“The (On-Going) Talk” (Talking With Your Kids About Sex, From Birth to Age 2)
I recently shared my answer to the question, IS IT BIBLICAL TO TEACH OUR KIDS ABOUT SEX? …and it was so good to hear from you readers. Many of you shared your experiences, and many offered specific questions and suggestions for what should be included in this series. (By the way… do you have more questions/ideas on your mind? Please share them in the comments!)
The notion of having “the talk” in one large heap of data dumped on your child, when it has been a previously un-discussed topic, is one that I completely disagree with. Instead of one big “TALK,” we approach this topic as part of a continual, childhood-long conversation with our children. This on-going discussion moves at age-appropriate levels, and engages on the issues that are affecting them, or very soon will affect them, at any given stage.
This article is all about the “how to” of talking with your kids about sex, from the beginning. Let’s talk about how to lay a strong foundation for this on-going discussion in your home.
BIRTH TO AGE TWO
I thought about starting this series with ages 2-5, once they’re talking and understanding more, but then it hit me that some things are communicated to our children about their bodies even in the first years of life. This isn’t in-depth talking with your kids about sex… but these things set the stage for future discussion.
Here are some things you might consider in these early years:
- Consider what you will call the genitals. We have opted for a generic word (“privates”) to refer to everything in general terms when they are little like this. Once they begin naming body parts and are curious in the bath about their particular parts, we use medical terms. Some parents prefer cutesy names. Obviously I have reasons for why we use real terms (1-they can be specific about what is hurting if there is a problem– especially in future conversations with a doctor, and 2-we do not want to encourage silliness about private things), but I don’t think there’s an absolute right/wrong here. Choose what you will be comfortable with, but do consider how this will play out over time… not just when they are a toddler.
- Do not make jokes of private things. It should not be laughed at when a child streaks through the living room. Sometimes you have to force yourself not to smirk or look away, but over the long haul, we don’t want to encourage inappropriate behavior, or attention-seeking in this area. So, from the beginning, yes even by age 2, encourage modesty about private areas. Don’t allow “coarse joking” about body parts– start how you mean to finish.
- Be factual and pleasant about private areas. Do not give your children the sense that there is something “wrong” or “bad” about their private parts. In the bathtub, if they notice, name their private body parts like you do with toes or chins. You can say simple factual things like, “that’s where your pee-pee comes out.” Even if it feels weird to you to talk about these things openly, it doesn’t feel weird to your child. They are taking their understanding about these things from your words and attitudes. You get to instill a healthy sense, based on fact and God’s Word, of what privates are and, over time, why God made them the way He did.
- Don’t encourage kisses for non-family members. Your child may hug a church nursery worker or snuggle up by someone visiting your home. But even from birth, they should be learning appropriate levels of interaction with various people. You can smile and say, “oh, save your kisses for Mama!” If you’ve read about “grooming” behaviors (actions taken by older children or adults to slowly break down appropriate interaction between themselves and a child in order to prepare for future abuse/molestation), you know that part of what sexual predators do is begin with small measures of affection and slowly amp up the intimacy of their touches. By not encouraging over-affection with non-family members, you are teaching your child discernment and self-awareness in the area of how we healthily interact with others.
- Be positive about marriage, pregnancy, and babies. Remember that you are laying a foundation for how they will understand these things that are interlaced with the topic of sex. So, smile when you see babies, and purposefully teach your child to be gentle and loving toward smaller babies. If a friend has a growing belly, or is breastfeeding, talk positively about it. The little moments in life are often “big” moments, where we’re passing on ideas and attitudes. So make the most of it!
- Don’t over think this, or sexualize everything. Your child won’t be permanently damaged because you say, “Whoo! Shooie! That was a STINKY diaper!” In fact, they may giggle and it could make diaper-changing a little less like a war zone. Your child won’t be scarred for life and immodest when she’s 22 because grandma giggled once when she ran through the living room naked after bath time. It doesn’t mean someone is trying to finagle their way into your child’s trust for later sexual abuse because they kiss your baby’s cheek.
Let’s not be anxious, churning women; instead let’s be wise and purposeful.
CONSIDER THIS A FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY!
God has made each of us as spiritual AND physical beings. This is a wonderful chance for you to begin laying a foundation in the life of your child for the way they will understand themselves, their bodies, their future spouse, and the reasons why God makes us the way He does.
By treating this as an on-going area for continual growth, conversation, and infusion of your wisdom and guidance, it takes the pressure off! It also gives you time to get more comfortable with these words & topics over time, rather than throwing it all “out there” all at once.
You don’t have to (and shouldn’t try to) do everything perfect in one “BIG” conversation when they are hitting puberty, or beyond. Instead, you are privileged to, over time, share biblical truth and purposeful teaching with your child about something that will affect them for their entire lives.
What a wonderful opportunity you have
(beginning now, when your little one is small)
to instill basic ideas about why God has made them!
You can do this, Mama (and Daddy)!
Start now to have this (on-going) talk with your child, and lay the foundation for a biblical understanding of God’s purposes for their bodies.
- Share your reaction! Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you…
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