As you ponder the process of communicating to your school-age child about sex, remember that the primary message you need to give him — more important in the long run than the specific facts and figures — is the importance of…
- Respect for the body each of us has been given and for the Creator of that body.
- Respect for the wonder of reproduction.
- Respect for privacy in sexual matters, not only his own, but parents’, friends’ and others’.
- Respect for his future and an understanding that sexual activity can have a profound effect on his health and happiness for the rest of his life.
- Respect for marriage as the appropriate context for sexual expression.
Think in terms of a gradual and relaxed release of information to your child: During the preschool years, begin with the basic naming of body parts and a general understanding of where babies come from, and before puberty begins, progress to full disclosure of the reproductive process.
Young children should know the correct names of their body parts (usually learned during bath time) and gain a basic sense of privacy and modesty for the “bathing suit” areas of the body. While understanding that their genitals are not “bad” or “dirty,” they should also know that they are not intended for public display. Now that diaper days are over, your child should learn that the genital area should be touched only by the child himself, a doctor or nurse during an exam, or a parent for a specific reason. Tell your child that if someone else tries to touch those areas, he should protest noisily, get away and tell you as soon as possible. He must know that you will not be angry or upset with him if this should happen.
It is extremely likely that before age five, and possibly later as well, your child will engage in some form of genital show-and-tell with a sibling or another small child. If and when you discover this in progress, your response should not be overblown. Don’t tell him that you are shocked and terribly ashamed of him, but instead clearly reinforce the privacy rule and remind him about respect for himself and the other child. The same should happen if your child streaks through the house or yard when others are present or exposes himself to someone else to get a reaction. More significant consequences should follow, of course, if you have talked to him about this behavior but he repeats it anyway. Here, however, the issue is obedience more than the specific act itself.
At some point he may barge into the bathroom when you’re in the shower or even wander into the bedroom at a highly inopportune time. Again, don’t overreact, but calmly ask him to leave. Later let him know that there is nothing bad about what he saw, but that it is meant to be private and that he should knock on the door first before coming into your room. Incidentally, once the toddler years have passed, grown-ups should abide by a dress code when the kids are at home: If you’re not wearing enough to be seen by adult houseguests, you’re not wearing enough to be seen by your children.
For “Messages” about the topic of sex from biblical perspective or to see or hear the message, “Talking to My Kids about Sex” go to www.RidgeFellowship.com
Source: Adapted from the Complete Guide to Baby & Child Care, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 1999, Focus on the Family. For more great resources on family, parenting, or marriage go to http://www.focusonthefamily.com