Sex Is What We Are: Male and Female
The perception of “sex” as an identity word is likely to change the attitude of parents who are afraid to use it in conversation with the children.
In teaching them to answer identity questions, the parent may ask:
“What is your name?"
" What sex are you?”
There! We said it, and its okay.
The idea for this article is credited to Lenore Buth who, in How To Talk Confidently with Your Child about Sex (Concordia Publishing House, USA, 2008) writes:
“Sex is more than gender, more than sexual intercourse. Sex is not what we do, but what we are.”
Sometimes "Sex" Refers to Identity
It is not unusual for the parent to begin naming the body parts while bathing the toddler. Each part of the body, including the sexual organs is an integral part of the child. The child takes pride in naming his eyes, his hands, his feet. Why skip the sex organs? If he and she could name all his parts except one, that one part becomes a mystery. Or, if they find out later, that a code name is created instead of the real name, they wonder why.
Between ages three to six, they should know and begin to understand the following words in the context of sexuality: male and female, boy and girl, man and woman, penis and vagina. These words refer to natural, biological differences according to the sex of an individual. Identifying and naming the sexual organs make it easier for the parent to discuss touching, good and bad. It gives the child an awareness that helps him or her make sensible decisions on what to allow or not allow.
Teaching sex first as identity promotes self-worth and self-confidence in preschoolers. It fosters appreciation for their sexual identity and gives them license to pursue it further. Little boys compare the shape and size of their sexual organs with their father’s. They are less likely to be embarrassed (even if they are frightened) to mention a penile erection. Girls feel free to ask why their sexual organs do not hang outside their bodies, and about what’s inside their mother’s breasts. Questions like these deserve straight, simple answers with diagrams as visual aids.
Babies Are In the Uterus, Not the Stomach
Love has to be mentioned in an answer to the beginning of life. “The male and female (in a traditional home), the husband and wife, like to express their love for each other in private, close physical contact. When they are closest, the male sexual organ can reach inside the female sexual organ, and the male puts the baby inside the mother’s body." As they children get older, add details about the sperm, egg, fertilization, etc. By then, in their healthy perception, there will be nothing dirty or frightening about sex.
The word uterus, can be a preschool word. Putting the baby in the mother’s stomach (or tummy) will conflict with what the diagram shows. The child is in the uterus. If they can say rhinoceros, they can say uterus.
Puberty Is Closer Now
In 2011, a twelve year old British boy accepted the title of world’s youngest father, but was disappointed when DNA tests revealed that the real father was a fourteen year old schoolmate. The mother was fifteen. The ages of the entire cast in this drama fit into the puberty bracket. So what does such a puberty dilemma say to parents who are trying to raise sexually healthy kids?
Firstly, it says that as early as possible, we should teach morality and responsibility alongside sexuality. The health statistics from government agencies show that the age of puberty continues to lower. Some girls are considered sexually developing as early as age eight. Family Doctor includes age six and seven. It seems that we have very little time in which to prepare our children for purposeful sexuality.
This is the time when they begin to experience physical attraction. Their sexual urges are part of their identity, not a call to explore each other’s body. Recognize and talk with them about the feelings which come with hormonal changes in the body. Factor in the emotions which come with being liked or being ignored by the object of their attraction. Teach differences, teach attraction, teach respect with references to the sexes.
The talk continues through young adulthood. Discuss with them their roles as men and women. During adolescence, they may have a general interest in certain vocational areas. As they get older, they begin to be more specific. If they intend to gain academic qualifications (which we should encourage them to do), if they want to focus on professional careers, we should discuss how their sexuality will prepare or prevent them.
Their sexuality will be an asset if they understand the role of sex in relationships. By now, they would have already learned how touching sets off the testosterone in the male because that is how he is made; how sensations in the female breast increases her desire to get closer, because that is how she is made. Encourage them to allow the totality of who they are to control their sexual conduct, instead of having their sexual conduct determine who they become.
Finally, let’s not present unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and other social predicaments as solely general negative outcomes; let’s also teach them as hindrances to their personal goals. Let’s encourage them to be responsible. Empower them to control and enjoy their sexuality – a significant part of who they are—as individuals. The more they appreciate the power of their sexuality as children, adolescents and young adults, the better.
© 2012 Dora Weithers