Being a parent is not easy and in the digital age, it has become more and more difficult. I am writing this column because I also have a young and curious daughter who never ceases to surprise me with her questions, so I want to support all those parents who, at some point, have gone through that difficult time; when their children ask them questions about topics such as sex.
Children are adults in formation and as such they are curious and begin to explore their bodies by touching, poking or rubbing parts, especially their genitals. But as they get older they need guidance about the functions of each part.
So I did some research regarding sexuality in the early childhood and there is a guide for parents, which differentiates between normal sexual behaviors and those that may give insight into an actual problem:
Normal behaviors in children from 2 to 6 years old:
– Masturbating or touching their genitals in public or in private
– Looking at or touching the genitals of a friend or a new sibling
– Showing their genitals to friends.
– Standing or sitting too close to someone.
– Trying to see their friends or adults naked.
Ideally, you should reassure your child that children should respect each other and should not touch anyone’s genitals and should always tell you if someone touches or tries to touch their private parts.
The #sinrecato question is: When should you be alarmed? Parents need to know when their children’s sexual behavior goes beyond curiosity, or is indicative of either physical or sexual abuse or exposure to sexual activity.
– When it occurs frequently and they are only focused on that.
– When it causes physical or emotional pain to themselves or others.
– When it is related to physical assault or involves force.
– When they imitate adult sexual acts.
Therefore, children’s sex education is not only the responsibility of the school or teachers or psychologists. From home, parents must teach their children how to take care of their bodies and in order to do that it is important to take into account:
Call things by their names: teach them the correct names of all body parts, such as penis, vagina, breasts, buttocks, etc. If you use nicknames, for example: calling the penis ‘willy’ or the vagina ‘flower’, you may distort their reality and make them think that there is something wrong with the right name. Also tell them why they are called intimate parts and why no one should touch it. I recommend the video ‘The Book of Tere’ or, in Spanish, ‘El libro de Tere’.
Do not force them to say hello: we parents sometimes force our children to give kisses and hugs to relatives or friends they hardly know and even to those they do know. Children have the right to accept or not. If they do not want to, do not force them. Explain to them, constantly, that their body is theirs and that in case someone touches it in an inappropriate way, they need to tell you or a trusted adult. In this way, they will understand that your duty as a parent is to protect them from abuse.
Good contact vs. Bad contact: tell them that a “good contact”, or touch, is when you show love to other people in many ways, such as hugging, holding hands, and even helping to change the baby. On the other hand, a “bad contact” is anything that bothers us and makes us uncomfortable, such as being hit or having our genitals touched. To keep them from being scared, tell them that most of the time touches are good, but if they feel a bad touch or they do not feel comfortable with it, they must say no and tell their parents or caregivers right away.
Golden rule: tell them frequently that it is NOT okay for others to look at or touch their intimate parts or those that are covered by the bathing suit. Let them understand that you will always listen to them, believe in them and protect them.
Watch out for electronic devices: it is important that you monitor the applications your child uses and also block the adult content. In this digital age children are increasingly exposed to pornography and sometimes they will not even tell you if they have seen this kind of content.
Curiosity: the questions a child asks and the answers we give them should depend on their age and ability. Therefore, it is convenient to follow these recommendations:
– When they ask a question, you should not laugh or get angry because they will be embarrassed and may lose their confidence.
– The answers should be simple and just answer what they asked. Consider the child’s reaction to your answer.
– Always be prepared because these questions will become more frequent. And if a child asks a question, it is because they know and just wants to make sure you know too.
– If at any time you need help, consult your pediatrician or school psychologist. It is important that your child receives clear, guiding answers at this time of curiosity, not confusion.
In case you see that your child is engaging in sexual behavior that is not appropriate for their age, ask for help as well. Remember that all the bad and good things that happen at their childhood will be reflected in their adult life.
Traducción del español: Catalina Oviedo Brugés.