4 Little Talks on Healthy Sexual Development to Have With Your 5- to 8-Year-Old
At Defend Innocence, we get a lot of questions about when and how you should begin talking to your children about healthy sexual development. Our answer for when is: right now! No matter the age of your child, you can start laying the groundwork for them to have a good understanding of their development.
Children from ages 5 to 8 are becoming more and more curious about their bodies and the bodies of others. By discussing the things below with them (and anything else you feel is appropriate), you’ll help them develop a healthy view of sexuality.
1. Educate them about reproduction.
Teach them the basics. This should be adjusted for their age and maturity level, but make sure they understand the concept. Be sure to use appropriate terms when you teach them. As your child gets closer to age 8, you may want to teach him or her about sexual intercourse. This may seem young, but you want to be the one to teach your child and if you wait too much longer, statistics show they will start hearing about sex from other sources.
- For younger children this discussion may be as simple as explaining that a baby is made from a sperm and an egg and the baby grows in a uterus.
- As they get older it may be appropriate for you to add more to this about the mechanics of how it occurs and give them an overview of it.
- Sometimes it’s easier to bring up this discussion with a little help. Here are some books that some of the parents at Defend Innocence have found beneficial in discussing reproduction with their children.
2. Explain different sexual orientations and respect.
It is common for kids at this age to realize that not all families are the same. Help your child understand the different relationships they may notice. Emphasize respect for all people, even if their values may differ from your own.
3. No one else has rights to their body.
Continue to reinforce that no one else has the right to look at their body or touch it without their consent. Let them know that if anyone makes them uncomfortable through touching, talk, or looking, they need to discuss it with you.
4. No means no.
Continue to remind them that they don’t have rights to anyone else’s body either. If your child is affectionate you can explain to them that not everyone wants hugs or kisses. If someone doesn’t want affection, they need to respect that.
Children at this age are beginning to hear things from peers at school and, as they’re exposed to more media, that may bring up questions. As you lead out on important conversations, your child will learn that you are a safe place for them to express questions that they will surely have. Encourage your child to talk to you about things that make them uncomfortable or that go against what you’ve taught them. An open dialogue is an essential part of protecting your child from child sexual abuse.
Talking to Your Kids at All Ages
You can talk to your child about healthy sexual development no matter the age. Below we have links to blog posts about what you should cover in each age range. Always take the time to think through what you’re going to say and remember to keep your child’s maturity in mind. And remember, every time you have a little talk it makes it a little easier to have the next one.