What Kids Should Know About Sex
This is something that I cannot stress enough. It is so important to teach children of all ages about their anatomy. Besides the obvious health communication reasons, teaching children about their body parts can also increase the amount of body confidence they have. Not having the proper verbiage continues the ideas that reproductive body systems are “shameful” and “TMI.” Correct terms also help clarify some of the normal questions that come up during childhood surrounding our bodies.
Now, you don’t necessarily need to get into specifics with younger children, but it is important for children to know what a penis and a vagina are at all ages. It’s important to let them know what an anus is, and that you pee out of your urethra.
As kids get older and their bodies begin to mature, expanding on prior learned terms and definitions is paramount. Get into specifics, even talk about some of the things that could go wrong with our reproductive systems. With stigmas around reproductive health, particularly health for people with vulvas, it’s so important for everyone to know what is and is not normal.
While we live in a society that tells us these body parts are shameful and something we should NOT discuss with others; it’s important to remember that only we can change that. If you are able to have non-awkward, non-judgemental conversations about your body parts, it makes for a smoother transition into more in-depth education. Make it the norm to discuss these issues!
Don’t know your own anatomy?
Easy! Take a mirror and check yourself out. Poke around and see what happens. Below is a guide to help you out: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/health-and-wellness/sexual-and-reproductive-anatomy
* note: some of the information is binary.
How body parts work
This is just as important as learning your anatomy! Without knowing how our systems work, we are not able to communicate how things work to others if something is not feeling or working right.
Our bodies naturally react to stimuli and when our carefully controlled internal systems are out of whack, our quality of life dramatically decreases. It’s important to be aware of some of the common factors that can happen to our reproductive system such as endometriosis to epididymitis.
Self-exams are also wise to do, at least every month. Check for anything that doesn’t feel right in your breast area, no matter your gender. The more often you check your breast area, the larger the chance you’ll be able to catch when something is off. The same goes for regular gynecological exams if you are a person with a vulva and regular testicular exams if you are a person with testicles.
These exams can begin when a child hits puberty.
What consent is
As someone who has worked in sexual violence prevention, I cannot stress how important this is. It’s rarely taught in schools but is so necessary both inside and outside of sex and their body. Want to sit next to someone on public transit? Ask them. Want to borrow someone’s pencil in school? Ask them. Want to go third base? Ask them. Consent is relevant to every situation.
Where to go for sexual content
This one is obviously for older kids but still younger than what you might think. Start having this conversation when a child is in early puberty because the internet is WILD. Everything is at your fingertips and children will find a way to get what they want out of the internet. Teach them about what real porn is and that videos on major porn websites (PornHub, XVideos, etc.) are NOT REAL. Further than that, it’s just straight-up awful stuff. Teach them to seek out other websites or learn how to recognize the difference.
Without this, it’s hard to differentiate what sex is supposed to be like. If you’re used to seeing people get slapped around on a screen or hearing those awful pre-sex stories in porn (think of this video) you’re going to be in some trouble when it comes to real-life sex.
Not everyone is cisgender, sexual, and straight
This one is super important. Teach kids that not everyone is straight and there are a million ways to identify within desired sex/intimacy, sexuality, and gender. If they are not feeling how they identify now, let them explore other identities! It’s not up to you to judge how a child wants to identify and every child deserves a space to try out different identities that feel good to them. If they stick, great! If not, great! Again, it is your place to be supportive and educated.
STI’s and not dirty or shameful
Educate your child about sexually transmitted diseases and infections in a NON-fear based way. Talk to them about symptoms they might experience and provide them with some resources to turn to for testing. This is also your time to talk about regular testing and encourage the use of condoms and dental dams at all times, even if there is another form of contraceptive being used.
There are so many other ideas to address within this space, these are just the tip (hehe) of the iceberg. Ongoing, consistent, open, judgment-free conversations about sex and sexuality are a vital part of growing up. We are doing children a disservice by not discussing these aspects of sex and their bodies and leaving them at the whim of the internet, filled with so much mis- and disinformation.