It includes our sense of who we are and how we feel about ourselves as sexual beings. Our children start the lifelong process of learning about their sexuality as soon as they are born. The loving touches you give your baby teach that the body is good and that it also is a source of pleasure. When you name the genitals, the penis or the vulva, your child learns that this part of the body is just as important as the rest of the body. When you change diapers in a matter-of-fact way, the lesson learned is that the area between the legs is not a part of the body to be treated with disgust or as dirty.
As children grow, they learn about sexuality from many sources, including friends, the media and society in general.
However, you lay the foundation for how your child will feel by your attitudes and values. Many of the actual words you use will not be remembered.
What will be remembered is the tone you used and the feelings you conveyed. Remember that a child's understanding of sexuality is different from our adult perspective. Most of us grew up in families and in a society that gave us mixed messages about sex. What messages did you get about your body? How comfortable were family members with the topic and what was their basic message about sex? Were boys and girls taught the same messages about sexuality?
What did your family tell and show you about showing love, about relationships, about being affectionate, about feeling sexual pleasure and about being responsible? The messages you learned will affect how comfortable you feel about starting to teach your own child about sexuality. Small children don't yet have a history of learning that sex is good or bad or of knowing that there are many confusing feelings and attitudes about this subject. Decide what messages you want to give in order to help your child develop as a lovable, capable and responsible sexual being.
Normal Sexual Development The following, based on studies of children, is an outline of sexual behaviours that are normal or common. This does not mean that all children do these things, or that there is something wrong with a child who does not do them, or even that a child will do them within these time frames. However, it gives us a reference point.
Birth to Age Two Experiences pleasure from touch to all parts of the body, including from the genitals. As a baby grows, baby gets enjoyment in touching and playing with the penis or vulva. Ultrasounds show that boys have erections while in their mother's uterus. Boys have erections and girls secrete lubrication in their vagina shortly after birth and throughout their life if other factors don't inhibit these natural responses.
Some babies have been observed building up a physical tension and then completely relaxing after rubbing their genital area against a toy or blanket.
The physical pleasure is obvious to the adults who observe the behaviour, but there is no suggestion that the feelings are accompanied by erotic thoughts. Begins to develop an attitude, either positive or negative, towards their own body. If you treat toileting and the genital area with comfort, your child will feel positive about this part of the body. If you react with disgust while changing diapers, the lesson that is learned is that there is something bad about this area.
Learns expected behaviours for boys and girls. We reinforce our children as they do things we feel are appropriate - sometimes without recognizing the stereotypes we perpetuate. After this age, children start to learn their gender by the way they are labeled. Age Three to Four Is curious about gender and body differences. Most children will caress their vulva or penis area, sometimes deliberately to get the nice feelings, sometimes unconsciously when watching television, listening to a story or when anxious.
Will engage in sex play with friends and siblings of the same or opposite sex. Children play house or doctor and include examination of genitals as part of curiosity play. Children mimic adult sexual behaviour. In play, they will imitate what they see in the family or from sources such as television programs.
Children have fun with bathroom terms and swear words they hear and will repeat them to the delight of their friends and the frustration of their parents. Establishes a firm internal belief about being either male or female. This can be the time when your child insists on certain behaviour, such as a daughter refusing to wear pants because she has concluded that girls wear dresses and she is a girl even if mom wears pants.
Is curious about their origins. Uses language to tease, shock, joke or impress their friends. Help your child understand that some words, even used in fun, can hurt or offend people. Your child may repeat a word that has been heard without having any idea of its meaning.
Explain what language is acceptable and not acceptable to you. Remember not to use language you don't want your child to use. Children learn that if parents do not approve of this activity, they either will avoid it or engage in it when they feel they won't get caught.
At this age, your child learns from your reaction that this is either something that should not be done or that it is fine to do it in private. If the latter is the case, parents must be clear about what places you regard as private. Most children need repeated reminders that they are not to masturbate in public.
Some children are still comfortable wandering around nude or bathing with younger brothers or sisters, but others will cover up and want privacy. The rest of the family should respect these changing feelings without comment. If it is necessary to invade this privacy to see, for example, if there is an infection, explain why you have to do this. Is affected by external influences. Your child learns to read, becomes more independent and is exposed to a range of ideas.
You can help sort out the confusion as well as teach your values when you talk about sexuality. Age Nine to 10 Continues sex play. Studies show that over half of all adults remember participating in non-coercive sex play with friends or siblings, with the greatest frequency in these pre-pubertal years. By this age, your child is very aware that this is a private act. Some children report strong feelings of pleasure but others feel disgusted by the idea of touching themselves in this way.
Seeks out same-sex peer groups and is ambivalent about the opposite sex. Teasing and taunting are common. Sex role stereotypes can be very strong. The importance of peers is increasing for this age group, but parents remain a major source of values.
What you say and do really counts. Shows signs of puberty. For some children, early signs of puberty may appear, such as some breast swelling and an increase in the size of the testicles. A small number of girls will experience many body changes and start their period. Becomes more modest and wants privacy if this has not already happened at an earlier age.
Tunes in to external influences. Your child is getting messages about sex from many sources: Children can come across sexual material on the Internet, even if they are not looking for it. Has fantasies, daydreams and crushes on favourite teachers, older teens and adults or media idols. Is curious about their world, including sexuality. At this age, they approach sexuality information in a direct and scientific manner.
You want your child to be aware of the problem and how to deal with it - but you also don't want the child to be frightened of desirable touch. Most sex play is normal. Children do it because they are curious, it is fun or they are imitating what they think adults do. This play usually takes place between children of a similar age where both of them or all of them are willing participants. When an older, more powerful child or adult forces a child to engage in sexual activity, this is not sex play.
It is sexual abuse. Incorporate talk about touch that is positive and touch that is not acceptable into your discussions about sexuality. Play "What would you do if Because most people who abuse children are people children know, include examples such as: Communicate With Your Child There may be times when you feel uncertain about how to answer a question, how much information to provide or when to start talking about this sensitive subject. Here are some suggestions: Start talking to your child about this early.
You have a nose, two eyes and a penis. Treat sexual subjects as naturally as you do other subjects. It is growing in her uterus. Remember that teaching about sexuality involves more than giving facts. As a parent, your job is to help your children learn the values and feelings you feel will help them become healthy adults. Be aware that some children ask all kinds of questions, while other children aren't question-askers. You might read a book about babies to your child.
Other everyday opportunities for discussion are: Ask for feedback to determine what has been understood. If you tell your preschooler that babies are brought by the angels, sooner or later your child will learn that you didn't tell the truth.