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Helping Your School-Age Child Learn About the Body

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Helping Your School-Age Child Learn About the Body

Overview

As a parent, you are the ideal teacher to help your child learn about sex. Talking openly about sexuality helps your child understand their feelings, and it can help them have a positive attitude toward a natural process.

It's best to keep your explanations honest and simple. A 6-year-old child won't need the details that a child who's entering puberty may need. A good way to gauge readiness is to first find out what your child thinks the answer might be to their own question. Then give as little or as much information as you think is needed.

Keep up these talks over time, and let your child know that you are open to answering any questions they have.

Some common things to discuss may include:

  • Masturbation or playing doctor.

    Children are naturally curious. Masturbation and games like "doctor" are common ways for children to learn about their own bodies and compare them to others. If you find your child masturbating or playing doctor, try not to react with anger or make your child feel ashamed or embarrassed. Instead, use this chance to teach your child about sexuality and about the differences between public and private activities.

  • Where babies come from.

    Many young children ask where babies live before they are born. These questions can be answered with general talk about how the baby grows in a special place in the belly. Most young children are not ready to learn details about sexuality and reproduction. If your child asks more questions, you may want to read them an age-appropriate book on the subject. Be prepared to answer more questions as well.

  • Sex organs and their purpose.

    Children may ask questions about their genitals from a young age. As children move closer to puberty, they can be taught the proper names of the sex organs and how the body changes during puberty. They should understand how babies are conceived.

  • Respect and care for the body.

    Children are naturally interested in knowing about their own genitals and sex, even though they may say that it's "yucky." Try to stress that the body and sex are not dirty.

  • Reassurance about their body shape.

    School-age children may worry about their size or appearance, or they may feel there is something wrong with their body. It's common for children around age 8 to become more modest and to avoid undressing in front of others. It may help to explain that bodies come in a wide range of sizes and shapes and that nearly all children their age have the same concerns.

Many groups, such as local hospitals, offer classes that you can attend with your older child. These may address sexuality, what to expect during puberty, and similar topics. This may make it easier for you to start ongoing talks with your child.

Credits

Current as of: October 24, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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