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.

Video transcript

We're talking about children tonight, and sexual development because it's something that we often don't think about as when we're talking about sexual development and sexuality, and what normally happens is that we start talking about sexuality or sexual development about the time that puberty hits, right? And so what happens is we kind of, nothing is talked about, and everything is ignored on this topic, and then children start going through puberty, and suddenly we go, "Oh no, maybe we have to start talking about something." And then still sometimes, it's still not even talked about. So what we're gonna talk about today is how sexual development is actually just a normal part of development like all the other areas. So when we are developing as children, we develop physically, so our muscles and our movement and how we're physically growing, we develop cognitively, which is how we are thinking and our thought processes and how our brains are working, and we also develop social and emotionally, so how we are managing our own emotions and recognizing feelings, how are we interacting with others and those are things that are sort of recognized as being areas of child development and the way we develop as humans. The thing is though is that sexual development is just as critical to children's development, and really, it's just integrated with all those other areas. So what happens though is that we leave that out and we kind of, we either ignore it, because we don't want to think about it, or we don't know it's there at all. So there is a sex educator and researcher named Emily Nagoski who wrote a book called "Come As You Are" which is fantastic. And in the book, oh, I don't even have it with me, normally I always have the book with me, in the book, she gives this metaphor of children being born as gardens, or that everyone has a garden when they're born, and we don't get to pick what it looks like, we don't get to pick how the quality of the soil, we don't get to pick the type of environment it's in, we're just born with this, right? And it's up to the adults around us, the caregivers, whether that's a family of birth or if it's a different family, doesn't always have to be parents, it can include babysitters and grandparents and childcare providers, and all of these adults start planting stuff in these gardens, and they are the ones that are watering, they're tending these things or not tending these things, and the idea is is that as those things grow, once we are getting older, adolescents and adults, we start taking over control of those gardens. We are the ones who have to start deciding what we want there, do we like what was planted, do we want to change some things? And what happens is with this analysis, or I guess it's metaphor that she gave, it really was about sexual development specifically, but because I was a preschool teacher for 15 years, that immediately clicked in my head as going wait a minute, this is all the areas, this is how we grow. So other people help support our development, and some people have better support than others, and it can be in all different areas, and then once we are old enough to take care of this and take care of our own bodies, be responsible for ourselves, we have the hand we've been dealt, right? We come to the table with the messages that were given to us. What were the examples of relationships we saw around us? What messages did we get from movies or books or friends about relationships and about taking care of our bodies? Did we get any sex ed in schools, or not? And all of these things have played into growing our garden and who we are, and at which point, we have to figure out, "Okay, how much of this am I okay with? "How much of it do I need to do some digging "and changing things up?" And some things are easier to uproot than others. It really is saying yes it is that sexual development is a natural part childhood development, yes. So, the problem is, so here's why it gets scary sometimes, when we talk about children and sexuality, a lot of people kind of cringe or feel like, "Okay, these shouldn't be connected, "these should be completely separate." The problem is is that we are looking at it through our adult glasses. And so as adults, we have knowledge of, understanding of, experience with different sexual activities or sexual knowledge, even if we have not participated in sexual activity, we still know what it is. And so then when we see children, sometimes we put that on them because for children, they learn about sexuality the way they learn about everything else, which is playing, which is interacting, they're very hands-on, they're asking questions, children are very open, not usually a lot of privacy. And so we see these things and we see, sometimes what we're worried about, okay, is this a sexual behavior that's problematic? So for example, sometimes we'll see young children playing with their genitals, and sometimes what happens is as adults, we are taking our knowledge of or experience with masturbation and we put it on children and we kind of panic, but with children, especially young children, when they're touching their bodies, they're just learning that their bodies are a part of them, that it feels good, and when children are little, especially that genital touching is kind of just a soothing thing basically on par with someone sucking their thumb, and it's just, "Hey, this part of my body makes me feel good, "this makes me feel comfortable, I feel safe, "and I can know that my body makes me feel good "and is bringing me pleasure." And that's long before pleasure has any sort of sexual connotation with it. So when we think about children and we're talking about sexuality, we have to recognize that sometimes, we put our adult lens onto children, and adults, we have to be responsible for our actions. We have knowledge of sexual activity, our relationships may include romantic or sexual, and/or sexual relationships, and usually for the most part, our sexuality is private, it is intentional. With children, they're going to be spontaneous, they're going to be open, they're going to imitate