In a crowded place when your child starts pointing at his undergarment wanting to take it off, it’s challenging to make them understand why is it done in private. They don’t understand private parts because they don’t know what private parts are. Another common instance is when kids see pregnant women, and the next question is, has she eaten a baby?
It’s challenging to figure out when to tell your child about what, whether it’s the puberty, or menstruation, or the most dreaded ‘talk’ about sex. But if we maintain an open relationship where kids can have comfortable conversations, these issues are bound to get easier to discuss as they age.
Age 0-3 (The Little Explorer)
Children at this age are just discovering the world around them along with their bodies. It’s a lot of information to absorb at once. They begin to understand their gender as well of theirs around them. Naturally, at this age, there is a certain sense of curiosity to look and touch new objects. The same goes for touching and exploring their genitals.
As parents, what you can do is not giggle, laugh, or make jokes about it. Try to act casual about your kids interacting with their genitals. Do not make weird faces or scold them. Instead, try to teach them the correct names of their genitals. Not making up names for private parts and explaining the right terms helps you to shed any shame or inhibition associated with it in your mind as well as your child’s. Make them understand the concept of privacy and why genitals are covered etc. This is like a foundation for all future talks.
Age 3-5 (The Curious One)
Kids at this age are curious about everything. They like looking at themselves and exploring each other’s bodies at the same. The question of how they came out of mommy’s tummy also becomes persistent as children start growing up.
While playing ‘Doctor Games,’ children often reveal and touch private parts as part of the game, but there’s no need to panic and scold. Instead, it’s better to explain the concept of privacy and private parts of the body that cannot be touched by anyone. At this age, children are not interested in details of any kind, so it’s better to leave out sex and focus only on reproduction and how a mother has eggs. There’s no need to go overboard with the facts.
Casually including these topics in conversations is the best way to answer any queries that the child might have.
Age 5-8 (The Elementary School Scholar)
Children begin delving deeper into the details of human anatomy, how babies are made, and what sex is supposed to mean. At their age, as parents, all you can do is give them age-appropriate answers for all the questions that arise in their minds.
It’s an age when children begin drawing boundaries for themselves, whether it’s bathing with closed doors, changing clothes asking parents to look away or not wanting a hug or kiss from a relative. Do not force them; instead, help them draw these boundaries of privacy.
Another crucial thing to teach at this age is body safety. You need to ensure that your child knows what’s right from wrong and how they can protect themselves in case of an emergency.
Age 9-12 (The Adolescent)
Children at this age might feel more embarrassed and quiet about sex-related questions than when they were younger. Or, they might even be openly curious and less shy about the topic. Either way, as a parent, it’s better you answer the questions instead of the child picking up information from untrustworthy sources.
While watching TV or any other form of entertainment, you can talk to your tween about their sex-related queries. You should not be only dependent on the school and teachers to explain it to your child because it’s usually not enough. It’s better to pre-inform them about all the physical and emotional changes they might face in the days to come.
Now is the time to talk about privacy, crushes, body images, etc. and laying the foundation for your family’s values and beliefs. And if your child is shy discussing their body with you, you can even gift them an age-appropriate book like Sex Education for Children (9-12 years).
Age 13 and Up (The Teenager)
A dreaded phase for parents but manageable because don’t forget, you too went through the same period! It’s best to become a friend to your child at this age; nothing else will work.
Try to talk to them about your own experiences of sex, as a conversation starter. You can then talk about topics like mutual consent, safe sex, contraceptives, STD’s, sexting, internet porn, healthy and unhealthy relationships, etc. Teens are private beings, so make sure you do not invade their privacy but keep an open eye on their social media and dating lives.
Maintain an open-door policy so that your child can approach you if he/she is any kind of trouble or wants to share something with you.
So go on, talk, talk, and talk some more to your child. This is the only way you can give them the information they need and become a friend from just being parents!