Under the Umbrella: Supporting Healthy Sexual Development

Teaching children how to have healthy attitudes and accurate information about sexuality starts at an early age; in fact, it’s never too early to begin. While you wouldn’t sit down with a toddler for “The Talk,” there are important habits and ideas that you can teach at that age that are much more subtle and appropriate, such as introducing and using the correct terms for body parts as children begin to learn language.

There are ways to facilitate healthy sexual growth at every developmental stage. Doing so sets the stage for the children and youth in your care to feel comfortable coming to you when they have questions about their bodies, sexuality, and reproduction. Children who were raised with this type of open communication at home tend to fare better in healthier adult relationships, as a result. In today’s electronic world, chances are that children who feel too ashamed of their natural curiosity to ask a parent or caregiver their questions, will turn instead to the Internet for information and answers. Much of the time, the Internet is going to be an inappropriate (and sometimes even dangerous) place for children and youth to find accurate, honest information about their bodies, other genders, sexual orientation, and personal safety.  Misconceptions about sexuality learned in childhood can linger long into adulthood, and can even affect a person’s physical health, relationships with partners and children, and could increase the possibility of being victimized.

Talking with the children and youth you care for about this particular topic may seem daunting; perhaps even more so if you yourself didn’t have a trusted adult to go to as you navigated this part of growing up. The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone! There are many resources available, as well as great recommendations for parents and caregivers, when you know where to look. We’ve listed some of those resources below, and, as always, we encourage you reach out if you have questions or need support. You can call our Resource Specialists at 414-475-1246 or 800-762-8063, or email us at info@coalitionforcyf.org, for additional information.

Note: If the child in your care has a therapist, you may wish to seek advice from him or her, especially if there is a history of sexual trauma or if you are beginning to see possible signs of abuse. Please call or email us if you need additional help, information, or support. 

Under the Umbrella is the weekly enewsletter from the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families. If you would like to sign up to receive this newsletter in your in-box, please do so here.

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