As parents, we can see the wisdom in passing on real-life skills to our children. For example, we want them to be financially literate, socially adept, independent in running their own households, and so forth. And yes, I would imagine that we all want them to be knowledgeable about sex.
The big question is: At what time should I start thinking about sex education?
Is it too soon to be thinking about this in toddlerhood? Preschool? Kindergarten?
Well, I wonder whether a lot of this comes down to definitions. For one thing, you may not consider potty training a part of sex education, but I beg to differ! You’re teaching your child important concepts about their bodies, personal hygiene, privacy and space boundaries, patience while waiting for bodily functions to fire on all cylinders … and so on. One of the most important sex education steps at this point is just to make your child aware of their bodies.
If your child is still little, here are three practical ways to begin a Csex education with them:
- Teach and demonstrate the terms and body parts – all of them. Some of my favorite memories with my children involve these, partly because they’re usually so engaged and excited to learn! Usually this involved pointing to my baby’s eye and saying, “Eye,” then pointing to my own eye and repeating, “Eye.” Nose, mouth, arms, legs, feet, head – you get the idea.
- Use bath-time as a teaching aide. My mom always told me when I was a toddler, “Always wipe front to back, never back to front,” and now I found myself repeating this to my own children during bath-times. Not only are you teaching personal hygiene, but you’re also helping prevent urinary tract infections and other diseases. You can also introduce more explicit body terms here within a safe, loving environment. I’m a big fan of calling things by their scientific/medical names and not trying to sidestep the issue. Children have acutely sensitive radar that can detect the slightest modicum of embarrassment, shame, or confusion.
- Feel free to hint at the “big picture” of sex. Not just the nuts and bolts, but the why of relationships can start budding in young minds, even at this early stage. If you’re married, make sure your child sees you demonstrating affection for your spouse! Whatever their love language – physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, or giving gifts – you can begin modeling a healthy marriage relationship for your children to remember and apply in their own lives. If you’re single, try to find a married couple who have a warm, respectful, loving relationship to serve as models for your children. (Learn more about “The 5 Love Languages” in Gary Chapman’s book.)
- Read the Bible with them, especially 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, 1 Corinthians 13:4-13, and Matthew 10:29-31). I really like these three passages as starting points for little ones as they cover the “body of Christ” (great to relate to their own bodies as children learn all their own body parts!), the biblical definition of “love,” and our immense worth in the eyes of our Heavenly Father (numbering all the hairs on our heads).
When was the time you started teaching your children about sex? What resources and curriculum have you found most helpful?