Sex Education for Toddlers and Preschoolers
What parents don’t know will hurt their children.
This subject became of interest when a naive and trusting eleven year old girl wanted to show me her MySpace page on my laptop. I thought it was odd because the age requirement to register on MySpace is fourteen years old.
After she logged on to her MySpace account she cupped with her two small hands over the lower right corner of the screen, an area she didn’t want me to see and hopefully hidden from my eyes. I made believe I didn’t see. I told her what a nice MySpace page she had, but was emotionally shocked to glimpse what she was hiding beneath her two innocent hands. Much to my surprise she was hiding the words “come f… me”. At this point, after hiding my shock, my first impression was wondering whether her parents knew what she was doing… was she having fun or was this innocent prostitution. Moms and Dads, this is the real world your children may be exposed to and potentially harmful to a child’s mental and physical development. For more information on internet safety for children and helping parents to be more vigilant about supervising their children when it comes to what their children are exposed to on the internet, television, magazines, movies, etc. see “Setting On-Line Boundaries” by Larry Czerwonka. Larry helped MySpace convict a sexual internet predator. In today’s digitally connected world, Larry’s article is highly recommended.
This is one of the experiences and reasons I left teaching and instead was led to help parents teach children early… this incident helped spawn the beginning of Starts at Home.
By befriending a mute, a “cutter”, and sexually abused children, many times it’s about healing the inner child and not looking at their chronological age and instead their developmental age. As a community we can together help parents train children early about sex and prevent children from learning from poor role models who can stifle their full God-given potential.
If you’re like one of these children and have found difficulty along life’s highway, remember that it’s not your fault. Many of your problems started from your lack of positive parenting; many times our parents were innocent and blind… it’s been said “kids are not born with instructions”. I hope this article assists caring parents achieve the best for their children.
Let’s Talk about Children’s Sex Education
In a surprisingly long search to find a speaker for our May 9, 2011 Parenting Pot-Luck dinner, Kathi Kreinik (1), Regina Puritan(2), and Danielle Spain (3) from Parents, Inc. were all willing to teach a class on “How to Teach Age Appropriate Sex to Young Children before 7 Years Old”. I was pleased to find someone to teach this subject as teaching sex to children in today’s culture appears to a difficult teaching responsibility for parents.
The staff at Parents, Inc. were more than willing as they have seen the results of traumatized children who experienced sex abuse and parental neglect, they were willing to share their knowledge to help parents who are naïve and blind to what’s behind their children’s closed doors or who’s teaching them about sex.
At our parenting dinner, Danielle Spain outline concepts of teaching sex education and programs offer by Parents, Inc.
Myself, I learned about sex from my childhood friend Sidney, a classmate in the sixth grade; I didn’t feel good that day and found the subject yucky. Now, reflecting back in time and having gained wisdom from my mistakes I’m led to share concepts in hopes of helping others.
The following table was created from concepts gathered from Parent’s Inc., Mayo Clinic, Eric Erickson, PhD., and Michelle Borba, PhD,
Starts at Home’s – Four Steps in Teaching Sex Education to Children
Below are age phases children experience through early childhood. During each phase teaching sex education to toddlers and young children have appropriate opportunities.
Age Birth to 1 Year
2 – 4 Years
3 – 5 Years
6 Years and Older
Build a Trust Bridge
Early Child Parent Child Bonding
The Trust Bridge is the gateway to teaching age appropriate sex education.
It’s the Planting Twos, Not the Terrible Twos
Planting Family Values, Morals, Safety, and technical skills.
Parents serve as good role models.
The Why and Curious Years
Appropriate questions and answers to the children’s “whys”
Teaching about Intercourse
Conception of Life, Puberty, Safety, and Abstinence.
The Steps of Teaching Sex Education to Children
Year 1, Build a Trust Bridge – An Early Child-Parent Bonding
According to Eric Erikson, the trust versus mistrust stage is the most important period in a person’s life.The trust versus mistrust stage is the first stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs between birth and approximately 18 months of age. Without this an infant may be unable to form intimate lasting relationships later in life.
Bonding between the child and parent starts developing immediately following birth and strengthens with the first year after birth. This is a time when parents can nurture a child with hugs, talking, laughing, feeding, smiling, playing music, singing, and changing diapers. The regular and consistent support from parents, who are the primary care giver, is most important during this phase, also support comes from grandparents, uncles, aunties, sitters, and close friends who help nurture and protect the child; this is a basic need for attachment.
Children will not remember their first years of life and the instinctive and innate bonding that occurred. This period will never come back again. Dads, it’s a time to spend less time at work, less time with personal friends, and less outside activities; it’s a period to spend more time spent with your new baby and family.
In the absence of this bond, the development of stress and trauma may develop including: disturbances of sleep and eating, inability to be soothed and constantly crying.
