As parents and caregivers, you play a vital role in raising a sexually healthy child. You get to be the primary educator to teach your child about healthy sexuality based on your family values and beliefs. Here are our Sexual Health colleagues, Jennifer Paterson & Nancy McAlary, to explain more.
Children are curious and have a right to have their questions answered in an age appropriate manner. They need to learn about healthy sexuality from credible sources.
Answering their questions in a respectful way will help build trust so that they will continue to speak with you throughout their lives.
Sexual health education begins with body awareness by learning anatomical language for all body parts including the genitals (i.e. vulva, penis, breasts). This assists in toilet training and most importantly, assists in sexual abuse prevention. Studies show that teaching children the names of their body parts is an abuse prevention tool.
Explain to your child that there are many kinds of bodies that come in different shapes and sizes and they are all beautiful. This is important to help children learn about diversity and respect for self and others.
Learning about our bodies builds self-awareness and self-esteem.
Consent is another important safety and body awareness issue. From a young age, children need to learn about non-sexual consent (i.e., saying yes and no to hugs, kisses and tickling from family and friends). This helps children have control and respect for their bodies and other people’s bodies. They also need to learn to ask for consent with others such as it is okay to hug/kiss/touch you. Teaching your child to practice consent builds the foundation for respecting other people’s boundaries later in life.
Teaching children about these important topics will help build more self-aware, informed and respectful individuals.
For further resources on speaking to children about sexuality issues, visit www.toronto.ca/health/sexualhealth