The rise of news on harassment and sexual assault on children is surely alarming parents and educators. One contributing factor is that the children, in fact, do not have enough knowledge to protect themselves. Conversation related to sex is still taboo in our culture and society. Sex is considered as inappropriate matter to talk about and to discuss. Not to mention the ‘sex = dirty’ notion that confines the discussions about sex. It becomes the topic of the conversation behind closed doors and most likely distorted because the inaccurate information being transferred.
In fact, talking about sex education to children and adolescents is not like what we, the adult, have in mind. It doesn’t mean that the children will learn about the husband and wife relationship, for example. Or, teenagers will understand and practice free sex. That is not the purpose of sex education for children, and also adolescents.
The children and adolescents need to be educated that the body is very precious and they should take care of theirs. Children and adolescents should build communication with parents and educators so they can ask and get the right information.
To that end, parents and educators must learn about age-appropriate sex education in order to become a great companion. Children are expected to have a good understanding, is able to appreciate, and take good care of the body. ♥
Uncomfortable, What If I Do Not Want to Talk About Sex to Children?
If you refuse to discuss any questions and provide information to the children about sex, then you also contribute in preserving the culture of making sex taboo, sordid, and shameful. Your children will grow as individuals who do not know how to protect themselves so someone might abuse them sexually. Your children will probably grow as individuals who consider sex as scary or disgusting. This will affect the development of his/her personality.
If you are uneasy because you are confused in how to answer the children’s question correctly, the following explanation may be the solution. ♥
Development & Questions about Sex That Is Appropriate to the Children’s Age
In accordance with their gradual growth and development, their age will define the children’s questions about sex. This is certainly a relief for the adults in accompanying and in becoming the children’s source of information. The following are the questions and the focus of attention to the children based on the age.
0-2 Years. This is the time when children begin to explore their bodies as part of the self-development. Children also learn to recognize the body parts. Body parts including genitals should be introduced with its real terminology, the penis and vagina. It’s a good time to foster confidence in children to be able to ask questions and talk about what they want to know from the parents.
2-3 Years. At this age, not only that they pay more attention to their own bodies, the children also got interested in other people’s bodies. Questions about the adult body, usually a parent, will begin to appear in this age range. Kind of role play also gives children the opportunity to develop their way of thinking about the body. Development of thinking skills allows children to observe the surrounding environment and events that began to raise questions about sex.
At this age children are able to distinguish between feeling comfortable and uncomfortable. Through interaction with the environment, including touch, children will learn to distinguish comfortable and uncomfortable touch. Give children the opportunity to express the feelings of discomfort. This will be the basic for the children to develop awareness of the dangers that they may encounter. So, do not make the child to always feel comfortable when others touch them (handshaking, hug, kiss, etc.). Even by their parents. Teach the children to avoid being hugged or kissed by others. It is not a matter of good manners, but security.
3-4 Years. The questions of children at his age sometimes will make your face turn red and don’t not know how to answer, such as “How was I born? How to make a baby?”
3-4 year old children began to notice the physical differences between men and women. Physical appearance and genital organs also will attract attention. In accordance with the development of thinking, children aged 3-4 years have been able to distinguish between accepted behaviors and behaviors that should not be done in public. Shame began to develop at this age. Through habituation, the adults around the children can teach the children to protect themselves from touch and force. ♥
When Do You Start Talking to Kids about Sex?
Start a habit of talking about sexuality to children from early age. If you look at previous articles, the subject starts from the body parts. Not as scary as you once imagine, right?
Create conversation as normal and routine, so your children will feel that it is normal to discuss about sex, it is nothing unusual. Take time while watching television, reading books, and many other daily situations.
Ask your child’s opinion about any event. When you cannot get the answer for the question right away, admit it honestly and make sure you look for the answer. Children are very sensitive to changes in expression and intonation. So, practice to hide your surprise to or try not to appear panic before the children. Answer the children’ questions appropriately. Expand your knowledge so you can be ready. ♥
Key Lessons in Sex Education
Talk about sexuality means to talk about the body. And, if you talk to the kids, always remember that children have concrete way of thinking. Introduce children to the body parts, including vital organs. Start with the names of the parts, then how to take care of them. They should brush their teeth every day to clean, as well as genital organs.
Teach your children that there are body parts that are not to be seen and be touched by others, unless their mother (or surrogate mother) and doctor / nurse at the doctor’s office / hospital. The limit is from neck to knee. Ask the children to show and mention the body parts that should not be seen and touched. Repeat this periodically.
Get the children to share all their experience openly to the parents. Be as active listener, so that the child will come to you to share their experience. Train the children to be able to defend themselves if they feel threatened. Role play can help children practice real self-defense. ♥
Parents as a Source of Information
From an early age, parents should be prepared as a main source of information for children, including on sex. This is the main resource for the children in embarking a very long journey, including later puberty.
You, as parent, will grow with the children. You will be the main source of information, so anything that you convey must be true, accurate, and address the child’s questions.
If you are not willing to be the source of information for the child, then he will seek information from other sources that are not necessarily true, let alone appropriate. Today’s world is turned into a vast source of information easily accessed, even by children. But the digital world is not going to pay attention on how old your child is and how to deliver it. Your child may not get appropriate information according to their age. The digital world also does not take into consideration in how to deliver the information. They can be very vulgar and overwhelming to children. As a result, even children become obsessed with sex.
No need to feel anxious and worried about sex. Children should have a lot of activities and other things that occupy their minds. Playing, for example, is the primary occupation of the children. Not to mention a series of developmental tasks that must be accomplished. So, parents do not need to worry the children would be very interested and obsessed with sex once it became a topic of discussion.
Communication between parent and children will be very beautiful and enjoyable when both parties (children and parents) can develop the need and the readiness to communicate appropriately, including talking about culturally sensitive issues.
The parents would project relaxed and calm attitude when they are feeling ready. Always review your knowledge in sex in accordance with the child’s age. Prepare yourself by reading or discussing it with other parents.
Sex is actually a natural topic. And, adults have the obligation of guiding younger generations about life. ♥
Kisss = Keep It Short, Simple, and Scientific
Kisss. The acronym is a guide to answer the children’s questions.
Short. Answer children’s questions in brief sentences. No need to take the initiative to explain at length. The information that you convey may not be appropriate to the age and ability of the children to process, it even confuses the children. So, use short sentences.
Simple. The benchmark on how simple it can be depends on the age of the children and the children’s ability to think. Answering questions from 2 year old children is different to 4 year old. For example, children 2 year old children may ask, “where do babies come from?” You can answer “From Mama’s belly” Children will make a conclusion that if they see women with large belly, a baby should be in her belly. For 4 year old children, the question may sound like, “How does the baby eat in the belly?” Answer should keep it simple, “the baby eats from food mama eats.”
Scientific. Explain to the child the actual process and use the scientific terminology. Back with the question on how the (unborn) baby eats, you can explain that there is a placenta connecting the baby to the mother so that the baby can eat and grow big. Using the appropriate and not-too-graphic picture can help children understand the answer to their question. ♥
Alzena Masykouri, M. Psi
Child & Adolescent- Education Psychologist.
Alzena is an alumni of the Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Padjadjaran. She went on to pursue her Master’s degree on Clinical Child and Educational Psychology in the Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Indonesia and graduated in 2002, Alzena is currently active as an expert on child psychology in the mass media. She can be reached at Bestariku (www.bestariku.com), Children and Family Education Center in Bintaro, South Tangerang.
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