This lack of bonding can been seen in the case involving convicted life sentenced murderer Charles Manson, whose mother, a prostitute, did not give him a first name after birth, later she sold him for a pitcher of beer. Charles Manson remains in prison serving a life sentence. His early childhood development lacked the nurturing and bonding from his parents. Another was is the horrific case of baby Brianna, who was raped and murdered by her parents; Brianna died at the age of six months. Their stories can be viewed on YouTube; hyperlinks herein attached above.
According to Seth Meyers, Psy.D. convicted sociopaths are not all raised in abusive childhood relationships, and “we may never fully understand the etiological process underlying sociopathy”.
Nevertheless, Austrian child development psychologist Anna Freud, said, “Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training”. Believing in hope, faith, and love greatly can help to heal the inner child.
Years 2-4, Planting Years – Not the Terrible Twos
During these planting years children learn from their parents’ family values, social morals, and analytical skills that children will keep for the rest of their lives. During these early years teaching children what is morally right and wrong, concepts of sharing, listening, reading, math, and obedience are learning quickly and almost without effort. Maria Montessori, MD. said, “The first idea the child must acquire is that of the difference between good and evil”. She also said “The only language men ever speak perfectly is the one they learn in babyhood, when no one can teach them anything!” The infamous German leader, Adolph Hitler said, “Who owns the youth, gains the future.” Pastor Gregg Laurie of Harvest Ministries remarks “Obedience starts in the high chair, not in the electric chair”.
On the matter of sex education during the planting years this is a period to teach family values. Showing pictures or drawings of a happy and loving family, babies nurtured by a loving mom and dad, teaching them their bodies are private and not shown to others or shared, what is good touching verses bad touching, and saying no to bad or secret touching. These are family values parents teach children hoping they may adopt them as part of their personalities.
President Bill Clinton said “The single biggest social problem in our society may be the growing absence of fathers from their homes and children.” In an article found in the website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Population Affairs, we are reminded and too familiar with the statistics of being raised in fatherless homes; at JSI Research and Training Institute’s conference, moderated by, Gilbert Chavez, 06-10-09, he reminds us that fatherless homes are:
- 5 times more likely to commit crimes,
- 9 times more likely to drop out of school
- 20 times more likely to end up in prison
- Forty percent of all children born in America today will be born to unmarried parents.
Years 3-5, The Why and Curious Years
Danielle Spain from Parents, Inc. offers the following insights and tools for talking with pre-school children about sex education:
Age Appropriate Sexual Behavior – Preschool Age (0-5 years)
- Will have questions and express knowledge relating to:
- Differences in gender, private body parts,
- Teach them the correct word to describe their private parts like penis and vagina. When the children grow up they will appreciate the fact you taught them and not taught by others children or the media. This teaching helps strengthen the bond between parents and children. There is no need at this time to discuss sexual intercourse.
- Hygiene and using the toilet.
- Pregnancy and birth.
- Children will explore their genitals and can experience pleasure.
- Showing and looking at private body parts.
Uncommon and Warning Signs
- Having knowledge of specific sexual acts or explicit sexual language
- Engaging in adult-like sexual contact with other children.
If you experience these kind of behavior, find out gently how they learned this from and intervene to stop this unwanted teaching.
Signs more typical of younger children who MAY have had inappropriate exposure to sexual behavior or media.
- An older child behaving like a younger child (such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking.
- Have new words for private body parts.
- Resists removing clothes at appropriate times (bath, bed, toileting, diapering)
- Asks other children to behave sexually or play sexual games.
- Mimics adult-like sexual behavior with toys or stuffed animal.
- Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training.
5 Tools for Talking with Pre-school Children about Sex Education
- Get assistance. Purchase books and DVDs which may help explain what sexual abuse is and how it can be prevented. This helps introduce the subject especially for younger children. Children’s coloring and activity book is available through the Sex Abuse Treatment Center, call 1-800-656-Hope. www.satchawaii.com
- “Educate children on good touching, bad touching, and safe touching in an age appropriate way. Use correct terms for body parts. Don’t force children to hug and kiss relatives; allow them to refuse. Explain to them that their body is their own.
- Inform children no one has the right to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Explain to them if an adult tries to touch them on their private parts, they need to say no, get away and tell someone. Be sure children understand that it is never their fault if an adult makes a sexual advance.
- Teach children safety rules. Children should be instructed to never go anywhere with someone they don’t know. They should check with a parent before going anywhere such as a friend’s house or the park. Do not scare your child while discussing ways to stay safe.
- Reinforce lessons. Children need to occasionally be reminded of the information you gave them. Create “what if” scenarios with your child to be sure they understand what they would do in a certain situation.
