Question : My 4-year-old daughter has started to discover what it feels like to touch her private part. Despite social conventions and religious beliefs, my husband and I practise open discussion about the subject of sex because we don’t want our kids to grow up thinking that sex is a bad thing and we want them to have control over their own bodies. My mom thinks 4 years old is too young for kids to understand sex education. Is she right?
Answer : Sex education and sexuality awareness are two different concepts. There is always going to be a debate on when and what should be covered. In my personal view, these are my pointers :
This can start as soon as the child knows the difference between boy and girl, man and women, friend and strangers. Usually we start from the physiological aspects before going into the psychological areas. When a child is aware of these differences, sex education will include differentiation of gender and gender parts. For example, parents can start to introduce differentiation of gender parts (male and female) and assist the child to distinguish them as private and confidential. For young children (in your case), their process of thinking is centred towards themselves thus they may not noticed that touching themselves is considered as inappropriate when others are around. We can also call this modesty. Based on the family values and beliefs, parents can start explaining and setting rules on such inappropriate behaviours when others are around. If the child is still unable to understand why he/she cannot touch herself or let others touch her, divert his/her attention from himself/herself towards other activities. Diversion is the key. You can also divert the child attention towards public awareness so that you can reinforce the concept of modesty.
This is (in my opinion) usually for older children and teens, where the concept of gender and sexual orientation become important topics for parents. If the child at a younger age has grasped the concept of physical differences between genders and know how to behave socially, sexuality awareness can start. This area includes a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values about identity, relationships, and intimacy. The areas where parents commonly address are issues of personality, value formation, decision-making, peer and social pressures, affection, intimacy, body image, gender roles, communication strategies, and various sexual behaviors. The time for this will be later.
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About Our Expert
Professor Dr. Eric Lim is the founder of Kits4Kids Foundation, a foundation that specializes in the education and development of children with special needs.
He also leads many international social enterprises all around the world. Prof. Dr. Eric Lim holds a PhD in Educational Management as well as Masters of Education, Bachelor of Special Education and Masters of Psychology, focusing on child psychology and counseling.
He is passionate about helping as many people as he could in spreading the love for children and humanity.
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