Talking about sex in this era, it is crucial that parents talk to their children about the differences between right and wrong, proper and improper. It’s also mandatory to talk to children about sexual development, sexual identity, and other such related topics.
In a young age, children are curious and start to explore their bodies by touching, pulling, and rubbing their body parts, including their genitals.
When they become older, they will need direction to learn about these body parts, their functions, safety, and what privacy and private parts mean. There are some information to help you tell the difference between “normal” sexual behaviors, and behaviors that may signal a problem.
What are ‘normal sexual behaviors’ for a child?
This is ordinary and may, typically, be initiated as young as at age two (through to seven years of age).When these apparent, parents need to re-direct the child’s attention, clearly informing the child about concepts like ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’.
Children must know that no one is ever allowed to touch their private parts, and that it is essential to keep their private parts covered and safe in public spaces (which includes school too). It is also essential to learn children about respect for ‘body space’.
The warning signs
- Touching genitals/masturbating in public or private
- Showing genitals to peers or manifesting with sexual behaviors
- Standing or sitting too close to someone
- Trying to catch a glimpse of peers or adults naked.
Signs that may indicate sexual abuse
- Acting out in an improper, sexual way, with toys or objects
- Nightmares, sleeping problems
- Becoming withdrawn or very clingy
- Becoming unusually secretive
- Sudden, unexplained personality changes/mood swings
- Regressing to younger behaviors, e.g. bedwetting
- Unaccountable fear of particular places or people
- Outburst/s of anger
- Changes in eating habits
- Incidents of self-harm (cutting, burning self, for example)
- Physical signs, such as, unexplained soreness or bruises around genitals or mouth or sexually transmitted diseases
- Not wanting to be alone personally with a particular child or young person.
Other stress factors:
- Keep in mind that some of these signs can appear at other times of stress such as:
- During a divorce
- Death of a family member/pet
- Problems at school or with friends
- Other worry-inducing or traumatic events.
- Awareness always guides to prevention and better results. Sex education only promotes healthy beliefs and normalizes age proper understanding and curiosity about the subject.
How parents can help:
Use proper language: Learn children proper names for all body parts — including words like ‘genitals’, ‘penis’, ‘vagina’, ‘breasts’ and ‘buttocks’. Making up names may give the child the point that there is something wrong about the proper name. Also teach your child which parts are private (e.g. parts covered by a swimming suit).
Explain the notion of privacy and body space: It is essential to teach your younger children to give older siblings their privacy.
Don’t laugh or giggle even if the question is silly or is completely based on a tale. Don’t react with anger, surprise, disgust or embarrassment. Your child should never be made to feel ashamed for his or her curiosity. Even if a child is manifesting with homosexual indexations, one needs to listen empathically and sensitively.
Be brief. Don’t go into a long clarification. Make it a routine to answer these queries clearly and concisely, using easy terms. All content shared with children must always be age proper.
Don’t force affection. Do not force your children to give hugs or kisses to people when they do not want to. It is their right to tell even grandparents that they do not want to give them a kiss or a hug goodbye. Improper touching especially by a trusted adult, relative or family member — can be very confusing to a child.
Always strengthen the idea that their body is their own, and they have every right to protect it. It is very essential that your child knows that he or she can always tell you or another trusted grown-up if he or she has been touched improperly. That way, your child knows that you’re dedicated to protecting him/her.
Good touch vs. bad touch:
- Describe what inaugurates ‘good touch’ and what ‘bad touch’ is. You can describe “good touch” as a way for people to show they care for each other and help each other (i.e., hugging, holding hands, changing a baby’s diaper). Tell your child that most touches are very well or allowable, but that he or she must say “NO” and immediately tell you about any touches that are mystifying or that frighten him or her.
- Teach them some ground rules for safety: Teach them it is not alright for anyone to look at or touch their private parts — the private part covered by their underwear. It is uncomplicated for a child to follow a rule, and they will more immediately recognize a “bad touch” if they have this guideline in mind.
- Control media exposure: Parental controls are available through many internet, cable, and satellite providers. Be aware that children may witness adult sexual behaviors in person or they may come across it on screens, and that they may not tell you that this has occurred. Pornography may be shown to a child by peers/elder children in schools or during play dates. Your child should know that he or she must announce this to you.