By Airial Clatney
1. START EARLY
The idea of when is the ‘right age’ to start teaching kids about their bodies is widely debated, but it’s simple – the same time that you start teaching them anything else. Sex is a human drive, just like eating and drinking water, and although you won’t be teaching your toddler about sex, it’s vital that you teach them things like consent, boundaries, body parts and privacy. Why? Because no matter your age, you deserve to be able to explore and have autonomy of your body without shame.
2. TREAT YOUR KIDS THEIR AGE
Avoid treating you’re your children like they are younger than they are, even if they have diverse abilities or developmental delays. Teenagers who are pampered and sheltered will often have troubles understanding social etiquette, how to take care of themselves and how to treat others with dignity and respect.
3. ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO ACT THEIR AGE
Teaching your child to act their age is key in their development of concepts like privacy, body autonomy and respect. Be especially firm when it comes to inappropriate touch and
destructive/violent behaviour. This is especially important for parents of kids who have developmental disabilities in modelling body autonomy and boundaries.
4. USE CORRECT LANGUAGE
If you take anything from this article, be it this – lead by example and use the correct anatomical words for genitals and other body parts. This is a huge protecting factor against child sexual abuse, especially for people who have diverse abilities and who are more vulnerable.
5. TEACH PRIVACY
It’s obvious that privacy doesn’t come intuitively for children and especially for those who may have developmental disabilities or who cannot see. Privacy is one of the first things that you should teach your kids and a good time is when they are a toddler. It can be as simple as teaching ‘your body is private’ and to close the door/curtains when is appropriate.
6. ENCOURAGE FRIENDSHIPS
An incredibly efficient way to facilitate your child’s development is to encourage interaction with other kids of all genders. This will teach them how to trust other people, how to stand up for themselves and others and that they have supports who they can go to.
7. BE THEIR FRIEND
Teenagers often shutout their parents – it’s biology and just part of puberty. But one way that you can strengthen your relationship with your child is to act as an ally and friend. This can increase your child’s trust in you and make it more likely for them to come to if they encounter difficult challenges like bullying, pregnancy, relationship problems, sexual assault or mental health concerns.
8. TEACH ORIENTATION AND MOBILITY
For parents who have children with diverse abilities, orientation and mobility training will be super important to teach and reinforce for them to become more independent. This kind of education and support that you offer your child will also have a huge impact on lasting and non-dependant relationships with other people.
9. USE ANATOMICALLY CORRECT DOLLS AND OTHER RESOURCES
The use of anatomically correct dolls in teaching sex education is highly underrated, and something that I would recommend to all parents, regardless of your child’s abilities. They help teach body diversity and encourage exploring your body, while protecting against child sexual abuse and giving your child the opportunity to tell their story.
It will (and should) take you years of incorporating healthy sex-positive habits into your child’s life, but it’s a totally necessary journey that will empower kids to own their bodies. My last words would be to just be patient and understand that you are creating a safe place for your kids to explore and learn about their bodies, which will more than likely translate into healthier sexuality for them and even the people around them.