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SEXUALITY IN EARLY CHILDHOOD

Sexuality is an integral part of human development from an early age. Discussing it in preschool can be uncomfortable for many parents, but early sexual education is not about teaching sexual acts. Instead, it's about fostering a healthy understanding of bodies, emotions, and relationships. Here, we explain why addressing sexuality in preschool is crucial and how to do so effectively.


Consent


One of the most important aspects of sexual education in preschool is preventing sexual abuse. Teaching children about body boundaries, consent, and the difference between appropriate and inappropriate contact empowers them to recognize and communicate uncomfortable or dangerous situations. Informed children are less vulnerable to abuse and more likely to seek help when needed.


Gender Equality and Respect


Early sexual education is a powerful tool for promoting gender equality and respect for individual differences. By learning about the diversity of bodies and families, children develop an attitude of acceptance and respect toward others.


Open and Honest Communication


Fostering open and honest communication is fundamental. Answer your children’s questions simply and directly, in a manner appropriate to their level of understanding. There's no need to provide unnecessary details; what’s important is that children feel they can come to their parents with any doubts.

Some topics you can discuss with your children include:

·               Naming body parts accurately

·               Emphasizing the phrase: "This is yours; I am helping you clean it" when necessary for mom or dad to assist with intimate hygiene.

·               Asking if you can help them clean to instill awareness that no one should touch them without their consent.

·               Teaching that there are parts of their bodies that no one should touch or see, and they should not touch or see others' private parts, covered by swimsuits.


Safe and Trusting Environments


Ensure that your child feels safe and confident to talk about any topic. This involves listening without judgment and providing unconditional support. A safe family environment is crucial for children to feel comfortable discussing their bodies and feelings. Establishing trust with our children and avoiding the use of "blackmail" as a parenting method is fundamental for giving them tools to prevent abuse.


Warning Signs


If you notice any of the following symptoms, we suggest consulting a mental health professional to ensure your child is safe:

·               Sudden changes in behavior

·               Symptoms of anxiety, such as nail-biting, regressions in toilet training, or nightmares

·               Age-inappropriate sexualized behaviors

·               Refusal to stay with a particular person.

·               Outbursts of distress and depression


Further Reading:



·               Sexual Abuse Against Children and Adolescents, UNICEF (2016) UNICEF Report

·               “The Book of Tere and Sebas” YouTube Video      YouTube Video


 

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