By Michelle Woo
Is it okay to put a boy and a girl in the bathtub together? What should you do if a classmate from your kid’s preschool comes over for a play date and you find the two of them “playing doctor” from the waist down? And what if your child asks to examine your private parts and that makes you feel weird?
There are lots of books and resources for talking to kids about their bodies and sexuality and reproduction. But they’re usually geared towards parents whose children are about to hit puberty—and that’s way too late. Sexual health educator Deborah Roffman tells me that kids have “a normal, natural curiosity” about these topics starting at age four, and if adults aren’t there to guide them, they’ll eventually turn to peers, older kids and the media to get their information. (You can’t just wait for school to clear things up either—in one Reddit thread, people shared the very inaccurate information they were taught in sex ed class, like how condoms increase the risk of pregnancy, a girl can’t get pregnant while on top, and that the clitoris is a myth.)
The Talk shouldn’t just be one sweaty sit-down conversation—instead, it needs to be an ongoing discussion that starts earlier than you probably think. That’s why Roffman, the author of Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ Go-To Person about Sex, has helped develop a series of animated videos for parents of kids ages 4-9. They’re produced the sex ed project AMAZE, which has brought us videos for tweens and teens on topics such as consent, gender identity and sexual assault.
Called the AMAZE Parent Playlist, the series helps parents navigate real, sometimes confusing scenarios with their little ones. Say, you’re in the car listening to NPR and your young kid suddenly asks, “Mommy, what’s rape?” (You can say something like “Rape is something that’s against the law,” the video suggests, which is a totally truthful answer.) Or maybe you’re walking through the toy store and there are aisles “for girls” and “for boys.” (Take the opportunity to help kids notice and think about gender labels.) This video—“Is Playing Doctor OK?”—explains what’s normal and healthy when it comes to kids’ curiosity about bodies and private areas.
Roffman says a lot of parents have an irrational fearful that “too much information too soon” might somehow be harmful for young kids, but the opposite is actually true. Better educated kids are more likely to make better decisions about everything, she says—including sexuality.
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