Three Steps For Talking About Body Parts, Sex And Sexuality With Children

My 2 yo said – ‘This is Penis’. Why did he use this word? Where did he learn it from? That’s because we are teaching him body parts and I mean all the body parts.

Many times my friends and relatives wonder that how can a toddler say this word so easily, which we as adults feel so uncomfortable and embarrassed using it.

There is a lot of inhibition and embarrassment in adults to use the exact words that describe the private body parts. If you are teaching children that the nose is for breathing, the eyes are for seeing, ears are for hearing, then how about you also teach them what are the functions of the private body parts?

I don’t suggest that you tell a three year old child that a penis and vagina are for sex. What’s important is that we provide our children with age appropriate information.

For example – in a corporate company as the hierarchy ladder increases, the information known and shared are more personal and important. Similarly, as the child grows, the information, discussion and talk regarding body parts and sex needs to be age appropriate.

So, if I ask my son, where is a penis? He directs his finger to where it is or holds it. So as he grows and hears the word from his friends, what do you think he would be doing, A or B?

A) Being curious, giggling and cracking petty jokes about it

B) Educating his friends with right information

It’s never too early to talk with your child about sex. Talking about sex, sexuality and bodies from when your child is young can help your child understand that sex and sexuality are healthy parts of life.

When you start having these conversations early with your children, they tend to be more honest and open in having conversations later in their life.

And often parents feel that having one challenging conversation with their children is enough. And with this one opportunity you are so focused on making it right that you miss out on realizing that such conversations can continue and evolve as your child grows.

So, the basic three steps for talking to your children about sex, body parts and sexuality are:

First, find out what your child already knows. If your little one comes home and asks you, where do babies come from, it’s no surprise that she has either seen a pregnant mom or a baby or heard someone talk about babies.

So, in such instances, it’s a good practice to ask the child questions like, ‘Where do you think babies come from’ or ‘what have you heard about where babies come from’

Second, correct any misinformation and give them the facts. Parents or other care-takers usually tell a toddler that babies grow in stomach or that they are gifted by God.

I have heard of experiences where the innocent children when they grow, feel embarrassed and shameful when they repeat the same information to their friends. And thus their curiosity to find the right answers guides them on a path to a risky and addictive exploration through peers and gadgets.

Instead you can give them a reply with facts and correct information like, ‘No, babies are not gifted by God and they don’t grow in mommy’s tummy. They grow in a special place inside their mommy, called the uterus’.

Third, use the opportunity to talk about your own thoughts, feelings or values about sex, body parts and sexuality.

This way when you share what your thoughts or values are, without instructing them with a list of do’s & don’t, children respect and listen to your words. It empowers them to make informed and respectful decisions and discussions as they grow.

For example you can honestly share your thoughts by saying, ‘Some people really want to have a baby when they’re ready and other people aren’t too sure about having a baby at all’.

This kind of open and honest conversation broadens your child’s understanding that sexuality isn’t just about sex. It’s also the way your child feels about their developing body. And it’s how your child understands and expresses feelings of intimacy, attraction and affection for others, and how your child develops and maintains respectful relationships.

Published by Risheb Jain

Hi! I'm Rishi Jain, and I write about building a rewarding family life through mindful parenting, hands-on learning and creative family activities.

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