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As children grow, they experience many physical and hormonal changes in their body. They wanted to understand those changes and the reason behind them but get stuck in the fight between childhood hormones and adolescence hormones. As they are mentally not prepared to handle those changes, out of curiosity, they start looking out for answers by talking to their friend or by seeking the help of digital media. The chances are; either they will get the right answers or they may get the wrong perception about their body, for the later being correct in many cases.
We know, talking to your kids about sexual health is a huge parenting milestone, but when it's done right from an early age, it benefits the child in understanding their body in a right way. The whole point is such talks encourages children to open up more to their parents so that later, they can confidently talk on any such topics with them. Moreover, it's all about turning the whole 'sex talk' into a 'smaller discussion'.
"It's less intimidating when you realize you're just going to have to talk about it a minute or two at a time," says Wendy Sue Swanson, a paediatrician and Chief of Digital Innovation at Seattle Children's Hospital. "So you can't screw anything up too much when you know you can come back to it 35 more times."
The simple tricks mentioned below will guide you as a parent on how to start a conversation or talk to your children about sexual health.
Children Of Age 0-5
Talking about sexual health with your children at this age requires a lot of thinking by parents but they should keep in their mind that early communication establishes a strong bond between parents and children as they get a confidence that parents are always available for a talk with them.
At this age, modelling and demonstration works better than talk. For instance, teaching your little ones by books during their storytime can be the best way to discuss the change in their bodies, sex, and relationship, says Dawn Ravine, sexuality education program coordinator at Lurie Children's Division of Adolescent Medicine.
Modelling a healthy relationship with their child is all that parents want. For example, If your growing daughter asks you not to tickle her anymore, it is the parent's duty to respect her request. Also, they should ensure that her daughter is not forced by any of the relatives for a hug or a kiss if she's not comfortable.
Ravine says that while explaining the concept of body parts to your children, it's okay to explain it in informal words used by the family, on a note, that parents should also teach them the formal names simultaneously. Moreover, it's all about understanding your child's interest level and then using it as a guide.
Children Of Age 5-10
This is the age when parents should actually start having a direct and frank conversation with their children on topics like sexuality, consent, physical boundaries, safety, and relationship.
At this age, some kids start to have crushes. So, the best thing for parents is to talk to their children about it in a lighthearted conversation without assuming the gender of the crush.
"If we want our kid to talk openly with us about their sexual orientation, it's up to us from an early age to not make assumptions," Ravine says. "So if we talk about crushes, we can talk about them in gender-neutral ways."
The thing which every parent should keep in their mind is to accept when their children asks a certain question related to sexual health and they are unable to answer it. The point is, children should not be taught wrong or misguided on this serious health topic.
This can be as simple as saying something casual like, "Hey, I feel like we never really talked about what a vulva is. And I realize that you are now 10 and you have a vulva and I really want to make sure that you know what those body parts are. I printed out this page. Let's take a look at it together," Ravine says.
Parents could also visit certain websites for an anatomy diagram of the body to make this concept simpler for their children.
Children Of Age 10-12
All these years, you have been teaching your children about a relationship, consent, body parts, and sexuality. Now it's time to push your boundaries and talk to them about sexual intercourse based on their personality or your ethics.
At this age, most of the kids are exposed to highly sexualized social media and talk more often to their school mates about sex. This may lead them to the wrong perception about sex due to lack of information.
Parents should keep this mind and have a conversation on sex with their children as they reach an average age of 10-12. If they fail to do such, children may rely on learning from YouTube videos or other sources which may get them the wrong knowledge.
While discussing, it is very important for parents to be open-minded and behave as a good listener. For eg, parents should ask their thinking or knowledge on sex, any question about their physical development, or understanding what they have learned about sex in their health class.
Always remember to keep the conversation positive and create a enjoyable environment so that they would like to talk more about it and clear all the misundestandings related to sexual health.
Children Of Age 13 And Above
Age 13 and above is very vital for parents, especially with daughters. At this age, parents should make sure that her daughter has adequate knowledge on things like hygiene, reproduction, and contraception.
"We know through research that access to confidential reproductive health care does not decrease the likelihood that a young person will talk to their parents," Ravine says. "But it does increase the likelihood that they will seek adult support."
Parents should also talk to their children about the risks of sex and sexually transmitted infections.
"The more we open up those conversations, the stronger our girls will grow up to be in protecting their own desires and their own sexuality and their own safety when it comes to sex, sexuality, or sexual intercourse," Swanson says.