Understanding Sexual Development Helps to Reduce the Risk That Your Child Will Be Sexually Abused

As a parent, educating yourself about stages of sexual development is crucial. Understanding this information can help you know what to expect as your child grows increasingly curious about the human body, where babies come from, and what they see online or hear their friends talking about. You may feel a little nervous or awkward when it comes to teaching your child about the body or talking to them about sex. Adults usually hear and refer to this as “the big talk,” but what many parents don’t realize is that it should be plural—talks. Teaching your children about “the birds and the bees” isn’t just a matter of having one conversation and getting it over with; instead, it should be a progression of multiple little discussions throughout childhood, with each discussion tailored to your child’s understanding and stage of sexual development. 

Take the time to learn about your child’s sexual development by exploring our website. As you build the foundation now, you also build confidence in your child and they’ll see you as a trusted source to turn to for information about sexuality. This can help reduce the risk of sexual abuse because it serves to:

  • Alert your child to possible red flags in their relationships with others.

  • Reduce the likelihood they’ll sexually harm another child out of curiosity or exploration.

  • Clarify sexuality and help your child understand that this is a normal, healthy part of life and relationships—when they are old enough and ready.

What Is Sexual Development?

Sexual development is about much more than just sex. It includes the values, attitudes, and interactions that we have with our bodies and those with whom we have relationships. Helping your kids navigate through all of this can seem big and complicated, and that’s why we have resources to make this easier for you. We’ve spent time scouring through information to understand the best ways that parents can teach their children about sexuality, and how it helps to reduce the vulnerability that can lead to sexual abuse.

Developmental Stages

Understand what is happening in your child’s mind and body.

Sex Talks

Talk to your child about sex—early and often.

Concerning Behavior

Identify typical sexual behaviors and when to ask for help.

Online Safety

Don’t let the internet be your child’s sex ed teacher.

Your Cultural Values and Sexuality

We all come from different backgrounds that have shaped our cultural, religious, and/or familial beliefs. These components affect the way we view sexuality, intimacy, gender roles, and sexual health. Your cultural background, values, and attitudes toward sex from your own upbringing will factor into how you teach your children. So it’s important for you to consider how your own beliefs might influence the experiences you’ve had with sex, and whether or not you want your child to feel similarly. Some things for you to consider include:

  • How and when did your parents teach you about sex, if they did at all?

  • What attitudes did you have about your body and/or genitalia? Did you learn anatomically correct names?

  • Do you have strong opinions on abstinence or the use of contraceptives?

  • Do you believe men and women feel differently about sex?

No one knows your child better than you do. As you consider ways to have conversations with your child, try to approach everything with openness and communication. Keep in mind that the end goal is for your child to grow into a happy, well-adjusted adult who is prepared to have healthy, positive, intimate relationships.

You can help prevent child sexual abuse by understanding sexual development and, if you haven’t started already, having frequent conversations with your child. Don’t wait! There is something you can do—today—to reduce the risk to your child.

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