what they see. And so sometimes, you will have children who are maybe trying to kiss another child on the playground because they saw their parents kiss, and it doesn't mean that they are, that a child is a predator at that point, it just means it they've seen that and are going to try to act it out. So then as adults, our role is to kind of say, "Hey, this is actually what's appropriate, "and this is when it's okay "to give someone physical affection, and did you ask first?" So we have these moments where they're teachable moments, they're these moments that kind of just crop up and we have the opportunity to talk to our children. I have a four year old, and when he was, I think he was about two, my partner had come home from work and came over and to greet me hello once he got home, he puts his hands on either side of my face and goes in for the kiss, and our two year old is watching, and as soon as we were done with that kiss, he stands up on a chair and tries to grab my face and tilt his head. And I was like, "Whoa, what are you doing?" And he was, "I'm giving you a kiss." And to him, he's thinking, "Oh, and Daddy loves Mommy, "and I love Mommy, and Daddy's gonna kiss Mommy like this, "so I'm gonna kiss Mommy like this", and it's definitely, it's awkward, it's uncomfortable, but it gives me a moment to say, "Well actually, "I kiss Daddy like this because we love each other "and this is one of the ways that we show that "we're husband and wife and that's how we show each other "we love each other. "I'm your mom and you're my child, "and this is how I kiss you", and kiss all over his face. And so there are moments where we can take those what may be uncomfortable moments sometimes for us, and kind of figure out okay, what is this, what is the opportunity that I have here to teach my child? What is the opportunity that I have? What are they needing to learn? What messages are they needing right now? And so we can use these, and sometimes it's hard, sometimes children can come up with some great questions or behaviors that kinda stump us, and that's okay. It's okay to tell a child, "I'm not sure I know the answer to your question, "can I get back to you on that? "Or maybe let's look it up together", depending on how old they are. So when we're talking about sexual development, oh sorry, water, and particularly if we're thinking about how do I help raise an adult who is going to be sexually healthy? And when we're talking about sexual health, that doesn't mean just, oh, you don't have any illnesses or diseases. Sexual health is just sort of a state of wellness when it comes to, it can be physical, emotional, mental, social, well-being, all relating to sexuality. So if we're wanting to grow sexually healthy adults, we have to be intentional now. And so if we kind of think about it again, like these gardens, when we go to plant something, certain plants take certain care, right? If we are planting a cactus, we can't take care of it the same way we would a rose bush, for example, right? They need different things. We have to be intentional in how we are caring for these gardens, knowing what the end result is. Now, here's the caveat. Children are not robots, and we cannot plug in a code and just get whatever output you desire. And as parents, let me stop for a minute, I keep saying parents. I absolutely mean families and caregivers because I recognize that not all families have parents as part of them, so I'm gonna try to be better about saying families. So, now I lost my train of thought, so when we are being intentional about these things, and we are saying, "Okay, I want to have this child, "and this is what I hope for someday", that's okay. It doesn't mean it's gonna happen necessarily, and caregiver guilt, if you are taking care of children, it's kind of a daily thing, we go, "Oh my gosh, "am I screwing up these kids, what am I doing?" And that never goes away, never goes away. But, we have to recognize that we do the best job we can in these gardens, we will plant what we can and nurture what we can, recognizing though that children eventually are going to grow up and they're going to make their own decisions, and we don't have any final say over that or control over that. So this is what we have to keep in mind, we certainly are wanting to nurture and tend these things with a goal in mind, but we have to recognize as well that we don't have final say, we're not programming robots. So when we're talking about these things and we're looking at, okay, how do I grow a sexually healthy adult? Which means that, "How do I help my child someday "be an adult who can approach sexuality in whatever form "that is for them without shame?" We don't want children, we don't want adults to feel that their bodies are shameful, that their relationships are shameful, and that happens a lot, and for many of us, it's because that's how we grew up, and some of us, that's the messages that we received. But what happens again, back to where we're talking about this is all of early childhood, kids don't just hit puberty and suddenly become sexual beings, we are always sexual beings, and whether or not we even feel a sexual desire, whether or not we choose to engage in sexual activity, we are sexual beings. Sexuality includes things like our relationships and our gender and the gender roles we see around us. It includes reproduction, it can include intimacy, so there's all these different aspects of sexuality, and that's just an aspect of humanity. So when we're thinking about this and we have to be very intentional, and there's several ways we can do that, so if we think about in these different ways, "Okay, what is my goal? "What is, for example, what is my goal to raise a child "or to help support a child to have "a positive self-image, for example?" That's a critical part of sexuality. And that may mean we have to recognize that children are going to be curious about their bodies. When babies first discover their toes, we like to take pictures of it, we're like, "Oh, it's so cute, they got their foot in their mouth", 'cause they can contort real well, but then if that same baby discovers a penis or vulva, we kind of panic, we're like, "Oh, nope, that's