Healthy Childhood Sexual Development
Many adults are never taught what to expect as children develop sexually, which can make it hard to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Parents sometimes misinterpret a child’s actions with an adult perspective of sex and sexuality. When adults understand age-appropriate sexual development, they are better able to support healthy attitudes and behaviors and react to teachable moments. Parents are also better equipped to intervene when there are concerns related to behavior or abuse when they understand what behaviors are developmentally expected at different stages of childhood.
Tips on Touching
Touch is important to children. Touch communicates love, comfort, nurturing and acceptance. It is important for children to know that most touches are safe and caring. It is also important for children to know that some touches are not okay. Children need to know what they can do if they get a touch that does not feel safe or makes them feel bad or confused. Talking to your child about safe touches is a matter of personal safety, just like teaching them to cross the street. It is not a one-time conversation.
- Think about good times to discuss this. Choose a time that you have alone with your child, when you are both comfortable.
- Talks about touching should be ongoing. Take advantage of “natural opportunities to teach.” Children have normal curiosity about bodies and reproduction and what they hear and see in media. You can talk about touching safety when you answer their questions.
- Ask your child to name some adults that they trust and can talk to if they feel unsafe.
- Empower children. Respect children’s personal privacy. Allow them to dress, bathe, and toilet in private when age appropriate and safe to do so.
- Don’t thwart children’s preference for touch. Teach children that their bodies belong to them and they get to decide who touches them. Don’t force children to kiss or hug when they don’t want to.
- Give children permission to say “No.”
- Teach children proper names of private parts.
- Give children information about what they can do if someone makes them feel uncomfortable (examples:get away from the person, go to a safe place, tell a trusted adult, call 911)