are best saved for when you are in a private place (this may generate discussion about masturbation).
Q: Is masturbation normal?
A: Touching or rubbing your genitals is called masturbation. It is normal and healthy to want to touch yourself in ways that feel good. But this type of touching is best saved for when you are in a private place.
One person's answer is likely to be different from another person’s. The aim is to give your child honest, simple answers that will expand your child’s understanding of their sexuality.
Q: Why does Tommy have two Daddies?
A: Families come in all different shapes and sizes. Some have a mommy and a daddy, some have two mommies or two daddies and some have one parent or grandparent or someone you consider very special.
Teaching sexual health.ca
Health Link BC
About Kids Health
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