Early childhood is when kids start to pay a lot of attention to things around them. You’ll probably notice lots of questions being thrown your way, such as “Where do babies come from?” and “Why does your body look different from mine?” Embrace this age! Children in this age range soak up everything, and are eager to learn something new. Be prepared to answer the same question several times, and don’t be surprised if you have to explain everything again in a year or two. If they ask you a question, give them an honest answer. This will set the stage for their willingness to talk to you when more complicated subjects come up later. Let them know that if they hear about something at school that they don’t understand, they can always come to you to find out more about it. You want to make yourself their go-to source of information. They’ll hear about things at school, believe me, and what they hear isn’t always accurate.
Here’s what you should aim to cover at this age:
BODIES ARE DIFFERENT AND IMPORTANT
- Hopefully, you’ve been teaching your child correct body parts for some time, but at this age, you can get more specific. Teach girls about their clitoris, vagina, and labia. Teach boys about their scrotum and penis.
- Explain that although boys and girls have different genitals, much of their bodies look the same – everyone has nipples, eyes, a nose, an elbow, etc.
- Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. It matters more if a body is healthy, than if it looks a certain way.
- The body is something to pay attention to. Bodies help tell us things – when we’re scared, happy, sad, etc., and it’s good to pay attention to what you feel in your body.
NAKEDNESS AND PRIVACY
- Your child may start asking for privacy when changing clothes or going to the bathroom. Respect their wishes and don’t ridicule them.
- Have conversations about when it’s okay to be naked. Is it okay to be naked at home? What about if family (or friends, or acquaintances) comes to visit?
- It’s important to give people privacy if they ask for it (knocking before opening a bedroom or bathroom door).
TOUCHING THEIR BODY
- Every child touches their body, and that’s perfectly normal (and healthy!). Just talk with them about when and where it’s okay.
- Explain that touching your genitals can feel good, but that it’s a private thing to do – like going to the bathroom – and is fine to do somewhere like their bedroom.
- If your child is touching themselves at an inappropriate time, DON’T reprimand them. Remind them that it is private thing, and they should wait until they are home/in a private space. Distract them with another activity if need be.
WHERE BABIES COME FROM
- Explain that both a man and woman are needed to make a baby.
- If your child asks for more details, you can even say that a man and woman both have a special cell (use pictures of cells if needed) that is needed to make a baby.
- Babies grow inside a woman’s uterus (or tummy).
- Babies come out of a woman’s uterus/tummy through a special opening between her legs called the vagina.
- Making babies is a grown-up thing to do, and is not for kids.
BOUNDARIES, GOOD TOUCHING, AND BAD TOUCHING
- Kids need to know that they are in charge of their bodies. If something feels uncomfortable, they need to let you know and can voice that feeling.
- They can always tell you if someone or something made their body feel bad or weird.
- It is never okay to touch someone who doesn’t want to be touched (parents, this applies to you as well).
- Parents will see them naked, and may sometimes need to touch their bodies (like to see if they are okay or hurt). Doctors and nurses are also people who may see them naked or touch them.
- It’s not okay to keep secrets about their bodies from Mom or Dad.
- Your child may come home from school announcing that he/she has a girlfriend/boyfriend. This is normal, and is a way for children to begin acting out what they see in the adult world.
- Your child does not think of relationships in the same way that you do, so don’t ascribe more meaning to this behavior than necessary.
- When your child talks about a boyfriend/girlfriend, just remain neutral – neither reprimanding the behavior or encouraging it.
- Begin to talk to your children about what a good relationship looks like, and how they should be treated by someone they care about.
Need some more resources? Check out the list below of great age-appropriate books to help you find the words to say.