The Sex Talk Broken Down into Ages & Stages

As uncomfortable as you may feel about talking about the “birds and the bees”, the fact is: Sex education should begin at home with you. Thanks to the prevalence of technology, our children are bombarded by information, misinformation, and sometimes, wildly inaccurate or harmful information about sex and sexuality.

Like it or not, cartoons, videos, television, music, movies, and the Internet are becoming the primary caretakers of our children and the negative influence of media has been researched and reported with a number of incidents and tragedies. We need to start being in control of our messages and assuming our roles as educators and parents.

It’s up to you, as parents, to decide what type of sex education you want your children to receive based on your religious, personal, and cultural values. That said, you don’t really have a choice as to whether or not to teach sex education, only to control the content and nature of the information provided. Putting it off will only hurt your children in the long run.

Cultural Considerations

In many cultures, discussing sex is forbidden. Taboo or not, most parents are very uncomfortable talking about it, especially if they missed out on sex education themselves growing up. But rather than leave it up to the media or the playground to educate your child, you need to break the silence.

Additionally, sex education is often thought of as something that needs to happen with children just entering puberty. However, sexual development occurs over time, starting with the very early years.

To help you understand the phases of sexual development so that you can tailor your at-home sexual education according to your child’s current age and stage, I’ve laid out the following milestones:

0-2 Years Old

Infants get pleasure when they are touched, loved, and hugged. This is not sexual, but simply affection and comfort. Breast feeding and sucking is pleasurable as a means to nutrition and oral exploration is common. Boys experience erection since birth. Parents usually have no problem at this age of sexual development. Little is going on sexually. Love and affection is all your child needs to foster good relationships later in life.

2-5 Years Old

Children become more curious about their sexual organs and about the differences between boys and girls. They have questions and need answers. They need to learn the correct names for their body parts just the way you would provide the right terms for their nose or mouth.

If parents refuse to answer their innocent, clever, and important questions or lie about the answers, children may assume that sexually related information is taboo or forbidden. By lying to them, parents will build mistrust in the growing child and they will look for answers elsewhere. At this age, children are very physical and they love to be with mom and dad to hug and cuddle. They love to run around naked, to look at their bodies in the mirror, and play with their genitals. Homoerotic behavior is not atypical. It’s common to see same sex children enjoy being in the nude in front of each other or curious about each other's bodies.

By age 3, children understand both the concept of privacy and rules. Parents need to set the rules with regards to touching just the same way they set rules for playing in your room or cleaning up toys, or eating. For example you can say: “Play in your room, eat in the kitchen, and touching yourself is ok in your room”. At this age, they learn about pleasure zones and stimulation usually accidentally through play.

Excessive touching, showing private parts, or any improper and offensive sexually related behavior should be addressed. Parents always take the child to a quiet corner and discuss the rules of behavior in private. We do not want to embarrass our children by confronting them in front of their friends. In case of frequent genital play, parents also need to rule out physical problems such as itching, pain, and child molestation. A note to parents: If your child is too curious sexually or touches his or her genital excessively, make sure that (s)he is not abused or exposed to inappropriate materials or people.

Children at this age are still very dependent on mom and dad and they express their love and affection. Parents need to affectionately answer all their questions since this is an important phase of development that's critical in determining their future attitudes towards sex. By not answering their innocent questions, children become unusually preoccupied with sexual thoughts and more curious about what you’ve forbidden. This will hinder their education, emotional growth, and social life.

5 to 12 Years Old

By school age, children know the name of their sexual organs, where babies come from, who makes babies, and differences between genders. By age 11, Sex Education class will show them a video on male and female sexuality and go into various levels of detail. This is the time for social learning and formal education. Children are busy learning about the world around them and although they are motivated sexually, but they are generally not active.

Children like to play with same sex friends to learn more about their own femininity and masculinity but are also increasingly curious about the opposite sex.

In the pre-teenage years, they will undergo body changes, mood swings, opposite sex attraction, peer pressure, and much more. Parents should talk about masturbation, wet dreams, sexual thoughts, emotional differences between boy and girls, self-esteem, and self-confidence to name a few. Reminder: Please do not lie to your children even if it’s by omission. Your children deserve your honesty and compassion.

Puberty and Teenagers

The capacity for reproductive sexual functioning begins at puberty with increased chemical activity in the brain, which means that your child's hormones are kicking and s(he) will be more curious about sex. These are challenging times for you and your teens and they need your help. You need to keep up the communication and help your child makes their own decisions unaffected by peer pressure or other social considerations.

By talking about sex at home honestly and naturally, you’ll help your child grow to have happy, healthy sexual encounters later in life.

What is your attitude when it comes to talking to your children about sex?

Tags : health   development   relationships   sex   

Alice Otesa
This is really embarrassing. My son seems to touch himself a lot. He's especially fascinated with his testicles. I'm as sure as can be that there hasn't been any abuse. Should I be worried though? I assumed it was just a normal part of development / curiosity about the body. Has anyone else experienced something similar? Do I need to get him checked out?