One of the most important tasks is to educate our children on a subject that is not always easy to talk about – sexuality.
It is important that we provide our children with truthful, useful and concrete information (sometimes we sin of speaking using abstract concepts), information that, at the same time, transmits our values that help them to have a healthier life. In reality, there are many moments to talk about sexuality – everyday life is full of them.
Is it a good idea to talk to our children about sex?
This week, the Child Psychology team of the Mensalus Institute for Psychological and Psychiatric Assistance talks about the importance of talking about sexuality with our children and recommends educational material of interest.
How can we start talking to our children about issues related to sexuality?
Educational moments occur every day. In fact, these are the ones that help you talk naturally. It is common to plan “the conversation” in order to talk about everything important at once. Usually this talk is uncomfortable and artificial. Parents become frustrated at not knowing how to approach their child and, in cases where a good connection has not been made, feel they have missed “the opportunity” to offer important information.
In reality, there are many moments for dialogue about sexuality, everyday life is full of them. For this reason, talking with your children about sexuality is a conversation that goes on over time. It is too necessary a topic in their lives to be reduced to talk.
How can this daily communication be? From what age can we start talking about sexuality?
Conversations about sexuality arise from questions they ask spontaneously (after hearing a comment in class, watching a television commercial, observing a couple on the street, etc.). It is important to start talking to our children at an early age. They are curious about their bodies, they consult the differences between men and women, between them and adults, between different types of relationships, etc.
Curiosity gives us an opportunity to start a constructive dialogue. This information will help the child to develop a healthy view of his or her sexuality and that of others, which will allow him or her to care for and respect it, two basic ingredients for the promotion of self-esteem.
On the other hand, we must not forget that children are prepared to receive information according to their vital moment. That said, when we talk to our children about sex, the first basic point is to adapt the conversation to their age.
In general, are today’s parents afraid to talk about sexuality with their children?
The inheritance received from past generations in which sexuality was a taboo subject, still takes center stage today. Parents are aware of the need to offer information that they did not receive, it is true, but there is a fear of not doing it well and harming the child. Doubts related to: “maybe he doesn’t have to know anything about it yet” reinforce the taboo.
One space where we talk about all this is the parent groups/school. On repeated occasions, participants express fear of conveying a wrong idea about what sex is and how it is experienced. The fear that the information will generate some kind of problem in their psycho-emotional development leads them to avoid it.
Well, the answer is the same again. Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves what the child needs (we as parents know this), leaving aside the fear. There is no worse information than that which creates fear and rejection (let us remember the heritage of past generations). When this happens, the result is a negative experience around sex and, consequently, the direct effect on self-esteem.
What kind of educational material can help parents?
From the Child Psychology office we have bibliography and games that are very helpful in this psychoeducational task.
Specifically today we would like to share two titles. The first is a video called “Our Body”. This animated short is recommended for children from 3 years old onwards and explains the body differences between the sexes.
You can watch the video below:
The second is a book entitled “Tell me everything: 101 questions asked by children about an exciting topic” by Katharina Von Der Gathen. This sex educator took the handwritten notes from an anonymous mailbox with the questions asked by some third and fourth grade students who attended her talks on the body, love and sexuality. The book includes the most outstanding ones and provides answers to them. The result is really interesting.
What message would you like to convey to all the parents who are reading this interview?
From Child Psychology we insist on the importance of living one’s body and sexuality naturally to help the child integrate the changes that are proper to each stage from acceptance. Likewise, answering doubts about such a vital subject offers the child the necessary security to live and respect his or her body (something that will later be transferred to other vital contexts).
It is necessary to provide truthful, useful and concrete information (sometimes we are guilty of using too many abstract concepts), information that, at the same time, transmits our values about sexuality. As we said, this will facilitate responsible decision-making in the sexual field.
We also remember the importance of actively listening to the questions and explanations that the children ask (sometimes it can be tempting to interrupt their speech to correct or slow down). In this way we will show them interest, generate feedback that will lead to new conversations and help them to explain their ideas and build a coherent discourse. Again, your self-esteem will be enhanced by the realization that your voice matters.
- Book: “Tell me everything: 101 questions asked by children about an exciting topic” by Katharina Von Der Gathen. You can buy it at this link.