Sex education… Wow, when is the right time to start? Will I not put ideas in my child’s mind? How much should I tell? How do I go about it? Will it be awkward? I know most parents have many concerns regarding sex education and hope their children don’t grow up too fast, just to delay this chat a little longer. In a number of cases children end up getting abused and may not even know that they are being abused until it’s too late. Here are some ways to have the sex talk with your child. The earlier the better. It does not have to be graphic or rob them of their innocence but they need to know how to place boundaries around themselves to protect against potential abuse.
- Be relaxed. Don’t put pressure on yourself. You as the parent have to be comfortable when you speak to your child, this will in turn make them also feel comfortable enough to ask questions.
- Prepare your speech. It’s not about saying everything all at once, and it’s not about talking “at” your child and commanding them as much as it is about making them understand and letting them know that they can speak to you about anything without fear of being shut down, punished or ignored. Pitch your talk to a level that your child can understand and gradually add on information to match your child’s development. That is to say, the sex talk is not a once off thing but rather something that you will teach and have to remind your child as they grow.
- Body parts. In early childhood, as early as 1 year old, teach your child about the names of their body parts, even their private parts. You can use nicknames with younger ones. Your child has to know that they can freely talk about any part of their body with you.
- Boundaries. Teach your children how to wash their private parts from the age of 3 and that no one is allowed to touch them there, ever. Before this age, you can teach them that mommy only touches there when she is cleaning it during a diaper change or during bath time. It is important for a child to know that their body is their own and once they have learnt to set their own boundaries they will protest if someone tries to handle them in a way that they are not comfortable with. Just as importantly, teach your child not to touch anyone else’s private parts even if that person asks them to. That is also a form of sexual abuse on your children.
- Make it fun. Growing up we had songs and games which included, ‘…no body touch me, no body kiss me I’ll tell my mama, I’ll tell my papa…’ if you know any, it would be a fun way to teach your child also making it hard to forget. In early childhood, children learn more through songs and games and that’s why most people can still remember the nursery rhymes they learnt many years ago.
Besides early sex education there are other ways you can help prevent child abuse and these include the following:
- Be part your child’s life. Show interest in your child’s life, make it a habit to ask about their day, who they saw, what they did, how it made them feel. This creates a good relationship with no secrets where it is easy for the child to tell you anything. It also becomes easy to tell if something is not right with your child as you will notice a change in attitude.
- Know your child’s friends. Know who your child spends time with, that is, their friends, friends’ parents, teachers and any adults they mention or encounter. Encourage your child to openly talk about anyone. It is also important to know the kind of games they play so you can monitor what they are being exposed to.
- Exercise due diligence when seeking helpers for your child. Whether it is a maid, a new school or an after school activity, be diligent about screening supervisors for your child. Pay attention to red flags, even if it’s a small nagging feeling. Only leave your child in the care of people you absolutely trust.
- Raise awareness. You could tell your child of the potential dangers around them and teach them how to react in different situations. From about 4 years old, you can run through different scenarios for example the lesson, Don’t talk to strangers. You could act it out with you being the stranger and find out what they would do then switch roles and you show them what they should do in a situation where they are approached by a stranger.
- Avoid unwanted physical contact. Do not force your child to give you or anyone else hugs or kisses when they don’t want to. Doing so will make them less likely to protest if someone wants to do something to them that they are uncomfortable with but teaching them that they can refuse physical contact if they don’t want it will make them stand up for themselves in an event that they need to.
- Know the signs of abuse. Becoming familiar with the signs of abuse is very important because you are better able to notice any changes with your child no matter how small they are and this puts you in a better position to help them in the unfortunate event that they have been abused. Signs of abuse is the next article in this series. Coming Soon.
Remember, it’s not only girls that are potential victims of abuse. Protect your little boys just as much!