How can parents effectively instruct their children about human sexuality?
For many parents, this topic poses discomfort and complexity.
Certain parents evade potential shame and unease by abstaining from discussing sexuality with their children, restricting their exposure to movies and books on the subject.
Their belief is that by avoiding discussions about sex, children won’t comprehend it or harbor unconventional thoughts.
However, this assumption is a significant misjudgment.
Children are born with a natural progression of sexual physiology and psychology, and the lack of discourse on ‘sex’ doesn’t hinder their development but instead generates perplexity about their own bodies and minds.
Such confusion may lead to improper private explorations, such as excessive masturbation, peeping at the opposite sex, or watching misleading videos.
Instead, fostering an environment conducive to a child’s healthy physical and psychological development is imperative.
Hence, educating children about sex demands considerable attention.
In this scenario,
How should children be educated about sex? What form of sex education should be implemented?
I will discuss this in a phased manner.
A child’s sexual awareness begins with bodily sensations.
Some parents consider sex education relevant only as the child matures.
This perspective is erroneous.
Sex education should commence from birth. Typically, infants experience bodily sensations and learn to interact with their limbs.
As caregivers touch, hug, or tickle them, infants exhibit delight—a fundamental aspect of sexual consciousness blooming in children.
During this phase, children learn to accept parental affection and relish bodily pleasures.
As children grow, their pleasure zones transition to oral activities and the excretion process.
Around the age of one, the mouth becomes a primary instrument through which children explore the world.
They eagerly place various objects in their mouths: thumbs, pacifiers, or toys. Activities like sucking, chewing, or biting bring them immense joy.
Allowing children to experience the pleasure of their mouths without undue restrictions is essential, albeit with an emphasis on hygiene.
By the age of two, children become intrigued by the pleasure derived from excretion.
They develop a fascination with examining their feces—observing, smelling, and sometimes touching it—without perceiving it as repulsive.
Guiding children toward civilized toilet habits should be undertaken cautiously, avoiding shaming them for their natural bodily behaviors.
For instance, if a child accidentally soils their pants, it’s crucial not to scorn them with disgust but to approach the situation with understanding and patience:
“Oh, you didn’t make it to the bathroom in time. You’ve soiled your pants. Let me help you clean up.”
Simultaneously, refraining from leniency is important to prevent recurring incidents of soiling.
Until the age of three, children derive sexual pleasure primarily through bodily sensations.
While ensuring safety and hygiene, parents should aim not to abruptly inhibit their children’s natural tendencies but instead grant them as much freedom as possible to explore and experience.
During this phase, a parent’s patience and tolerance constitute the most effective form of sex education for children.
A child’s sexual curiosity initiates with queries about procreation.
As a child’s language abilities develop, they begin asking various questions, including those related to sex.
The optimal time to educate a child about sex is when they start inquiring about it.
When responding to children’s inquiries about sex, honesty coupled with brevity is crucial.
For instance, when a child points to their genitals and asks, “What is this?” it presents an opportune moment to provide an honest response:
“That’s your penis/vagina.”
Nearly all preschoolers ponder the origin of babies.
Previously, some parents would deceive their children by stating that “babies are found by the roadside” to evade discomfort.
However, this is an incorrect approach.
It misleads children and may undermine their trust in their parents, given that children often observe pregnant women and deduce the truth.
A more appropriate approach for parents is:
Offer a realistic explanation without delving into explicit details of sexual intercourse.
Parents may explain:
“When a father and mother wish to have a baby, the father’s body produces sperm cells, and the mother’s body produces egg cells.
When these cells combine, the baby begins growing in the mother’s belly. Eventually, the baby is born.”
Children might further question, “How do the sperm cells and egg cells combine?”
At this juncture, a simple response suffices: “Sperm cells leave the father’s body and enter the mother’s belly.”
Visual aids such as dolls or illustrated books can assist in elucidating the process of childbirth.
Generally, between the ages of three and six, children’s curiosity about sex is primarily fueled by their inquiries.
Deceiving children with falsehoods can confuse them about sex and erode trust in their parents.
Imparting a plethora of sex knowledge abruptly surpasses a child’s comprehension.
During this phase, a parent’s sincerity and candor serve as the most effective sex education for children.
A child’s sexual exploration involves understanding gender differences.
