What is Normal?

What Children should know and when they should know it....

In order to assist you to better understand the importance of communicating with your child or children on the topic of sexuality, we have broken down information based upon age groups.

From Birth through Two

  • Children will develop healthier feelings about themselves and their sexuality if they are made to feel secure and loved as babies. The way we touch and hold our babies, feed, bathe and diaper them and even the tone of voice we use sets the foundation for the future.
  • It is normal for babies to explore their bodies. They should be allowed to enjoy learning about their bodies. If we slap their hands away they will get the message that certain body parts are "bad". This won’t stop the activity, it will simply force the child to be secretive and feel guilty. Then later in life he or she won’t feel comfortable looking to us for guidance about sexuality.
  • A child of this age begins to differentiate between male and female roles. It is important to treat both genders equally so that the child does not grow up believing that one gender is better or stronger than the other gender.

Three through Five

  • By this age most children realize that men and women have different sex organs. It is important to use correct names such as "penis" and "breast", otherwise children get the idea that there is something "naughty" about them.
  • It is normal for young children to play "doctor" as they are learning about differences between girls and boys. If you walk in on such play, it is important not to over react and frighten your child. Simply tell them that certain body parts are private and that if they have questions about them you would be happy to answer them.
  • Also at this age it is important to convey the message that they "own" their bodies and that if someone touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell a parent.
  • Children of this age may begin to ask questions such as "Where do babies come from?" It is important to answer in simple and truthful terms. You might start out with something like "Babies grow in a special place inside their Mommies." As time goes on you can add details as the child becomes able to understand them.

Six through Eight

  • Children of this age will begin to hear things at school or see things on TV that may be confusing for them. They may be afraid to ask questions so it is important to take advantage of "teachable moments" to clarify things for the child. One way to do this is to watch TV together so that you can strike up a conversation about what you saw.
  • Continue to reinforce the equality of genders. Children in primary grades often become very attached to friends of the same gender and may even say they "hate" children of the opposite gender. It is normal for children to go through this phase. But it is important to let children know that while girls and boys have differences, they are equally valuable.

Nine through Twelve

  • Some puberty changes happen as early as age nine so it is important to be talking about these changes with your child. Children of this age worry about being "normal". They want reassurance that whatever is happening or not yet happening with their bodies is okay. It is important to explain the biological changes but it is equally important to spend time discussing changing feelings and relationships.
  • Be sure your child has a clear understanding of sex and reproduction. Children hear lots of myths and half truths from their friends, so it is up to you to provide them with the accurate facts.
  • Find out what is being taught at school and be willing to follow up with more information or clarification.
  • Demystify the opposite gender. Don't just teach girls about menstruation and boys about wet dreams. They need to know that both boys and girls go through many changes during this time.
  • This is the age to begin providing information about birth control and protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Information does not imply that you think they are ready to have sex. 

Thirteen & Up

  • Keep the lines of communication open! Even if teens seem unwilling to share their thoughts or feelings it is important for them to know that you are ready to listen.
  • Emphasize their right to say "no" to any situation with which they are uncomfortable.
  • Don't assume your teen is too old to be hugged and kissed by Mom and Dad. All humans crave closeness, and even if they act embarrassed, it is important for them to know that you care.
  • Talk with your teens about your family values. Don't assume that they know where you stand on such issues as sex, drugs and alcohol. Teens do care what their parents think even if sometimes they don't act like they do.