Years 6 and Older – Teaching about Intercourse and Conception of Life
By this age, you and your child are enjoying a good trusting relationship. Your children have no inhibitions to ask you questions about sex, their body parts, and the importance of family. The day will come when they will want to know how the baby gets into mommy’s stomach. This is your opportunity to teach children about sexual intercourse. Some of the main points to convey to your children are:
- This is a time when married people decide they want to have children to add to their family.
- God or Mother Nature made people like you and me. Daddy’s penis and mommy’s vagina fit together when they love each other.
- Daddy’s penis has little tadpoles called sperm and joins together with an egg inside of mommy’s vagina. Then the egg grows into a little baby.
- After growing for nine months inside of mommy’s stomach called the uterus or womb, the baby can comes out and is part of our growing family.
- That’s why we should take good care of our bodies and eat healthy foods so the baby will be born healthy.
- Children may feel that parents don’t trust them if sex talks are not freely discussed, so be prepared to discuss these topics.
- The next stage will come when children reach puberty and start growing hair in private areas. This is a time when you can be prepared to teach your children about puberty and what this means, including for girls the meaning of menstrual cycles.
- Your children may want to share what they know with other children; your can advise them to note share and this should be between parents and their children. Just imagine how your child would feel that you shared this important subject with them, and how they feel you trusting them. They would feel important and loved.
- Sharing your concerns about Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) or HIV.
- The subject and reminder of abstinence.
Teaching sex education to pre-school toddlers is the right time. Teaching sex education is a series of talks over many years and is not a one time class; it’s an evolution and that starts with building the trust bridge and many age appropriate talks between parents and children through puberty and adolescence.
Potluck Dinners and Classes
Starts at Home potluck luck dinners are held monthly on the second Tuesday of month; information on these parents’ meet ups are posted in this blog under the Classes Menu. These dinners are open to the public. Because our parents and children have busy schedules, dinner starts early at 5:30 pm and done by 8:00 pm. Parents are married, single, and blended families; all parents are welcomed. For more information call (808) 937-4392.
Additional Online References
7 Deadly Myths About Raising Moral Kids
MYTH 6: Moral growth starts at school age.
A common mistake parents make is waiting until their kids are 6 or 7-the so-called Age of Reason-to build their moral IQ. By then poor moral habits have formed and are so much harder to break. The fact is parents can start enhancing kids’ moral growth when they are toddlers. Although at that age they certainly don’t have the cognitive capacities to handle complex moral reasoning, that’s when the rudiments of moral habits-such as exercising self-control, being fair, showing respect, sharing, and empathizing-are first acquired. So the earlier parents begin cultivating their kids’ moral capabilities the better the chance they have of raising good moral beings.
Sex Education: Talking to toddlers and preschoolers about sex
by Mayo Clinic Staff
Sex education often begins with a child’s curiosity about his or her body. Here’s how to set the stage for sex education – and how to answer your child’s questions.
Talking to Kids about Sex
by the Editors of Parenting Magazine
The “birds and the bees” talk is one that parents often put off as long as possible. But learning about sexuality is a normal part of child development, and answering your child’s questions in an honest, age-appropriate way is the best strategy. Read on for tips on what to say, and when.
Setting Boundaries On-Line
For more information on internet safety for children and helping parents to be more vigilant about supervising their children when it comes to what their children are exposed to on the internet, television, magazines, movies, etc.
|(1) Kathi Kreinik, MSW, ACSW, DCSW, BCD, LCSW. Kathi is currently retired after more than 40 years as a professional social worker. She has served as the Executive Director of both the NASW-Hawaii Chapter and Parents Anonymous, Hawaii. She also worked for the federal government in Family Advocacy. Her specialty is in the areas of child abuse and neglect. She is currently the President of the Board of Directors for P.A.R.E.N.T.S., Inc.|
(2) Regina Purinton, Big Island Program Director Parents Inc. is originally from Oahu. She obtained by Bachelor’s in Social Work and her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1994 when she relocated to Hilo. Her past experience includes: Working for the Department of Human Services as a Social Worker, in Hilo as well as on Oahu. She also worked for DHS in the licensing of Day Care facilities and private homes. She has experience working for the Department of Health in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division. She helped open the Hilo office of PARENTS Inc. in 1999 and has been the Program Director since.
(3) Danielle Spain, Clinical Supervisor has lived in Hilo since 1992. She obtained a double Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and communication from UH Hilo as well as her certification in treating addiction. In 2002 she received her Master’s in Counseling from the University of Phoenix. She has a small private counseling practice working with juvenile sex offenders and she and her husband are foster parents for high risk youth. Her past experience includes: 10 years working in the field of addiction eventually becoming the Director of Operations for the Big Island Substance Abuse Council. She then went and worked for various non-profits here in Hilo gaining experience working with a number of social ills including poverty, domestic violence, sex assault and high risk youth. Most recently she worked for the Department of Human Services Child Welfare as an investigator.