In our generally sexually open society we may think that most parents no longer have any concerns about talking with children about sex or responding to their questions and behaviours. However there are many issues that still concern parents and educators. Here are some common ones.
How should educators respond to children’s questions about sex, is it just the parent’s prerogative?
How do we respond to masturbation without making children feel guilty?
What kind of sex play and behaviour is normal and what should we be concerned about?
Is it normal for a preschool boy to want to dress up in girls’ clothes and do the vacuuming?
Three and four year old children find swearing and toilet jokes very funny – how should adults respond?
How do we teach children about privacy and safety without making them feel that there is something wrong with their sexual parts?
What words should we use?
In our mixed culture society parents have very different views and some that educators may not support – how do we address this?
Underneath this are the questions that we don’t so often think about but that are even more important.
How do we help our children to value themselves and others as sexual beings, to respect others of both sexes and to feel confident and comfortable relating to others of both sexes?
What can we do if our own feelings from our own experiences get in the way?
The simple answers are to be confident and respectful ourselves and to be open in meeting children’s questions and talking about issues. And to do this without showing embarrassment or discomfort which children quickly pick up on. Sometimes this is easier said than done. If we do run into difficulties with something we don’t know it is always OK to say we don’t know and we will find out.
If we think about it in advance and reflect on our own feelings and attitudes we will be more prepared to cope with whatever arises without being taken by surprise. Being approachable always and responsive and respectful, (which includes not laughing at a question a child asks even if it is funny to an adult) opens the way for children to trust and talk about anything that is worrying them. It is a truism that children learn more from what we do and how we do it than what we try to teach them to do and nowhere is it more evident than sexuality.
These and other questions are considered in the second edition of Children’s sexual development and behaviour -Pants aren’t rude by Pam Linke published by Early Childhood Australia available at the ECA shop.