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Sexual Health
A Guide for Parents of Children Age 0-6

Are you ready to talk? Let's start early...

As a parent or caregiver, you are your child's first and best teacher of his sexual health. From the moment of birth, children learn about love, touch, and relationships. Children learn about sexuality through example when their parents talk to them, dress them, show affection, play with them, and teach them the names of body parts.

As they grow, children continue to receive messages about sexual behaviours, attitudes, and values.

Why parents need to teach their children about sexuality:

  • Children are curious about their bodies and sexuality
  • As they grow, children see things around them that are confusing
  • This is an opportunity to share family and cultural values with your children
  • Children need direction about acceptable and unacceptable behaviours
  • This is a way of building a healthy parent-child relationship

Tips For Talking To Your Children

  • Teach values that are important to your family/culture/religion
  • Make answers accurate, short and simple
  • Answer using words and ideas they can understand at their age
  • Teach your child the correct words for all body parts, including sexual parts such as penis, vulva, breast, buttocks, etc.
  • Talk with your child about the differences between boys and girls
  • Teach your child what is okay and what is not okay in touching (e.g. It is okay for a doctor to touch you and masturbation is okay in private, but inappropriate touch by others is not ok)
  • Try not to be shocked about behaviours or questions, treat it the same way you would any other topic. Try not to shame or embarrass your child
  • Find out what your child already knows, then answer their questions in a positive and respectful way
  • Try to answer your child's questions when they ask and if you don't know the answer, tell them you will talk about it again when you have the answer
  • You may have to repeat your answers as some children may not understand the first time
  • As they grow, they may need you to repeat the information again or add to the information
  • Avoid lectures and angry talk
  • Use teachable moments to talk about your child's sexuality (e.g. bath time, bedtime, when seeing a pregnant woman or at brief times when a child's natural curiosity finds him touching himself or others)

There are many sexual behaviours that are common among children. Not all children do these things. It is normal if they do and normal if they don't.

Birth to age two children may:

  • Mother and childExplore body parts, including genitals
  • Experience pleasure from touch to all body parts including the genitals
  • May experience an orgasmic response to rubbing of the genitals, perhaps against a toy or blanket
  • Begin to develop a positive or negative attitude towards own body
  • Start to learn expected behaviours for boys and girls
  • Boys may have erections and girls may produce vaginal lubrication shortly after birth

Ages three and four children may:

  • Enjoy examining their genitals and self-pleasuring (masturbation); may touch sex parts when in public places
  • Be curious about gender and body differences
  • Try to look at people and touch them when they are nude or undressing
  • Common to engage in sex play with friends and siblings
  • Learn sex words including bathroom and swear words
  • Establish a clear belief about being either male or female
  • Be curious about how babies are made and born
  • Family reading a bookDevelop their own ideas about where babies come from regardless of what they are told

Ages five and six children may:

  • Learn what is acceptable and unacceptable to adults
  • Use inappropriate sexual language
  • Continue to sex play with the same/other gender
  • Continue self-pleasuring (masturbation)
  • Try to look at others when they are nude or undressing
  • Start to become modest
  • Be affected by external influences such as friends, siblings and media

For more information call Durham Health Connection Line
905-666-6241 or 1-800-841-2729