Normalizing Sexuality with Youth
I want you to think about your own upbringing regarding sexual health. Think back to that uncomfortable health class where they brought out the diagrams and told you about your changing bodies or that awkward birds and the bee’s talk with your parents that most likely came too late. Maybe some of you reading this, only had your peers to lean on or you learned through trial and error. Reflecting on those moments, do you feel like those experiences did an aquept job preparing you for what was to come? Maybe it did, and if so great and I am truly happy for you. However, for most of us, it was not enough.
Imagine growing up knowing that your body’s natural responses to stimulation and pleasure are normal. That spontaneous erections through puberty are normal, that masturbation and wet dreams are normal, or how about just having the language to identify our own body parts. Think about how different your sexual experiences and confidence about your body might have been if you learned that there is no reason to be ashamed of your sexual self.
No one likes to admit it, but sexual exploration is a hallmark of our development. Current research is telling us that children as young as 11 have been exposed to some type of pornography or sexually explicit message from the internet. Now you may be thinking, WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT THIS and the reality is that the internet is not going anywhere. I am here to tell you what we can do is get ahead of the misinformation on the internet and the misleading information our kids are getting from that other kid sitting next to them in class. We can start unlearning all the shame imbedded in our society from centuries of misinformation and start working together to grow the next generation as confident, safe and educated sexual beings.
Those words can be scary, sexual beings, especially when we are talking about children. However, we are all sexual beings. This does not mean that we publicly, actively, or consciously expressing our sexuality. Instead, try to think of it as is something that comes from within us, something we feel and something we do. I could spend days talking about the many deceptions we were fed growing up surrounding sex and our bodies, but that is not what this is about. This is about talking to your kids about sex and puberty through the developmental stages so let’s start with the basics:
Ages 0- 5: Children are constantly taking in new information and processing what feels good and what does not. This includes noticing their genitals and touching their genitals. They talk about their bodies openly and start to notice that mommy and daddy have different looking body parts. This is where you can start teaching them the correct names for their genitals. Including but not limited to the word’s penis, testicles, vagina, meaning the inner muscular canal and the vulva, meaning the outer parts of the female genitals. Teaching them that these parts have names and its okay to acknowledge that they exist will do wonders in reducing shame later in life. This is also a great stage to start talking about consent.
Ages 6-8: Children start to recognize social stigmas and taboos surrounding sexuality, especially if parents avoid answering questions. This causes children to reach out to peers, media, and other sources of information to learn about sex. If your kiddo asks you a question that you are not prepared to answer, let them know that it’s a good and valid question. Tell them that you are not sure how to answer, but you will look into it and get back to them. Here is the important part, don’t forget! Do your research and go back to answer their question within a week or two.
Ages 9-12: Children have an emerging sense of self. They feel conscious of their sexuality and how they choose to express it. They start to understand jokes with sexual content and feel concerns about being normal. Children this age will most likely start to wonder if having wet dreams are normal or if its normal to masturbate. They might feel anxious about puberty, when it will happen, how it occurs and how to be prepared. There is a good chance they will not come to you because they are going to feel shy and may act like they already know all the answers. If it aligns with your person values, work to teach them that masturbation is normal and healthy, but it is also personal. Notice that I didn’t use the word private, private can sound like it is something to hide, or that they are the only ones doing it. Personal is a broader term and can show that other humans go through the same things as they do.
13 and up: They start to recognize the components of healthy and unhealthy relationships. They most likely have an understanding of their own sexual orientation, that they are sexual and have the outcomes of sexual expression. If you have waited until this stage to discuss puberty, you are too late. Puberty is a 5–7-year process and should be discussed before the changes begin.
Start talking to your kiddos about puberty around 6-8 years old, use the correct names for genitals, discuss consent and healthy sexuality early in development and most importantly, be compassionate towards yourself! It’s okay to be uncomfortable and nervous when talking to your kids about sex and puberty. We have been trained to view it as a shameful event, something that is meant to be kept private, even though WE ALL GO THROUGH IT.
For more information visit the website https://amaze.org/
By: Montana Bright