off limits, "we don't touch that." And we're sending a message that there are some body parts that are okay and there's some body parts that are not, and that instantly gives these ideas of shame. "There are these parts that I'm not supposed to touch, "there are these parts that are supposed to be "not talked about, what's going on here?" So when we can just recognize, first of all for children, they are just exploring their bodies, they're figuring out what's on their body. And for many people, with vulvas especially, they never look at it, it's kind of hard to look at. We kind of have to get a mirror, and it's not easy to look at, it's not as easy to look at as a penis is, but for many of us, we never looked at it. We don't know what our own body looks like. And so when children are just exploring that, that's just part of exploring who they are and recognizing that bodies make us feel good. A child may suck their thumb, or recognize that some touch feels safe, and, "This feels good, this makes me feel happy when "this safe person is giving me a hug, "and it feels good when I'm standing outside "and I'm feeling the wind blowing on my skin, "and it feels good when I rub my genitals "against the couch." That's probably, the genitals probably isn't going through their head so much, but our bodies make us feel good, they do. And for example, the clitoris has no other purpose except to feel good. So children are discovering what makes them feel good and it's okay to say that and it's okay to acknowledge that, "Yeah, I know this feels good." It also gives us an opportunity to talk about privacy because we can say, "I know you really love your penis "and playing with it really makes you feel good, "and that's wonderful. "There is a place to do that though, "your bedroom is the right place because "we don't just do that out in front of other people." Which is an important thing to learn because it seems like there are many adults who haven't learned that lesson. So it is a good thing for us to recognize, okay, these are things we can talk to our children about, and even when we're talking about how are we talking about our children's bodies? Sometimes people will joke around about, "Oh, look at that baby fat", or teasing children for the way their bodies look, and we're sending these messages real early that certain bodies we're okay with and certain bodies we're not. And there's a lot of attention that gets drawn to Photoshop magazines and what's in the media and that absolutely is a problem, but we also have to think about how early it actually goes, and sometimes these things are said real early, or even how we talk about our own bodies. Sometimes if we're talking about, "Oh, I don't like this on myself", or, "I don't like what this looks like", again, children are hearing that. Maya said, "How do you explain why it's not okay "to do it in public without creating shame?" Okay, so I'm assuming we're talking about playing with genitals, right? So as we're talking about that, one of the ways we can address that is to say, "Your body is very special, it does make you feel good. "There are parts of your body that are private "and that are just for you, "and so this isn't something we do out in front of people. "And that can be for two reasons. "One is this is your body, "this is for you to touch and this is private, but also, "we're going to respect other people and recognize that "these body parts are not body parts that we "pull out in front of other people." That may vary, depending on the age of the child because for example, infants, I mean, mobile infants for one usually have on some sort of diaper, so there's not as much pulling it out. They're not at the age where that privacy concept is even gonna matter, so it's not something you worry about with an infant. With toddlers, so toddlers, let's say kind of 18 months to about, oh, two, two and a half, three, somewhere in there, usually between that two, three, four, sometimes five is when children can start understanding the concept of privacy. So really before that, it's just kind of an ongoing conversation we have and just say, "Hey actually, that's not, "we're not pulling that out right now", or, "That's something you can do in your room at home." And when we're saying it just very matter-of-factly, a lot of how we say it makes a difference. If we're like, "Oh my gosh, put it away, "you can't take that out!" Then that immediately gives a sense of there's something bad, there something wrong, it's this taboo thing, as opposed to if we're like, "Hey, that's actually not something we do right now", it can be, it's just sometimes it's how we say it, recognizing that some of the younger children, they're not even at an age developmentally where that privacy piece is something they can understand. So what happens is a lot of the time, it just has to keep being repeated over and over and over again. "I know you really like it, but we're gonna put it away", or, "Here, how about I help you walk to your room "and you can play with it there?" Now, if you're out in public, obviously, so for example, say you're at a restaurant, then you can say, "Hey, I know you really like to play with your penis, "that's not what we do in a restaurant. "Do you want to go out to the car with me", or, "Are you needing to to play with your penis for a minute?" But usually, usually for the most part, you can redirect or distract with something else when they're really young, but not always. Sometimes they're insistent, but then also, that's something to keep in mind, if a child can't be redirected from it, it could be, there could be something wrong. There could be a UTI or maybe they're feeling uncomfortable, maybe something's sore or itchy, and so those are the times you're like, "Okay, they are really not able to let this go, literally. "How do we kind of check and see what's going on?" But maybe not check and see what's going on in the middle of the restaurant, right? So yeah, so that privacy, and again, that goes back to that body image, right? If we are shouting, "Oh my gosh, don't touch it, put it away!" We are giving them this inherent message that, "It's wrong, it's dirty, it's bad, it's shameful", whereas