Every parent of a 4-year-old can testify that they are curious. They enjoy the exploration of their body and those of others. Oh and if all that extra energy and running around wasn’t enough, this is also a period of increased independence and self-confidence.
Thus translating to them confidently doing absurd things in public, such as asking another child to raise her dress, blatantly touching their genitals in public or even asking awkward, unexpected sex-related questions to other adults and at the wrong place.
If we are honest, at this age, it really isn’t sexuality education, but the foundation of it. The goal at this stage is to get kids confident and comfortable with their bodies and knowing boundaries.
Often how you start here sets the pace for the other talks that would come up. This talk should be relatively easy because children less than 6 aren’t bashful about sex, they are already curious and don’t need to know all the details.
A good rule of thumb when talking about sex with children under 6, remember the acronym ‘KISS’ – ‘Keep It Simple Silly’.
So what should you talk about?
Comprehensive age-appropriate sex talk should cover the following:
For Babies (0 – 24 months)
1. Correctly naming our body parts
Learning the correct names for body parts is vital as doing otherwise causes confusion and self-consciousness about sexual organs.
At this stage, teach them the names of ALL the body parts including the penis, scrotum, vagina, vulva and anus, just like you would their fingers and nose. Bath time and when getting dressed are a good time to do this.
2. Functions of the body parts
Letting them know what these body parts do is advised. Poop comes from the anus and Pee comes from the vulva and the penis.
3. Differences and similarities between boys and girls
Teach them the differences between boys and girls by letting them know that boys have penises and girls have vulvas. These differences are not a bad thing. There are also similarities between the two genders, we all have noses, ears, toes, nipples, bums etc.
This is an excellent time to start teaching about the limits of nudity. Help them know the times and places they can be naked (such as the bathroom, their bedrooms etc.) and its not okay to be naked in front of strangers or in public places like the store.
For 3 – 6-year-olds
1. Reproduction (Meaning)
3 – 6-year-olds: Start with the meaning of ‘reproduction’. Explain that everything makes younger ones of themselves. Dogs have pups, birds have eggs, trees have seeds, etc.
2. Correctly naming our body parts
At this stage, they should be familiar with their body parts and what those parts do.
3. The two sexes, differences and similarities between them
The differences between girls and boys (Girls have vulvas and vaginas while boys have penises and scrotums). The difference between boys and girls is not a bad thing. There are also similarities between the two genders, we all have noses, ears, toes, nipples, bums etc.
4. Boundaries and Privacy
Here help them understand what parts of their bodies are private. Private parts should be covered by clothes when other people are around.
Discuss issues like when they can be naked, who can see them naked, where they can be nude etc. Let them know that their bodies and conversations relating to it are for personal times at home with parents and not for school.
Teach them that certain places like the toilet, bathroom and bedrooms are private areas. So when doors are closed, they have to knock and ask if they can come in. They should also be allowed their privacy too when using the toilet or getting dressed. This teaches them that they, too, are entitled to privacy.
5. Body ownership and touching
- What parts of our bodies others can touch and what parts no one is allowed to touch.
- That they are in control of their bodies, and it is their right to choose who can touch them. Let them know the only exception to this is a doctor or nurse’s checkup.
- That no one, not even a close friend or family members has the right to touch their private areas.
- That it is not okay to hug or kiss someone if they don’t want you to. And the same goes for them, if they do not want to be hugged, it’s not okay for others to forcefully embrace them.
- That they should not keep secrets about their bodies and if anything makes them feel funny, they can and must tell you about it.
6. How babies are made and who is allowed to make babies
Whether or not they outrightly ask the question ‘Where do babies come from?’, What they need to know is that it takes a part of a man (tiny seed) and a woman (little egg) to make a baby. The baby grows in a special part of the stomach of the woman called ‘womb’ or ‘uterus’. Remember, keep it simple.
If they ask, how the baby comes out, you can say “when he’s done growing, he’ll wiggle out of the birth canal called the ‘vagina’.”
Take this moment to teach some of your family values. For instance, only a married couple should have babies, or it is better to have babies when you are ready for it.
Like many a good sportsperson or just generally anyone who excels in their field, an early start is advised. So also in sexual and developmental stages of life, the foundation of a well developed and adjusted adult lies in their childhood.