Why Talking to Your Little Kids About Sex Helps Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

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prevent child sexual abuse

For many parents, having “the talk” is a frightening and embarrassing thought. But what if I told you it shouldn’t be? Better yet, what if I told you how to do it so that it is as natural as the birds and the bees?  And then, what if I told you that by doing this, you are helping prevent child sexual abuse? Mind blown!

The key point to remember is that talking about sex shouldn’t be a one and done conversation. It should be a conversation that you begin when your child is born. Yep, that’s right.

Name All Body Parts 

Start using proper names for body parts right from the beginning —say “penis,” “vagina,” “bottom,” “breasts” as you are changing their diapers, bathing them, and nursing them. Doing this gets rid of any stigma associated with these body parts and their bodies. They are just body part names, like eyes, ears, nose, and knee.

Demonstrate Consent

One of the next ways to continue “the talk” is to demonstrate consent. Even at a young age, a child should have control over their body. They should be allowed to choose a handshake, high five or even a “hello” over a hug, even if it is Grandma who wants the hug.

This is not a power trip but an empowerment tool. It simply allows your child to know they have the right to say no when their body is concerned. Even your pediatrician and other medical providers should be asking a child if it’s ok that they examine them — even with you in the room. We talk about our own “gut instinct” and “mom instinct.” Well, kids have it, too.

Set Sleepover Groundrules

Sleepovers (if you allow them) are another great time to “talk.” Sleepovers, whether at your home or someone else’s, should involve some straight forward ground rules. Be sure to volunteer these to other parents if the sleepover is at your place and the parents aren’t asking questions.

  • We don’t get into each other’s sleeping bags.
  • Doors should remain unlocked, for sure, open is possible, or better yet — all kids in one large, open room.
  • Will older siblings be in the home? If so, where will they be? They shouldn’t be a part of their younger siblings’ sleepovers.
  • There should never be one-on-one situations, where there is one child with one adult. Multiple kids or multiple adults, always.

Explain the Mechanics of Sex Earlier Than You Think

When should you get into the nuts and bolts of sex?  I know one pediatrician who says “8 is great.” Know why? Kids are talking about sex (or what they think they know about it) on the playground starting around third or fourth grades (8 or 9 years old). Get out in front of it with an age-appropriate discussion before then (say 6 or 7).  Not only will they have a basic understanding, but they will know to come you when there are questions.  Maybe it’ll be a question from the third grade playground or a question way in the future, but they’ll come to you because they know they can trust you to be open and honest.  

Another reason — some girls are starting their periods as early as fourth grade, maybe sooner. I know that when my daughter was in fourth grade they hadn’t shown the dreaded puberty videos at school yet. Those videos are not where I want my kids to get all their information.  They can be a good tool, but that’s it. One of many tools in the “talk” toolbox.

Your End Goal

The goal is that if you’ve had these age-appropriate “talks” throughout your child’s life, they will know what is ok, what is the truth, and they will know they can come to you if something bad should happen or if someone tried to touch them. Our relationship with our kids is one of the biggest protectors of child sexual abuse.

Putting it all out in the open does not mean your child will be promiscuous or will have sex before they are ready. What it does mean is they have been given a gift from you. Ninety percent of children are sexually abuse by someone they know or trust, not a stranger. Give them the power to say “No,” to say “Yes” when they are ready, and to say, “Thank you, Mom, for teaching me about sex and my body.”

 

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Tracy owns Safe Spaces, a consulting and training firm that focuses on building resilient families, communities and organizations (www.sfspcs.com). She is also an Authorized Facilitator and Certified Instructor with Darkness to Light, www.d2l.org, a child sexual abuse prevention organization. Tracy has taught pre kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade and has served as a Site Administrator for an elementary school. Currently, she is a Teacher-in-Residence with Prezi and also a college and career advisor for Students Rising Above. Tracy grew up in northeast Ohio, and has lived in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Arizona, and Northern Virginia and has worked in the arts, in education and child abuse prevention. Her husband's job brought them to the Bay Area and there's no looking back! Tracy is mom to a 16-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son. Self-care includes getting to know her new community, having lunch with friends, pedicures, reading, cooking, crafting, and just being with her family.

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