if we say, "Hey, that's wonderful that you like it, "this is the place to do it", then we're starting to teach them privacy, which includes then respect for other people, at the same time acknowledging that their body is good, and yes, we know that it feels good too. Oh I have to show you, the other thing when we're doing this is that when we're having this conversation is it's very important for children to know the correct terms for genitals. And I know some people have other terms that they like to use, which is fine, but your children still have to know the correct terms, just like sometimes people will call toes piggies, they'll be like, "Oh my piggies are", I don't know, my piggies, right> but they still know that their feet are called, whoa, let me back up, it's one of those evenings. So, they still know that their toes are called toes, even though sometimes you may call them something else. So this book, I don't know if anyone's ever seen this, this is called, oops, I'm backwards here, "Once Upon A Potty", and this was published in the early mid-80s, oh, 1984, and was the premier potty-training book for a while, and there are two versions, and one is of Prudence, and the other one is Joshua, I believe. I only have Prudence with me right now. So here's the thing, it goes through, and it's Prudence's mother is telling the story, but it talks about how Prudence is just like you and Prudence has a body, and it goes through, the body has all these nice and useful parts. Wonderful, right? A head for thinking, eyes for seeing, ears for hearing, a mouth to talk and eat with, hands for playing, a pee-pee for making wee-wee. It gets me every time, because we're going through these body part names and giving them names and defining what they do, and then suddenly, we can't say a real name? So again, we're giving this message that there's something wrong with this, we can't say the actual name. And even better is that the Prudence version and the Joshua version both say a pee-pee for making wee-wee so there's no, even though the parts are drawn in the book, there's no distinction, no distinguishing between their names. But I have to say that my parents crossed out, you can actually see, it's my dad's handwriting, so they crossed out pee-pee and wrote vulva. All right, mom and dad, good job. So we use the term vulva, and sometimes people feel uncomfortable about using, uncomfortable, goodness sakes, about using the word vulva, and a lot of times we say vagina instead. Here's the problem, the vagina and the vulva are two very different things. So the vulva is what's external, it's what you can see, and it's actually where you pee because the urethral opening where the pee comes out of is in the vulva and it's above the entrance to the vagina. The vagina itself is just a tube of muscle, it's kind of stretchy, it's kind of like a Slinky, and that's what connects to the cervix and the uterus. So they are different, the vagina is completely internal, the vulva is external, so nobody pees out of their vagina, we pee out of our vulva. And sometimes you may go, "Oh, well it's not that big of a deal, is it?" But the problem is is that it has effects later on. So for one, we have this body image thing where we're going we can't even call this the right name, but then also, when it comes to issues of hygiene, for example, people, I know of individuals who were told as a child to make sure you wash your vagina, meaning vulva, but as they got older, they took it literally and were washing up inside of the vagina, which is, you don't do that, it's bad for you, and we're having recurring issues with bacterial vaginosis and infections because they just assumed, "Well, I've always been told you wash your vagina." And thought they were doing what they were supposed to be doing. Well, they're very different, so the vulva and the vagina,. And so it's important that we make these distinctions and that children understand and know those, and again, regardless of what a child's specific genitals may be, it's important that they know the terms for all genitals. And also when we're talking about hygiene, one of those things again, if we're being intentional, and we want to raise adults that have good hygiene. Wouldn't that be nice? Yeah, my children are both at an age, I have a 12 year old and a four year old, and they like to try to see how long they can go between baths and showers, andsomeday, someday. But when we're talking about hygiene, that's another thing where how we're phrasing things to children can make a big difference. So for example, we're talking about if a child's playing with their genitals in public, it is okay to say, "Hey, we need to go wash hands, "you just had your hand in your pants, "or your hands in your underwear", but it's how we say it because if we're like, "Oh my gosh, "you were touching your penis, "you need to go wash your hands right now", again, we sort of give this attitude of, "This part is dirty and just touching it means "you need to wash your hands." But if we're saying something more along the lines of, "Hey, I see you have your hand on your vulva, "you might still have some potty germs there, "so we need to wash hands before you touch the next toy", because we do the same thing when children have their fingers in their nose, or their fingers in their mouth, and we're not saying, "Oh, your mouth is disgusting, go wash those hands", we're like, "Hey, there are germs sometimes in your mouth, "that's what happens with body parts, "so go wash it before you play with the next thing, "or before you eat, or before you "wipe your hand on your friend's face", 'cause that's a reasonable thing to do. So again, a lot of it is how we phrase things, and sometimes that takes some self-reflection on our parts to think about, "Okay, where is my discomfort coming from? "Why do I feel shame about this? "Where did I get this message?" And sometimes when we can just acknowledge those things, it kind of helps us move past it and say, "Okay, this is where I got this from, so yeah, "I'm feeling a little uncomfortable when this happens, "but I recognize that hey, now I know this is normal, "this is usual development for children." Also