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The No-No Zone: Teaching Children Sexuality

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Whether you like it or not, your child will one day have a sex life. This could manifest in various ways, ranging from masturbating to sexting online, or being straight to having no preference at all. As a parent or guardian, the magic fact to remember is that every aspect of sexuality is beautiful. 

All children, regardless of cognitive and physical disabilities, must learn about sex. This way, as they inevitably get older, they will respect their bodies and develop an idea of what sexuality means. Sex is relative and unique to each individual. It is not a virtue or vice to be forced upon other people. A child told to save themself for marriage might feel dirty for feeling sexual desire, while a neglected child might later compensate by taking on many lovers. These perceptions of sex are acceptable, but not necessarily ideal for a child’s mental health. Kids lacking proper sex education may underestimate sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), misunderstand rape or harassment, and miss the chance to truly explore their sexual identities. 

Of course, sex education must be age-appropriate. You shouldn’t simply throw a pornographic image in front of a child and dive into the birds and the bees. Sex encompasses body image, personal relationships, anatomy, and sexual orientation. There can’t be one overarching “Sex Talk,” but a series of small, easy conversations about numerous sexual fields. I wish to emphasize the word conversation because children will have as many questions as you have pieces of advice to offer.

Sex education can come from schools, homes, doctors, and even religious institutions, but the teacher must cover the three core domains of sex. The first area is factual information, which explains the science behind sex: body parts and hormones, menstruation and pregnancy. Children should know that sex can be procreative. It can create biological wonders, but it can also have serious consequences. The second domain deals with emotions and values. What is the meaning of sex? Is it spiritual, physical, or both? While a person’s values may vary during sex, it is crucial that they feel happy and comfortable. The final lesson should emphasize the importance of decision-making and communication. The child must know how to express a definitive yes and no; consent is always key. The word maybe, when it comes to sex, should be considered a negative response. They must also learn that body language isn’t a tool to be disregarded. There is a vast difference between open and crossed arms.

None of these skills can exist without the other. Hand-in-hand, they create a balance of self-love and appreciation. A generation steered by sex education will not only respect themselves but others as well. Virginity and sexual orientation would be trivial matters. Consent would trump lust and judgment would overcome confusion. Future children would know that bodies are not playgrounds for self-discovery, and that a person should understand sex before choosing to have it. 

For parents searching for more information, do not be afraid to study numerous sources. It’s alright to take tidbits of advice from several places. To start, The American Academy of Pediatrics has a published list of tips for sex education; simple actions that may help make your child’s journey through sex education just a bit easier:


    • “Don’t discredit love.”
    • “Talk about sex early and often.”
    • “Avoid sexuality conversations that are all ‘don’ts.’”
    • “Empower your children.”
    • “Sex positive expectations.”
    • “Use the media (the good, bad, and the ugly).”
    • “Live by example.”
    • “Ask, don’t tell.”
    • “Teaching kids about sex doesn’t mean parenting without values.”
    • “Be clear that safety is non negotiable.”


Resources:

    • Sexuality Education for Children and Adolescents. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/2/e20161348. 
  • “Talking to Your Child About Sex.” HealthyChildren.Org, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/puberty/Pages/Talking-to-Your-Child-About-Sex.aspx. 
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