It’s always awkward when your 5-7 year old begins to take an interest in your genitals as well as his or her own genitals. He or she wants to see them and talk about them. This is a crucial time where your son or daughter’s curiosity is blossoming and very innocent on this topic. Yet, as a parent, it seems at times you are awkwardly forced into explaining something to them. Most parents simply don’t even want to go there, and others create some unusual and vague summary of how we keep our private parts to our self and we keep our hands to ourselves. However, our children deserve our best and perhaps a little more than an awkward and vague response about our sexual organs would be better serve our children. Below are a few tips to help you navigate a conversation with your curious children about this sensitive topic.
- Keep it age appropriate. Children at this age are not ready to hear details about sexual encounters. They may be interested in your private parts, but are not able to comprehend the act of sex. Keep in mind too, that most likely they are not necessarily asking about sex. Question what it is their childlike mind is really interested in, rather than possibly projecting anything onto your child. It is a unique and wonderful opportunity to talk openly with your child about his or her body without shaming the human form.
- Decide what is best for your value system: Modesty or Sexual openness? How will you bring human dignity and honor to a conversation about your sexual reproductive organs? It requires balance. If you’d like to teach your children modesty, it is best to steer clear of shaming sexual openness. If you’d like to teach them about sexual openness, steer clear of making it about the act of sex, and more about acceptance of their bodies. A balanced perspective that encourages confidence in your child’s body and respect to the opposite gender’s private parts will help them mature. Also, keep the talk about them. Encourage them about their body and build up a positive self-image. Even at their age, your words mean everything to them.
- Talk to them about appropriate times to expose private parts. For parents who are aware of the possible dangers of their child’s growing curiosity of sexual organs and innocent exposure, it is important to set up appropriate boundaries in their minds and remind them continuously of those boundaries. Ensure that shame is not apart of the natural consequence if they fail at first.
- Strive to discern the difference between them wanting to cuddle in a loving way or to “check things out.” Then establish healthy boundaries. You never want to reject your child or mistake the innocence for something “dirty” then shame them and make them feel guilty for wanting to be near you. Children are always pushing boundaries and seeing what they can get away with. If you have a child consistently wanting to touch you or “check you out,” stop the behavior and remind them about when and with who that would be appropriate (like with their partner later in life, but not with you). Common sense says if they shouldn’t behave a certain way in society or in public, then guide their behavior toward what is most appropriate in all situations so they can be safe.
- Remember you are there for your child’s development and positive growth. Whenever you judge, jump to conclusions about their intentions, and even if you make fun of them or tease them, you are taking something from them rather than adding to their positive development. Think, how can I add to their understanding? How can I support them in a healthy and positive way that will breed confidence in the awareness of their body image later in life?
Healthy boundaries, body confidence, and a strong sense of pure identity can be formed and strengthened through these awkward moments with your child. Use the opportunity wisely. Building a child’s integrity for the subject of “private parts” can be so vital to their interpersonal development and social interactions. These conversations will allow your child to continue to develop positively and have a greater impact than you can imagine. They won’t be distracted by unanswered or lingering questions and go elsewhere for answers. The best part of having candid supportive conversations about this topic is that they will know that they have a parent in their corner to whom they can talk to anytime about their bodies.