when we're talking about being intentional and without shame, the other thing that is really important is this idea of consent. And we hear a lot about this, especially with lots of assault allegations and things coming to light, consent is sort of this hot word that we're hearing more of, but it's something that we can start teaching from a very early age, from the very beginning. So when we are talking to children, consent first starts as showing them their bodies are worthy of respect because we can't say to an infant who can't speak, "Hey, can I change your diaper right now?" And expect a response, it doesn't work. And when we, and even asking that to a verbal toddler, for example, often, they'll say no, so then you're backed into a corner because if they said no and you do it anyway, then you're giving them this idea that their no doesn't count, but if you follow that no, it's then a health hazard to them and other people because if you leave diapers for too long, it ends up with yeast infections and rashes, it can cause all sorts of problems, so that's not something you can do. What we can do however is say, "Hey, we need to change your diaper. "I'm gonna pick you up and we're gonna go over here, "and now I'm gonna take off your diaper, "and I'm gonna get this wipe "and we're gonna wipe your bottom. "Doesn't that feel good? "Your body did its job and got that out "and now we're gonna wipe you, and you're gonna be clean, "and you will feel a lot better. "How does that clean diaper feel on you?" So some of it is just talking through what we're doing, making eye contact, helping children recognize that not only are they worthy of that time and attention, respect in general, but that those parts of their bodies aren't shameful, aren't bad, aren't dirty, and that their body is worth having the respect enough to be shown that, "Yes, we're going to do this, "but I will explain to you what's happening." And so then beyond that as children get a little older where they can start verbalizing these things, it is important that we model that it is always okay to say no to physical affection. There are some things children can't say no to, for example, hygiene, changing diapers. If it is that to get a bath, it is time to get a bath. If they have to get a shot, if there is a medical procedure that has to be done, those are non-negotiables, and as caregivers or medical providers, sometimes we have to pull rank, and it sometimes goes against what some people feel is okay with consent, but it's a much bigger deal because our job as adults is to care for children, to not cause them harm, and sometimes letting children have the entire say means that they could cause harm. So when it comes to hygiene and medical issues, we have to pull rank. But when it comes to things like physical affection, we can leave that in the hands of the child, and we should be, we should be saying, "Hey, is it okay if I give you a hug?" And teach them to ask their peers. Another great thing is if there are pets, that actually gives a great example to children about nonverbal communication. So for example, if a child has picked up a cat and has it hauled over their shoulder, and the cat's fur is up and is yowling, we can say, "Hey, they obviously don't want to be held. "They don't have the words to say no, "but this is what this means." So we can use even pets to start having these conversations about not every time do we stop just at no, sometimes we have to stop or not move forward if someone has not been able to say yes, so what does a nonverbal yes look like? Okay, well if the cat's coming up to you and rubbing their head against you and climbs up on your lap, that probably means they want to be held, and we can talk through these things with children. One of the big times that we see this consent issue come up is at Christmas. So a lot of times people really like taking their families to the mall, especially, in the United States, I'm assuming, I don't know if anybody else does this outside of the US, and we're gonna go see Santa, "And we're gonna go see Santa, "and you're gonna sit on his lap, "and we're gonna take this picture", and how many times have we seen pictures of children just like screaming because they don't want to be there, and people are taking these pictures anyway and then laughing about it and how cute it is? Do you think about what is the message we're sending them? "Here is this big, strange man that I've never seen before, "and you're wanting me to sit on his lap? "And when I don't want to you, you are forcing me to?" That's a huge problem, and I promise you that a child's understanding and ability to be able to say no and understand consent is far more important than any picture with Santa, because when we don't allow children to say no, when we keep saying things like, "It's just Santa, you'll be fine", or, "It's your grandma, you need to give her a hug", every time we say something like that, we are negating that feeling inside of them saying, "I don't really want this." And what happens is over time, that builds and builds and builds to the point where their no isn't worth anything, or feeling like, "I have to have a really good reason to say no, "and if I don't have a good enough reason, "then I'm kind of obligated to say yes." And a lot of times, many of us probably were in situations like that, I know I was, I was in lots of situations where I got much further into things than I felt comfortable with because I felt that I didn't have a good enough reason to say no. So when we are acknowledging when children say, "I don't want this right now", and saying, "That's okay, that's fine, you don't have to", that helps them understand that, no, that's okay. It's also a good lesson for the person who's being told no to, because we have to learn to handle rejection, first of all. We have to learn that sometimes, somebody saying no doesn't change their feelings for us, it's just no. And other times, maybe it is, but it's important that we learn how to accept no as well, not just give a no, because if we think about it, a lot of times we don't want our children to grow up and be victims, right? We don't want them to be assaulted, we don't want