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Recognize Your Child's Sexual Development as You Do Their Intellect

Just like we all have intellectual needs, we all have sexual needs.

Key points

  • Waiting until puberty to have "the talk" is like postponing taking care of children's intellectual needs until they go to college.
  • Children need the stories only loving parents can provide to assure them that they are coming along normally.
  • Children's sexual development depends on them being kept safe.

In the minds of many, there's nothing more innocent than childhood—and nothing dirtier than sex. Even putting the two subjects in the same sentence seems weird and wrong. Yet our children are sexual beings: They are the natural result of sex.

The Disconnect

It's easy to make more of a disconnect between childhood and sexuality than there really is. For unprepared parents, puberty comes in like a hormone-armed horde they knew would arrive someday; they just somehow hoped the invasion would not occur in their lifetime.

Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash
Source: Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

The Talk

Parents and children alike dread "the talk." And, well, we should, considering the way we've thought about sexuality—cringing at the notion that "the day will come," when really, the day was there the moment a human being was conceived.

Preparing Your Child for the Future

A grandfather who buys his granddaughter a U.S. savings bond for her education knows she is not intellectually ready for college but is nevertheless an intellectual being with intellectual needs. In the same way, we need to understand that we were all born sexual beings who deserve the same thoughtful and loving care when it comes to our sexual needs.

The Time Is Now

Waiting until puberty to have "the talk" would be like postponing taking care of our children's intellectual needs until they go to college. None of us waits until first grade before we buy books and read to our children so they can acquire language skills. We start teaching language at birth, even though we don't hear the baby's first word for about another year. Can't you just hear moms patiently saying to their screaming toddler, "Use your words?"

Adjusting Our Thinking

We don't think about our children's sexual needs, mostly because no one thought of ours. Think about it...and consider how that worked out for us. Bad choices. Serious mistakes. Lots of confusion and guilt.

Accepting the Truth

Say it with me: “Our young prepubescent children have sexual needs.” Most of us shudder at this statement because we think "sexual" means "intercourse," but it doesn't. Even the youngest child in elementary school is capable of having a crush on a fellow student or a teacher. These crushes aren't about "intercourse" at all, but they are about human sexuality.

They are the first glimmer of romantic love, and these crushes are innocent and perfectly normal. They are worthy of our protection because our children's sexual development depends on our children being kept safe. Teasing a child who has a crush on someone is an abusive violation of their trust and turns their innocence into shame.

In a similar way, failing to provide information from our own experience is neglectful. Our children need the stories only loving parents can provide to assure them that they are coming along normally. Almost none of us got this kind of respect for our budding sexuality.

Recognize Your Child's Sexual Development

Years before our children become consensually sexually active, they’ll likely have a first Valentine, a first crush, and a first kiss. These are among the earliest milestones of our sexual development.

Hopefully, someday, all of us (including our children) will have healthy, wonderful sex lives—but no healthy, wonderful sex life started with intercourse. It started with open and honest communication, which creates a safe space for talking about sexuality, and parents who honor their children's sexual development (before puberty) will provide them with the necessary tools to manage their sexuality intelligently.

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