Shame Free Seeds Of Sexual Development

What does sexual development look like in young children? What tools can parents and caregivers use to support children growing into sexually healthy adults? Lydia will share strategies for promoting shame-free conversation with children.

Shame Free Seeds Of Sexual Development

Shame Free Seeds Of Sexual Development

Shame Free Seeds Of Sexual Development

3 minute read

When should we start talking to our kids about their sexual development? Sex educator and early childhood educator Lydia M. Bowers says it’s never too early.

In this stream, Bowers talks about how to plant seeds for a child’s shame-free sexual  development, and how parents should address this topic just like any other form of their kid’s growth — like their physical, emotional, social, or cognitive development. “[...] sexual development is just as critical to children's development, and really, it's just integrated with all those other areas,” says Bowers.

Kids first learn about their sexuality as they do anything else — through interactive play, exploration, and by asking questions. We must keep in mind this exploration is simply them discovering their bodies. So if you see your child touching their genitals, for example, it’s often because they are just learning it feels good and that it can be soothing, like sucking a thumb. Kids also often parrot behavior, so they might kiss another kid on the playground simply because they’ve seen their parents kiss. 

As adults, it’s our job to positively guide that behavior. If your kid kisses another kid on the playground, you might want to say “Did you ask first?” Take those moments to ask yourself “What is the opportunity that I have here to teach my child?” “What are they needing to learn?” In this case, it could be an introductory lesson on consent

When it comes to helping a kid feel good about their body, we can start by simply teaching them the anatomically correct language for their genitals so they aren’t calling their vulva or penis a pee pee. This shows their genitals are a part of the body, just like any other. If they are touching themselves, do not associate the act with something dirty. So, if you need them to wash their hands after touching, you can phrase it sensitively like “Hey, I see you touched your vulva, and so you may have some potty germs on your fingers. Let’s wash hands before we play with the toy.” This sends a different message than “Your hands were down your pants, go wash your hands now.” 

Of course, every child learns things in different ways at different times. Perhaps identify some areas your child may by struggling with — body image, boundary-building, hygiene, etc. — and then define parenting goals to help your child with those things. For questions or issues you’re not sure how to address, it’s perfectly fine to say “Let’s read about it together,” and use educational resources such as The Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex, This is My Body! What I say Goes!, and Let's Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent, and Respect.

Lydia M. Bowers

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

With over 15 years of Early Childhood Education experience under her belt, Lydia M. Bowers now focuses on educating families to better understand childhood and adolescent sexual development. Additionally, Lydia's personal experience with pelvic pain has motivated her work with individuals dealing with pain, as well as trauma and/or shame, to reclaim pleasure.

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