something to happen to them, we want to keep them safe, but every perpetrator out there, every person who assaulted someone else was also a child at one point. So what are the messages they got? What were the things that they didn't understand to push this further? When we're talking about that healthy sexual development, one of the things that's really important and that is great when we're talking about helping children not have shame is this idea of pleasure. And I am going to put in here, in the chat, okay, Sex Positive Families is a great resource, I love them so much, and has some great things on teaching children about pleasure, and that actually, I think they've got several products too that just say pleasure is not a dirty word because a lot of times when we hear the word pleasure, we instantly think pleasure, like sexual, and it's not, pleasure is far more than that. And when we're helping children understand what feels good and recognize that, and that can be physical, like we're talking about, "Oh, the wind blowing, "look how that feel", or, "I like when this person gives me a hug, "or I like when this person tickles me", and then we can start helping them recognize other things. "It makes me feel happy when you're sharing with me. "It makes me feel warm inside when you sit next to me "and ask if I want to read a book." And these moments of pleasure, when we help children recognize those, it also helps then for them to recognize the opposite and say, "This doesn't feel good", or, "This doesn't feel right and normally, "this is the kind of feeling I get when I'm hugging someone, "but when this person hugs me, I don't get that feeling." And for many of us, I think for a lot of us just in our society have stopped trusting our gut instincts. And so with children, we have this opportunity to help them trust that in themselves, we can help them recognize that, "This is a moment that I don't feel comfortable with, "so I'm gonna go get help, "or I'm gonna say no and I'm gonna walk away." Because when we can help children recognize moments of pleasure, of joy, of comfort, of feeling good, they're better able to recognize the ones of not feeling good, of feeling uncomfortable or unsafe, and in that way, pleasure actually becomes a method of protection because we've helped children recognize this. So when we're talking about these things with children, we can bring attention to it in a lot of different ways. It can be things like food, and, "Okay, this is a taste I like, "and I really want to, I really want to keep eating this, "but my body is kind of feeling full, so that's okay, "we can save this for later", or, "This is a friend I enjoy playing with. "This one I'm not really sure about", or, "I like this color when I paint, "or I like to put my fingers in the paint, "or I don't like to put my fingers in the paint." So there's all these different ways, and that's what I love with Sex Positive Families, if you go to their blog, there's a whole, there's a blog post about it and all these different images of ways to help explore pleasure in non-sexual ways; In nature, and art, and food and all these different things. Maya says, "I love the stream, Lydia." Oh, thank you. "I want my parents to watch this." Hey, maybe someday. And yeah, so it's, excuse me, water again. And even though this stream is geared towards talking about young children, because all of us grew up with these gardens and had whatever planted in them by our parents or families, some of these things we can use as well and start, if there are things that we need to replace or think like, "Oh okay, I've always thought this, "but I think I want to frame things differently, "or this is how I want to interact with people." So if people have questions, please start throwing them up in the chat. What I was going to do now is show you some of my favorite books that, some children's books and, oh, there's some parent books too but most of these, I think all of them are listed on my website. So if you go to my website, which is lydiambowers.com. There is a whole resource page that I keep and it's specifically about children and families, and so most of these are listed on there, if you want to know where they came from. There is an author in Australi named Jayneen Sanders who writes all sorts of wonderful books. This one is called "My Body! What I Say Goes!" And there's all these great tips. And, oh here's, this is one of the things I love. So when we're talking back to this idea of pleasure and then the opposite, recognizing what doesn't feel good, there's this whole thing about early warning signs, and that's something that we can help children understand as well. Okay, so if my hair feels like it's standing on end or my heart started to beat fast, or I kind of feel sick in the tummy, what are those things to recognize when something doesn't feel right? And who are the safe people? Like making a safety network of people that you can go talk to. This one is called "Let's Talk About Body Boundaries: "Consent and Respect", how about that? So some of these are geared for different ages even though there's some of the same topics. While we're still talking about consent, this is a great one too, "Miles is the Boss of His Body". So I got this earlier in the year on Amazon for about $10, and then a friend went to go look for it, and the cheapest it was on Amazon for was about $900, so I guess it suddenly went out of print, and I could make some good money if I decided to sell this, but I'm not. But a lot of times, these are at the library, and hopefully it'll be available again soon, but "Miles is the Boss of His Body" is talking about Miles, whose birthday it is, and difference numbers are coming up and giving hugs or tickling, and finally Miles says, "No, I'm the boss of my body, I can say no if I want to." And his family says, "Oh yeah, you're right." So that's fine, so they respect that. But it's nice because this has nothing to do, doesn't talk about sexual touches at all, it is purely like basic just in general, which is awesome. Oh, tickling, let's talk about tickling for a second. I personally hate being tickled. I think I have, I've hit people who have tried tickling