Sexuality starts in a child’s very first years of life. It’s an important and normal part of child development, and children need a safe environment where they can feel comfortable asking questions.
When you communicate positively with your child, you create a secure, positive relationship. This can help children feel more comfortable asking you about sexuality in the future.
Examples of healthy behaviors of children age 0-3:
- Learning about their bodies through self-touch and exploring their own genitals, often during diaper changes.
- Having spontaneous reactions that appear sexual, such as an erection.
- Developing language to describe genitalia.
- Having comfort with nudity and enjoying it.
- Being interested in the differences between boys and girls and the bodies of adults.
Tips for supporting healthy sexual development:
- Demonstrate healthy physical contact through hugs, kisses, snuggling, and tickling. These positive sensations become associated with being loved.
- Support children to be private about nudity.
- Teach that exploration through touching their own genitals is OK and can be done in private, rather than around others.
- Demonstrate the importance of privacy while changing, going to the bathroom, or bathing by closing the door while you use the bathroom or change clothes.
- Demonstrate and teach children to respect privacy and personal boundaries.
- Encourage and use correct terms for body parts.
- Talk about boundaries as the opportunity arises, such as during diapering or baths, saying that their genitals belong to them and are off limits to others.
- Be open to your child’s questions, answering honestly and simply in a way that they understand.