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What Kids Know Before Sex Ed


I saw friend and her six month old baby the other day. He is delicious, of course, and he and I google eyed each other and snuggled. His mom and I talked about his milestones and she laughed as she said he’d recently discovered his penis and “started a lifelong love affair.” I remember my kids’ explorations of their genitals at a young age (which is totally normal), and once they were learning words, teaching them what their different body parts were called, genitals and all. It was easy during bath time and getting dressed and undressed.

Although I did get a few raised eyebrows now and then (like when my daughter announced “My vulva is itchy!” in the grocery store), it’s not a decision I’ve ever regretted. My partner and I feel strongly that kids live in their bodies from birth; they should know what the parts are called. I have met parents that don’t agree with this, and think sexuality education should wait until their kids are “older”. Sometimes older is vague and sometimes it is specific, like puberty, or even later. As babies teach us, kids know their bodies bring pleasure. The arguments that parents “don’t want to put ideas in their heads” about sex and sexuality seems to ignore that kids are already aware of pleasure- as the Mayo Clinic’s piece on sex ed for toddlers says, “Expect self-stimulation.”  Talking with them about healthy ways to express it seems more beneficial.

This argument of “waiting until they’re older” echoed in my mind as I was reading an article from Vincent O’Keefe posted over at BrainChild Magazine (a great publication if you don’t know it). In The Janus Face of Parenthood, O’Keefe writes that parenting is looking forward and backwards in time.  One of the things it made me think about is backwards/ forwards essence when it comes to sex education discussions.  When my kids were two, four six, eight, it was so easy to talk matter-of-factly in age-suitable ways about sexuality, relationships, and their changing bodies. It was easy to cast forward in time with them to “When you’re bigger, your body will….” We could give them information that was received in that same matter-of-fact manner.

Those conversations built a foundation we can use now, when the conversations aren’t as easygoing. They aren’t as easygoing because my kids are appropriately private, developing into their unique selves independent from their parents. We still talk about sexuality and relationships, but it’s less personal. We can talk about all kinds of things through the media the kids consume- there is so much about sexuality and relationship prescriptions available for discussion. We can broach topics that we’ve referred to in the past, where memory is easygoing.

If I have any advice for new parents (beyond “give up everything you think you know” and “sleep in whatever way works for you and your family”), it would be to teach your kid the correct words for their whole selves. They’re whole; they deserve it.


Janet    |   @janet_madsen


Image: iStock

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