me, not even realizing that's what I was doing. I hate it, I always have. My siblings enjoyed it. So in my family, once they realized like no, when I'm saying no, I don't want to be tickled, I'm serious. So they didn't tickle me. They would tickle the others if they wanted to, but that's something where that can be a great moment to help recognize that you can kind of stop and check in with people. So my four year old loves to be tickled, and he will come up and say, "Tickle me." So we'll kind of tickle for a minute, and we'll stop and say, "Okay, do you want me to tickle more?" And he'll go, "Yeah, tickle me more", so we will. And then I'll stop again a few minutes later. I don't always wait, and so that's something too where we can help children, we can help adults understand we don't have to, we shouldn't wait until someone is telling us, "Stop, stop!" It's good to stop and check in, "Hey, you doing okay, "are you still enjoying this?" And if they say, "Yes, that's awesome, I want more", then you keep going, and if they're like, "No, that's enough", then you stop, and what that helps, even from an early age is recognizing that checking in for consent doesn't ruin any fun. It's not a moment killer, whether it's non-sexual, or later on, sexual, it doesn't kill a moment, it doesn't ruin the mood, we just, okay, so we're tickling, and we say, "Hey, how you doing? "Do you want to be tickled more?" And someone says yes or no, and we go on from there. So there's these moments we have where we can model how we're interacting and how we're respecting a child, oh, let's see, here's the next book. The other one we're talking about, sex in general, this is such a fantastic book, it's called "Tell Me About Sex, Grandma", and it is a child who's asking Grandma, the illustrations are just amazing too, and it's one where if you, especially if you are a family member who is gonna have to talk to your child at some point about actual sexual activity and you're kind of freaking out, this is a great book, it gives some wonderful examples about, and some of the things that Grandma says is it's a thing with bodies, and it moves so it feels good by yourself or with someone else, and that feelings are your sexuality, but they are yours, they're yours alone. It's got this really great language, so whether or not you're using it, reading it with the child or you're even just using it to kind of help you, it's a great example. There's also, this is the old version of the book. Amy Lang has, the newer version looks much different, but it's called "Birds and Bees and Your Kids", and actually here, hold on, oh, I'm putting this in backwards, and that is Amy Lang's website, but in this book, it actually, it's almost like a workbook, so you go through and you can, it helps you think through, "Okay, what are my thoughts on this subject? "What is it that I want my children to know about this? "And how will I respond if this happens? "And what will I do if this is where the conversation goes?" And it's kind of this really nice way to help write out your thoughts on things and process, and it sort of gives you, you almost have this script ready to go, but rest assured, you will still be surprised of questions that you didn't expect. And as children get older when they are asking questions, another great thing to do is stop for a minute and ask them, "What do you know about this?" Or, "Tell me what you think." And this is for a couple reasons. One is it gives you a moment to pause, and to take a deep breath, and think through how you are going to respond, 'cause sometimes when we're surprised with these questions, it throws us off. The reason is that it helps give us a foundation to understand where that child is coming from because maybe they have a better understanding of something than we thought. When a child says, "How did that baby get in there?" Pointing at a pregnant stomach and you're going, "I have no idea what to think", and you say, "Hey, well, tell me what you think", and then they say, "Well, I think that baby just grows from the inside", depending on their age, you can say, "Well yeah, the baby does grow." If they're a little older, you can say, "well yeah, a baby grows from, there's an egg, "it's a tiny little egg and then the sperm, "then when they connect, "then they start growing into this baby." So it gives you this good foundation. Other times, it helps clarify what the question is. Here is my personal example. When my daughter was younger than she is now, she came up to me and said, "Mom, what does coming mean?" I started to panic internally, going, "What has she seen? "Who has said something to her? "What has been said?" And I'm thinking of all of these reasons I'm gonna have to explain slang for an orgasm and how that works and, or ejaculation, like all this stuff trying to process, okay, how do I explain this? But thank goodness I said, "Well, tell me what you know about it." And she said, "Well, I was just reading this book "and it says coming of age, "and I don't know what that means." Let me tell you what, if I had just launched into my explanation of orgasms, she would have been completely confused because that wasn't the question she was asking. We've had that conversation since, but it's a moment where when you are caught off guard, it's always a good idea to say, "Hey, tell me what you know first", or, "What do you think of that?" Or have them kind of give you some background first, because you never know, they may know more, or it may be a totally different question than you realized. Oh, there's all these books too. These are some great ones, by Robie Harris. And these are for different ages as well. Some of these are for 10 and up, so these are older, but they've got great examples of different bodies. Now, this is more about when you're talking to teenagers, it's called "For Goodness Sex", but a lot of these are good to read and good to glance through before you get to that point, because we don't want to wait 'til they're teenagers and then start reading all the teenage books, 'cause then it doesn't help very much. Oh, Harry, hello, I'm sorry I totally missed that you had jumped in. So, I am getting so distracted, I'm sorry. Not