When a child grasps the concept of procreation, they might become curious about disparities between males and females:
Why can mothers
bear children while fathers cannot?
Why do girls squat to urinate while boys stand?
In response to these inquiries, parents should recognize the child’s curiosity about the rationale behind opposite-sex psychology.
Simultaneously, they must instill in children the significance of respecting others’ privacy and safeguarding their own.
Children should be taught privacy protocols such as:
Closing doors when bathing/using the toilet;
Avoiding peeking at others while they bathe/use the toilet;
Not allowing individuals of the opposite sex to touch private areas.
When a child barges in on parents of the opposite sex showering or changing clothes—
Parents can calmly explain to the child:
“You might be curious about my body, but I need privacy during my shower/change. Later, we can view pictures/cards together to address your questions.”
If children observe each other or touch sensitive body parts of the opposite sex—
Parents should gently forbid any “sexual experimentation” without alarm or intimidation, redirecting their curiosity toward more socially acceptable pursuits.
They may say:
“You can play pretend ‘family’ or engage in role-playing games, but exposing private parts or touching each other’s private areas is unacceptable.”
When observing children freely handling their genitalia—
Parents should gently remind them, devoid of blame:
“Although you may feel comfortable, such actions should be reserved for private spaces.”
During childhood, children tend to explore and touch their bodies and those of the opposite sex.
In instances of inappropriate behavior—
Acknowledging a child’s curiosity and gently steering them toward appropriate conduct is essential, avoiding excessive shame or intimidation.
During this phase, a parent’s understanding and tolerance represent the most effective form of sex education for children.
A child’s sexual maturity commences with comprehending ‘love and responsibility.’
As children reach puberty, their bodies develop, and hormonal changes stimulate curiosity about the opposite sex.
At this stage, adolescents may develop romantic interests, causing concern for many parents.
Some parents enforce strict control over their children to avert premature romantic engagements, often invading their privacy by scrutinizing diaries or phones.
However, heightened control leads to greater resistance from children, resulting in counterproductive outcomes.
In contrast, I commend the film “The Perfect Stranger” for portraying a father’s approach to instructing his 16-year-old daughter, Sophia.
Sophia experiences adolescent rebellion, often clashing with her mother due to strict regulations.
One weekend, Sophia planned a date with her boyfriend.
Sensing the possibility of intimacy, her father quietly handed her a condom, not to endorse sexual activity but as a safeguard for his daughter.
That night, when her boyfriend invited Sophia over, she was conflicted—
She felt unprepared for such a situation and was hesitant despite fearing his potential anger or misunderstanding.
In her uncertainty, she sought guidance from her father.
Listening attentively, her father provided invaluable counsel:
“Sophia, you mustn’t agree to visit your boyfriend just to avoid his displeasure.
This is a significant moment in your life and requires careful consideration.
If this brings you genuine happiness without any future regrets, then you may proceed.
However, if you’re uncertain or feel pressured, it’s okay to decline. You have time.”
The film doesn’t reveal Sophia’s decision, but her father’s advice offered crucial guidance and support.
While we needn’t mimic the father’s approval of his daughter’s sexual conduct,
We can emulate his equitable and respectful demeanor towards his daughter:
If you decide to venture beyond parental confines and explore intimacy,
I will forewarn you of the consequences and wholly respect your decision.
It’s an expression of trust and empowerment in the child’s journey to maturity.
Such trust enables children to confide in parents and articulate their thoughts freely;
This empowerment empowers children to make choices and assume responsibility for them.
This transition from immaturity to maturity is a significant part of a child’s growth.
Throughout this process, children may make errors in judgment or suffer relationship setbacks;
However, parents are there to offer guidance, direction, and protection during critical junctures.
They personally educate children about responsibility and mature love.
Sex education for children isn’t an overnight event but an extensive process, integral to a child’s complete growth and maturation.
At different stages of a child’s development, their focus on sexual exploration varies. Excessive control and interference impede a child’s sexual and psychological evolution.
A more effective approach involves:
Allowing children to experience physical pleasure;
Honesty in addressing children’s diverse queries;
Gently correcting inappropriate behaviors;
Respecting a child’s freedom to explore relationships.
Most of the time, there’s no need for deliberate intervention;
Under a secure environment, providing children ample patience to explore, experience, and understand will enable them to find their path to maturity.