Questions about sex from your kid
Around this age most children have noticed the difference between boys and girls and may comment on it. Steer away from any suggestion that either sex is superior because of its particular equipment and explain matter-of-factly when discussing it. A little girl may wonder why a boy has a penis and what has happened to hers. You can explain that boys and girls are different and that they are both beautiful and interesting, and if she still seems to want more you could say that when she is old enough to be a mummy and have a baby in a very long time, she will become more fancy and develop breasts and pubic hair. Children love hearing stories about how they were born and this is often a good place to start the explanations, especially since most children think they popped out of their mothers navel! Remember to make the distinction between the special place where the baby comes out and where urine is excreted.
Build up your childs knowledge slowly over the years so that it evolves naturally, rather than launch into a detailed account of spermatozoa, ovaries and fallopian tubes at three. It is all far too complicated for a child to conceptualise in one go, and she could end up with the wrong impression like the four year old who said gardeners were needed to make a baby because they had to plant the seed!
Oedipus and Electra complexes and all that. There is no doubt that little girls make a great play for their fathers attention, flirting outrageously and generally making for more competition than any woman can possibly handle. How he responds will tell her a lot about herself and it is important in building up her image of herself as an attractive, desirable person. Boys, too, often insist they are going to marry their mother when they grow up and telling him you are sure he will make a wonderful husband even if that means a daughter-in-law should boost his confidence and satisfy him.
Sexual pleasure. Even in the earliest months a mother may notice that her sons penis becomes erect occasionally and when he is naked his exploring hands may reach his genitals. You may feel faintly disturbed by this but it is quite normal and you should not try to prevent it. A little girl, too, may find pleasurable areas but this does not mean she is going to become a rampant nymphomaniac. In fact exploration of the body is not necessarily sexual play. It simply means that she is moving towards the normal use of all the senses she was born with. Stifling it is as unnatural as it is harmful.
Everything you do for your baby tells her something about herself. If you enjoy hugging her and loving her she will get warm, positive messages that will help her grow up with a healthy self-esteem to guide her. It is people who have not being given a positive image of themselves as worthwhile individuals who look for love in self-damaging ways.
Occasionally a child may feel the need to pleasure herself so often that it becomes a dominant feature of her life. The reason why she needs to do this should be sought. If she does it in public, it may be because she finds it a sure way
to get attention. You should explain to her that there are certain things that are not done when people are around, and then you should make a concerted effort to establish why she needs to do it.
She may be feeling rejected or jealous or she may not be coping with pressures on her, and be seeking an escape. Without making her feel guilty or inadequate, gently divert her attention to other things while you sort out the real cause of the compulsion.
Dressing and undressing. Until the age of about two, children do not seem to be aware of whether they or others are clothed or not. However, it is not long before they become acutely aware of what they are wearing and develop pronounced likes and dislikes. Whereas before she may have been perfectly content to let you choose what she should wear, your daughter may now refuse point blank to put on anything but jeans or insist on dresses only. A lot of her reaction has to do with her preconceived ideas and what she thinks has the right status. If she decides that girls wear dresses and boys wear pants, she will probably insist on pink frills, no matter how carefully you have avoided stereotyping. She will be getting messages by looking around her. If most of the girls and women she knows and admires wear dresses she will probably want to copy them. On the other hand, if she has an older brother she admires, she may want to wear pants. In other words, children do not like looking different from their peers even though their idea of how this should be achieved is often enough to make parents cringe.
At the other end of the scale, undressing or nudity also has a strong significance for most children. The two or three year old is usually happy to run around naked but there comes a time when it suddenly dawns on her that no one else is doing it and she may become self-conscious.
Insisting that she continue au nature! after this stage is not going to liberate her, it is only going to make her more self-conscious. Children are conservative creatures; they like to be like everyone else. It takes experience and intellectual growth before convention can be discarded with equanimity.
However you do not want your child to grow up thinking there is shame in the naked human form. But should parents make a point of going naked in their childs presence? This is not necessary, but natural nudity, especially between the parent of the same sex and the child is healthy and normal. To a child over a certain age when there is an awakening sexuality, nudity of the parent of the opposite sex can be disturbing to the child, and it is as well to handle it discreetly, though not of course fanatically or prudishly.
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