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Sexual behaviour and contraception

Page 4/9: Topic B: Some good advice about how to inform young children

Topic B: Some good advice about how to inform young children

For your inspiration in planning dialogues, here are some simple suggestions to keep in mind:

Is it okay for toddlers to be curious about sex?

  • It’s okay and perfectly normal and healthy for toddlers to be interested in sex.
  • Even infants are curious about their bodies.
  • Both boys and girls are curious about sex and may act in ways resembling adult sexual behaviours as part of their exploration and playing.
  • Sexual behaviour is normal and healthy in toddlers. However, if your child seems obsessed with sex, it could be a sign of a behavioural problem or sexual abuse.


What kind of sexual behaviours are okay?

  • Masturbation in toddlers is usually nothing to worry about. Kids touch their bodies because they are curious and because it feels good.
  • If your child is preoccupied with masturbation (cannot be distracted from doing it), it could be a sign of a behavioral problem or sexual abuse.
  • It is not unusual for toddlers to “play doctor” (to show other children their body parts).
  • Children are curious about naked bodies.
  • They may be interested in watching their parents change clothes.
  • Children may also be curious about women’s breasts and want to touch them, especially if they have a younger brother or sister who is being breastfed.
  • Kids may copy adult sexual behaviour they have seen at home or on TV. For example, children might hug passionately or lay on top of one another.


Adults should try to remember that while this behaviour seems sexual to an adult, the children think about it only as playing.


How should I react to this behaviour?

  • If your toddler masturbates in front of others, explain to him that it’s okay to do, but he should only do it in private.
  • Do not spank your child or punish him for this behaviour.
  • Distract him. Give him something else interesting to do.
  • Do not scold children if you find them looking at each other’s bodies.
  • Calmly direct them to another activity and talk to your child about it later.
  • Tell your child that it’s okay to be interested in other people’s bodies, but that people are expected to keep their bodies private.
  • If your child’s behaviour bothers you, ask yourself why it bothers you. If your child seems to know more details than he should, talk to him and find out where he is getting his information.


How do I teach my child about sex?

  • Do not rely on the school to teach your child about sex. Sex education at school may not begin until 5th or 6th grade, and children have questions long before that.
  • Sex education should start at home at an early age.
  • It is not unusual for toddlers to ask questions about sex or to wonder where babies come from.
  • Never scold your child for asking questions about sex. It is natural for toddlers to be curious.
  • If kids have questions, don’t avoid them. Answer them in words they can understand.
  • Young children are usually satisfied with simple answers. They don’t need a lot of details. As kids get older, you will need to give them more information.
  • Maybe you can find children’s books on the subject. Read the books together with your child.
  • Ask your doctor for suggestions.
  • By the time children are 3 years old, they can usually learn how to say the words “penis” and “vagina.” Use these words in a matter-of-fact way, without embarrassment.
  • Teach your toddler about good touch and bad touch. If someone ever touches him in a bad way, he should tell an adult right away.
  • Keep talking to children about sex as they get older. Having just one conversation about sex is not enough.
  • Parents’ values and attitudes about sex and sexuality have a huge impact on how their child thinks about sex.


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