Talking Sex with Toddlers by Corinne Simonyi

How did my parents broach the topic of sex in our house? Simple: they didn’t. They never sat me down for the Talk; they never read me books on the subject; they barely even uttered the word.

Oh, there were books lying around—the thick volume of My Body, My Self on the bookshelf was a trove of information. There was a French comic novel of my dad’s, with hilariously graphic cartoon images. But my folks themselves were conspicuously silent. Maybe they just put off a conversation that was sure to embarrass them, and then it never happened. Maybe because I was their third child, they figured any info I needed would trickle down via my older siblings.

Well, they were right. Between my sisters, my friends, and Judy Blume, I certainly had a handle on the facts by the time I giggled along with classmates through sixth-grade sex-ed. What I didn’t have was any concept of my parents’ views on the matter, or a comfort level with my changing body.

I want it to be different for my kids. They’re only two and four, and while my husband and I haven’t gotten into any nitty-gritty details, we’re starting the dialogue. We’re taking the questions as they come—“How do babies get into mommies bellies?” “Why does Dadda have a pee-pee?”—and trying to provide clear, but matter-of-fact answers. More than the ins and outs (so to speak) of sex, I want my kids to understand that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone. I want them to be comfortable in their skin, but understand that some of their parts are private. I want my son to respect girls, and to stick up for them. I want my daughter to know how to stick up for herself, and how to say no (my son too, for that matter). I want them both to know they can ask—and tell—us anything, no matter how “secret” it seems.

I know the questions and the answers will become more involved as the kids grow, and I never want embarrassment to get in the way of providing them with the facts they need.

There are lots of things I need to work on. I catch myself telling the kids to go give so-and-so a hug or kiss goodbye, even when I can tell they don’t feel like it. I know even forcing them to wear certain outfits sends the wrong message about autonomy over one’s body, and yet sometimes, in the rush of daily life, I do it anyway. It’s a learning process—for all of us.

This is why I think My Body Belongs To Me, by Jill Starishevsky, is a great book for younger children.

imgres-1 It tells the story of a child, gender-neutral in the illustrations, who is inappropriately touched by an adult acquaintance, then told to keep it secret. The child tells her/his parents immediately, and they praise him/her for being courageous. The book is simple, positive, and sends a message of empowerment. And it isn’t scary. Exactly what I think good sex-ed should be.

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3 thoughts on “Talking Sex with Toddlers by Corinne Simonyi

  1. This is such an important topic. Thank you for bringing it up. Teaching children about their bodies and what to do when you are uncomfortable with something someone else is doing is one of the most important lessons you will ever teach them.

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