June 11, 2012

Talking Sex with My Three-Year-Old: From Baby-Making to Self-Pleasuring and More

I've been talking sex quite a bit this past year with our three-year-old. Most recently, at almost four, the conversation has focused a lot on conception and birth, primarily because she'd love for us to make another baby, and also because she's been wanting to look at pictures from when she was very little, including in my womb. We look at pictures of my big pregnant belly and those documenting her birth. She gets that it hurts to push a baby out of a tiny vagina.

Because we've been teaching her the correct names for all body parts, she is quite comfortable with the concepts of penis and vagina. I've explained to her that papa's penis enters mama's vagina where it releases tiny sperm cells that swim as best as they can to find an egg in my womb. Anatomically this seems to make good sense to her; she came upon my husband and I one weekend afternoon in bed with him on top of me in fact trying to conceive a child (and no; I haven't gone into different positions with her). In terms of what happens inside my body, she in fact seems to grasp quite beautifully the internal encounter of the sperm and the egg, as I report in this post.

About a year ago, her interest was more on the various parts of the genitals. As I write about here, she came across me trimming my pubic hair one day and got curious about my labia. She was so proud when she found and could name her own as well. This more focused interest in genitals got me to track down and review books about it aimed to children. You can find my review of these books here. As I point out, books featuring the correct terms for genitals as well as positive, informative illustrations are sorely lacking. I have found the photo study book I'll Show You Mine to be one of the most helpful books in terms of pointing out all parts of the vulva to her, including the inner and outer labia, clitoris, and vagina. From time to time she'll ask if we can look at this book again together.  

Speak soon and speak often, recommend sex educators. Don't assume that something that's been explained and grasped once is entirely processed and absorbed. And forget about the awkward "Talk" and make it into a lifelong conversation that starts in the child's first year of life when teaching her all the correct terms for the different parts of her body, including her genitals, and encouraging her to feel good about her body and her exploration of her body, including her genitals. Positive touch is essential. Bath time and diaper changes are good teaching opportunities when they are very little. The curiosity of toddlers and preschoolers will keep the conversation going.

I don't expect my child to understand all about the ins and outs of intercourse and conception, menstruation and masturbation, but because we've started the conversation and already talked to her about how babies are made and what it means when I bleed and how self-touch feels good and how she too will grow pubic hair and breasts, and so on, we can know that by the time she enters adolescence, she will be that much more informed and empowered to honor her own body and the bodies of others.

For more, check out these readings:

Children and Their Genitals: Fostering a Positive Relationship
Brief synopses of books that are available to help teach girls and boys about their bodies and human sexuality. The article looks at books aimed at children in various age groups, from preschool years and up through pre-adolescence and adolescence. The books cover such topics as anatomy, reproduction, pregnancy, privacy, birth, puberty, and the differences between boys and girls.

Talk with Your Kids about Masturbation
Featuring advice on how to talk with your kids about self-pleasuring and masturbation from they are toddlers to teenagers.

Talking to Your Kids About Your Sex Toys
My advice on how to talk to your kids about your sex toys is quoted at length in this post by sex educator Dr. Charlie Glickman.

Teaching My Toddler about Her Yoni
A post on how teaching my toddler about the labia, mine and hers included, empowered both her and me.

If You Want Your Sex Talk to Stay in the Family
This post features advice to parents who recognize the importance in talking with their kids about sex, but who prefer their sex talk to stay in the family.

The Miracle of Life
Write-up of watching The Miracle of Life with our three-year-old child. This stunning documentary feature timeless internal photographs by Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson following sperms on their journey, the development of the egg, and their ultimate encounter, which our daughter replicated in drawing a few days after we watched this film.

Ready, Set, Grow! A "What's Happening to My Body?" Book for Younger Girls
My review of this book aimed at girls ages eight to eleven.

The Period Book: Everything You Don't Want to Ask (But Need to Know)
My review of this book written for pre-adolescent and adolescent girls.

What's Going on Down There? Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask
My review of this book aimed at pubescent boys.

I'll Show You Mine
My review of this amazing photo study of sixty women’s genitals embracing the diversity of the vulvae.

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