Hi – I am CJ Baldry, Clinical Sexologist – based in Gunnedah, NSW. I work with an increasing number of parents and carers who are very much daunted by the dreaded “birds and bees” talk! Questions like… What do I say when they ask me about “SEX” and any other related questions…? My answer unlike this topic… is… simple.
And then I get asked… “yes but… they are only 7 years old… or 10 years old… or 26 years old! What do I say – that is the truth – BUT is age appropriate?”
The world – is unprecedently connected to media and other material– which means we are laying the bricks as we walk on them concerning online safety and viewing appropriate content. The internet has been used as a tool for many motivations – education – a big one. Statistics offered from surveys conducted in the western connected world – reveal – over 68% of children under the age of 12 years have been exposed to pornography and other age inappropriate material online – whether that be sort out by the child or not. This is significant not only for carers of these children but also for the child who is exposed to such content. This creates questions “beyond their years” which you are left to answer.
SO! With that being said – What tools do we start with here?
First Tool – Name what you do not know
Firstly, acknowledge when you do not know.
Here is the thing – it is okay not to know the answer – so name that (!!!) – show that you do not have all the answers – show however are willing to do your own research and revisit the topic. And promise that you will and do it.
Second – Research it yourself first
There is nothing worse than coming across an ‘adult only’ site while you and your 12-year-old are on the hunt for answers ‘on how babies are made’ – I do not need to explain this further
Third – Answer the question that has been asked
Most 8-year-old children do not want a David Attenborough blow by blow – they want a simple answer to what they consider a simple question and get on with their day.
Keep your truth telling simple.
Fourth – Reflect
Reflect on your own experiences on how sex & sexuality were discussed during your childhood – and answer these questions:
- How was education given to me?
- Did I feel comfortable in asking the questions or seeking understanding in my home or extension of my home?
- Name the people who influenced your early understanding of sexual education and understanding of body function
Now – with the above in mind ask the same questions and replace it with… ‘How do I want the children in my life to be educated? – Does my child feel comfortable in asking the questions or seeking understanding in their home or an extension of their home – Who are my child’s biggest influencers?’
The tool of reflection is incredibly powerful – it offers insights and engages forethought. These factors are needed to engage a positive sexual education journey.
Fifth – It takes a village
I am a major advocate for accurate sexual education within the home, and really encourage parents/ caregivers to acknowledge the other ‘big players’ in a child’s life. As it is often not just you who will be asked the questions.
Ask your child who these players are if you are not entirely sure. These players are often referred to as ‘Safe People’.
Seek out these ‘safe people/ big players’ out and have a discussion with them about your expectations around your child’s journey.
Check in with your child regularly around their safe people – this also offers you insight in other areas of your child’s life.
Sixth – What is in a name?
Everything (!!) – I cannot stress enough – body parts and functions all have names. Use them. Research has not only showed us that this is best for educational purposes, it is also best for safety purposes, body empowerment, body positivity and ongoing understanding of ‘where things are and how things work’. The importance of names can also extend to your village – continuity is key.
Seventh – Understand what is not been asked
Take any opportunity to engage in the media which is being consumed by your children. If you allow your children to watch a TV show (for example) which has adult themes, or themes beyond their
comprehension – challenge yourself in asking what is your criteria in allowing your child to view this program and not others. Secondly – ask questions pointed at gaining understanding of what they do comprehend about the show they are watching. This is important.
This goes beyond yours and your child’s sexual education journey here – it extends to understanding other life situations/ experiences such as – grief, loss, love, friendship and so on.
This offers a good foundation/ indication on what they are ready for when in comes to answers around their bodies and how they function.
If you need further guidance on ‘How to’ or would like to some very handy resources which have been vetted and appropriately targeted at certain age groups – please do not hesitate to get in touch with me via me website.