Sex Talks: Birth to Age 8
In this blog series called “Sex Talks”, parents of younger kids may question when they should start talking about sex with their young children. Did you realize that you’re already having talks about sexuality with your child?
We parents naturally speak and model our theology and worldview of sexuality in all the “as you go” moments of living with our kids. From bath time to times at the pool, we are already talking about babies, body parts, gender, singleness, and marriage by what we say and don’t say. The question is, how can we intentionally frame these teachable moments with God and the gospel?
As we think through these moments, we can capitalize on our kids’ developmental stages. Birth to age eight corresponds to the grammar stage. During this stage, we can give our children basic sexual grammar with words, definitions, and concepts from a Christian worldview. Later blogs will focus on tweens in the logic stage and teens in the rhetoric stage.
Here are two questions to guide you as you teach your children about God’s positive design for our sexuality.
- What topics does my child need to know about sex and sexuality between birth and eight years old?
- How can I teach my child that God loves them; that God’s design for sexuality is good and trustworthy; and, though sexual sin harms us, God forgives and restores us in Christ?
Bathtime is a golden opportunity to lay down sexual grammar. While you may have kiddy names for private parts, you can also introduce more official terms. “God gave you a wee-wee for making pee-pee. Did you know that Dr. Smith calls that your penis? That’s the medical word for it.” (I never thought I’d be blogging about this, by the way.) This is a light, happy time of playing with soap suds and toy boats while salting in both God-talk about sexuality and medical terms that your child may hear at kindergarten.
And it can also be an opportunity to build his positive body image. “God loved you so much that he made you a boy. And He loves your little sister so much that He made her a girl. He makes us all different sizes and shapes and colors, but the Lord makes us all male or female in His image so that we can know and love Him.” This is an example of when Christian parents can push against the world’s desire to promote a genderless society.
A pool time outing can also be a great opportunity to talk about both modesty and body safety. You could pose the question, “Is it ever ok to touch someone else’s private parts? No, we want to respect other people, their bodies, and their modesty. So you shouldn’t touch other people on the parts where their swimsuits cover or let people touch you where your swimsuit covers. Did you know that God gave Adam and Eve their first set of clothes? So the Lord wants us to be modest and to touch others appropriately.”
Where Do Babies Come From?
What’s your answer to “Where do babies come from?” Some young children don’t ask sexuality questions. Others are very inquisitive. I have four kids. Three didn’t ask questions, and the other actually asked for and got a microscope for Christmas when she was eight! I recommend you practice your answer to this question. If your child does not verbalize this question, you still need to teach them. Bringing up this conversation helps establish you as their go-to authority for sexual knowledge.
I recommend giving two different answers. Early on, most little kids are satisfied with, “God makes babies come from mommy’s tummy.” Then, around age six or so, I’d say, “God made it so that it takes a mommy and a daddy to have a baby.” This later answer begs the question, “Why does it take a mommy and a daddy?”
Here’s a positive way to address the question: “Just like in the Garden of Eden, God gave Eve to be Adam’s wife, and He told them to be fruitful and multiply. That means that He gave them a wonderful way for the man’s body to come together with the woman’s body so that they could have a baby. It’s a special kind of hug, called sex. God is very happy when husbands and wives love one another and have babies that they can love and raise to be grown-ups.” And if your child asks, “What is this special hug, and can I have this special hug now?” you can respond with, “No, sweetheart/son. That’s for when you get married. Right now, you can enjoy being a little girl/boy!”
We want our children to know that they can ask any question and that we are excited for them to come to us with questions. We want to help them discover all of God’s good gifts concerning sexuality and sex. It’s important that we are very positive and inviting. Kids will pick up on any tense, negative, or shaming vibes.
I highly recommend Mary Flo Ridley’s book/DVD combo, Simple Truths, and Stan and Brenna Jones’ How and When to Tell Your Kids About Sex and the attending four age-graded books for kids. Seize the opportunity to begin talking about sexuality in this grammar stage with your young children. We aren’t looking for long discourses here. We are just trying to give them vocabulary and informational building blocks that we’ll use in future sex talks in their tween and teen years.