even distracted, I think I'm just scatterbrained is what it is, I can't think straight. So in summary then, sexual development, sexuality is just an aspect of humanity like every other area of development. And what happens is that when we ignore it or don't realize it's there, we still end up sending messages to our children, we still end up sending them messages about their bodies, about what it's okay to call parts, what parts are good or not, about whether or not they can be in charge of their bodies, and we are going to be sending them messages about sexuality whether we mean to or not. And so it's important that we choose to be intentional and say, "Okay, even if I'm feeling uncomfortable with this "right now, I want my child be a healthy adult, "I want them to be able to have healthy relationship, "I want them to be able to say no if they feel uncomfortable, "I want them to be able to graciously accept no "if it's said to them." And so when we think about these things, we can say, "Okay, this is what I would like, in theory, "my child to be at 25." So what does that look like at 16? What does that look like at 10? What does that look like at four? How do I help send these messages now and how do I help interact with my child in a way that nurtures that seed of consent, that nurtures that seed of positive self-image and recognition of bodies? What nurtures that seed about good hygiene and hand washing all the time? I think though, definitely with my four year old, it's kind of a toss-up if he, if fingers are more in noses, well, not in other people's noses, in his nose, or playing with his penis, I'm not sure which one would be, actually no, I think it would be the penis. He's very proud of it and he's told us before that he loves it, and so we said, "Yes, I know you do, "and that's wonderful, "but the living room in front of everyone "is not where you pull that out." And sometimes, and he'll say, "Okay, I'm gonna go to my room", because when kids are this young, they're not masturbating the same way an adult would, it's more just kind of fiddling around with things. Sometimes children do rub, either with their hand or up against something because it does feel good, so it is more of like almost more of that sexual kind of pleasure feeling, but again, it's very different because they're not picturing a sexual act or imagining someone naked, it's just self-soothing like sucking your thumb, but you'll never, when you see someone sucking their thumb, you'll never see it again the same. So it is, let's see what time it is, it is 7:58, so if anyone has any questions, please let me know. I've talked a lot during this. Well I mean, I was going to be talking a lot, but we haven't had as many questions as sometimes we do, so hopefully that just means that you all are understanding this and you're like, "Oh yeah, I know this, no big deal." But I know that there are still some really great streams coming up next, so definitely stay tuned for that. Actually, oh yeah, so Eva is next and talking about sex and disabilities, and Eva's streams are always wonderful as well, so hopefully you can stick around and catch that stream 'cause I think they'll just load one after the other. Oh, let's see. Oh, here's another one real quick, this is "The Parent's Guide to Talking About Sex", that's pretty straightforward. But this one too talks some about this, well, you have to build this foundation and that you can't just wait 'til a child is 12 or 13 and 14 and then suddenly, they're a sexual being, because if you think about almost like driving a car, even though, okay, so 16, 17, 15, I guess depending where you are and whether it's a temporary permit or license, anyway, somewhere around there is when people start to be able to drive. And if we just on the day, the child turns whatever age it is, we hand them a driver's license and say, "Hey, always wear your seatbelt, now go drive this car", it would be bad news. What we do is children ride in cars before that, we practice putting on seat belts. We should be practicing putting on seat belts every time we're getting in the car and wearing them, and sometimes we talk about the cars we're driving, we talk about, "Oh look, this is the red light, "and this is what we do when we stop and there's a red light "and green means go and yellow should mean slow down, "not speed up", 'cause I've heard that one before. And so they go through learning about how to drive this car so that hopefully, when they are driving a car, they have this lifetime of this habit of you put on your seat belt and recognizing some of these signs, and then they're gonna learn some more specific stuff to driving that car, but there's still a foundation for it. And it's kind of the same thing where we're talking about sex and sexuality, if we think that we're just gonna wait and at some point when a kid, or when we feel they're old enough to learn about sex, we're suddenly just gonna hand them this and send them on their way, we're doing ourselves, we're doing our children a big disservice. And so it's important that we start having these conversations early, and just make it a natural extension of everything else we do. Rosemary, oh, you're welcome. Thank you, I'm glad you were were. So everyone, I hope you have a good night, and again Maya, thank you Maya, she is our moderator tonight, has put my website in the chat, and there's the link to my Facebook, and then the LydiaMBowers is my Twitter and Instagram, so feel free to follow me on that. If you have questions, contact me, and then on the website, there are more resources, and I send more out fairly frequently with my newsletter as well. So I hope everyone has a good night, and enjoy the rest of your evening. At this point it's evening basically everywhere the States. Mekwai, I don't know what time it is for you, I know you're significantly different, but hopefully you can stay and listen to Eva's stream as well. Bye, everyone.

Shame Free Seeds Of Sexual Development

Date
Wed
Jul 18, 2018
|
3:00 pm
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Calendar
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
|
3:00 pm

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.