Navigating a Child’s Curiosity
Perhaps in contrast to many parents’ experience, I have generally welcomed teaching my daughter about her body and age appropriate sex ed. For me, it is a privilege to help my daughter grow up empowered and happy in her body. But like any parent, I am always learning on the fly, and don’t always know what a situation calls for until it arises and I figure it out!
About a year ago my daughter and a younger friend of hers were exploring making out with each other in a way that seemed over the top. Thankfully the friend’s mom is another yoni-loving, embodied and empowered woman, and also my dear friend, so we were able to voice our concerns with each other in a non-charged, non-blaming way. What we both agreed on was that it seemed more like the girls were mimicking what they thought grown-ups do. Also, that the age differential furthered the potential problems, as the younger girl has a bit of hero worship around my daughter (as my daughter has with an older girl in her life). Despite the innocent intentions of both girls, it didn’t sit right with us mamas. Great. That was easy to agree.
But how to speak to the girls in a way that affirmed their curiosity, even body exploration, but also helped them understand what was/wasn’t appropriate? What I hit upon was to explain that what grown-ups do is much more complex than just bodies moving around, and not something that they were old enough to understand yet. Also, that curiosity was normal and good, and that we wanted them to feel good in their bodies, and help them grow in a way that feels safe.
The girls seemed to get it, although my daughter expressed some mild guilt/shame that told me that she knew what they had been doing was a bit edgy. I emphasized that no one was mad, and had her look in my face to really register that everything was okay and she was still accepted. The container we gave them seems to be right, because nothing like the making out has come up since, and they seem relaxed and playful in their bodies.
Children learn by doing, as well as by getting feedback from the world around them. If you find your child exploring his or her body, or with a friend, please take the time to separate your own ‘stuff’ from what your children really need from you: kind words, loving reflection, safe container. The sexuality of a child does not have the same charge or intention as that of an adult, and by projecting our own woundings and fears onto a child we can inadvertently create shame and secrecy, instead of greater connection and communication. A great place to find books to help you talk about bodies with your child is the public library; consider it an education for you, as well, in how to speak to your child in an age appropriate way.