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Children and Sexuality

Larry Miller

AGE Birth to 3 years

How Children Understand Sexuality
Young preschoolers have a whole new world to discover. Discovering their bodies is part of that process. Genital discovery is a normal part of a young child's curiosity. Expect questions such as "What is that?" "Is that a part of me?" and "Why am I different from her?"

Ways To Respond
Children need to know their bodies are okay. Use correct terminology for all body parts. Help children accept their God-given bodies. Don't react squeamishly or negatively when changing diapers or during potty training. This attitude teaches children that certain parts of their body are shameful or dirty.

AGE 4 to 5 years

How Children Understand Sexuality
Children this age recognize and become curious about anatomical differences. They're more aware that some people are boys and some are girls. They desire more detail to questions such as "Where do babies come from?" "Why am I me?" and "Why are you, you?"

Ways To Respond
Read books about babies and baby animals. Help children understand a family's love and care for them. Teach children the biblical aspect of sexuality. Explain why God designed them differently-so they can grow up to be mothers and fathers. Explain good and bad touches of others. Reinforce correct body terminology.

AGE 6 to 8 years

How Children Understand Sexuality
Primary-age children are beginning to reason. Kids are concerned about their bodies and sexual matters. They need honest, accurate answers to their questions. Boys especially have sexual discussions with their same-sex friends. They want to know "why" and "how." They ask questions such as "Why did God create us this way?" "How do you really make babies?" and "Can I play 'doctor' or 'house'?"

Ways To Respond
Tell primary children that our sexuality is a normal gift from God. Our genitals are just like other parts of our body-brains, arms, legs-and that each has a particular function. Celebrate with children that God made people female or male. Establish positives about each role. Give straightforward answers to children's questions. Remind them that if someone touches them inappropriately, they should tell their parents or a teacher. Introduce sex education resources such as books and videos.

AGE 9 to 11 years

How Children Understand Sexuality
Kids at this age are either going through or are on the verge of puberty. They often compare their physical development to their peers' appearance. Kids often feel embarrassed or abnormal. Changes in their bodies make them feel insecure. Older kids have an increased interest in the opposite sex. They ask questions such as "How do I deal with these changes?" "How should I feel about them?" and "Am I normal?"

Ways To Respond
Initiate formal Christian sex education. Help kids and parents build trust and listening skills. Provide parent-approved classes to prepare older kids for puberty. Stress that puberty is normal and occurs at different rates. Balance peer pressure, healthy self-esteem, and self-responsibility. Explain that temptation is normal. Emphasize that abstinence is God's plan and that virginity is the acceptable lifestyle. Underline God's grace and power as well as your availability and support.

Larry Miller, a children's minister in West Virginia, has developed a sex education course for his church. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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