Talk to your children about sex. that's how

"Educating about sexuality means helping children and adolescents to follow their path with positivity and naturalness". Yet if on the one hand sex is present everywhere in our society - from advertising to the internet, from television to cinema - on the other hand it is still a taboo in many families. We don't talk about sex and, also thanks to the fact that sexuality (and affectivity) education is not included in school programs (except at the discretion of some schools and / or teachers), the risk is high for the youngest. to experience sexuality in a hasty and unconscious way.

Talking about sexuality, on the other hand, is second Anna Oliverio Ferraris, Professor of developmental psychology at the Sapienza University of the city, it is an educational task that should not be avoided so as not to let only the erotic images that break through from all over (or even pornographic) to "educate about sex" our sons and our daughters.

Obviously, everything must be done with "delicacy and discretion, without despising or diminishing their curiosity: but respecting the times, the ways and the character of those we address". And in the awareness that sexuality "is an aspect of development that involves the person at various levels - sensory, social, cognitive, affective, moral and emotional - and therefore one cannot afford to ignore it during the growth and education of children".

But how to talk about sex in the family? Many answers can be found in Your child and sex, a book full of stories and practical advice, a book with which the psychologist Anna Oliverio Ferraris aims to help parents and educators to address the topic.

Between two and six years

, children want to understand how the human body works, why that of adults is different from theirs and why the female body is different from the male one. So they ask a lot of questions about the anatomical differences between male and female: like, why are males and females different? Why does he have a willy and I don't? And (they) wonder how babies are born, where do they come from. “Their curiosity is to be welcomed positively” says Oliverio Ferraris.

The questions that children ask at this stage are dictated by the need for knowledge Gradually in this age group, children can acquire this information:

names of the different parts of the body (according to their language); basic hygiene rules; male / female differences; where are the children before they are born.

Mom and Dad can foster the following skills:

feel and show empathy; distinguish the different emotions; express needs and des; understand gender differences and between public and private behaviors; respect social and cultural rules.

Children can develop the following attitudes:

respect for differences; positive body image; appreciation for its functions; respect for others; awareness that emotions can express themselves in different ways.

Around six years old

, they want to know even more. “And if they find adults unwilling to dialogue, they compare themselves with their peers, observe how others pee, play doctor, have fun saying dirty words”.

Their questions manifest their need to understand and be reassured about strange theories they have heard from peers or have built up Gradually in this age group, children can receive information relating to:

different parts of the body and their functions; different bodies / different sexes; hygiene, pregnancy and birth; friendship and love; basic elements of reproduction; different types of family relationships (parents, children, brothers, sisters, cousins…); all emotions are fine but not all behaviors are acceptable; good and bad experiences; not all adults are friendly; if you don't like an experience, you don't always have to agree; times of growth.

Mom and Dad can foster the following skills:
recognize anatomical differences; express needs and des; consolidate their gender identity; communicate emotions, desires and needs; relate to people in an appropriate way; show mutual respect; build and maintain relationships; ask questions.
And children can develop the following attitudes:

positive self and body image; respect for differences; respect for the other sex; sense of modesty; attitude "my body belongs to me".

Between seven and nine years

curiosity about one's own body and that of others "can take on scientific tones and girls and boys go hunting for answers even in books or on the internet, even if an important source are companions who, unlike adults who can be embarrassed to talk about certain things, they generally do not shy away from having their say in terms of knowledge (or presumed as such) about their own body and that of others ".

Gradually, in this age group, children can acquire information relating to:

physical changes over time; biological differences between males and females; gender roles; tenderness, falling in love, sex in the media and on the Internet; differences between friendship, love and lust; jealousy, anger, aggression; marriage, divorce, cohabitation; pleasure and well-being; improper contacts

Mom and Dad can foster the following skills:

appropriate terminology for different parts of the body and their functions; accept their own and others' privacy; establish boundaries between one's own feelings and those of others; reflect on the use of sex in the media; express and communicate emotions, desires and needs; manage disappointment; communicate and make friends; ask for information and help; talk about their experiences, desires and needs in relation to cultural norms.

And children can develop the following attitudes:

positive image of one's body and one's gender identity; idea of ​​falling in love as natural; respect for others; sense of responsibility towards one's own body and that of others.

Between ten and twelve years

"curiosity and erotic pleasure are mixed": at this age they typically want to have a detailed knowledge of their body, their genital organs and those of the opposite sex, of love and sexual activities, which they will soon experience. "And in this hunger for knowledge, pre-adolescents can feel alone or at least talking about it with their parents can create a bit of embarrassment, because they are afraid of receiving inquisitions, prohibitions, sermons".

Reason why, Oliverio Ferraris believes that sex education should also be done at school: "on the one hand, when children begin to have sexual impulses with hormonal maturation, they can feel under scrutiny so much that they prefer that their parents know nothing about their sex life, on the other hand even parents may not feel comfortable talking about condoms, sexually transmitted diseases… ".

In this age group, children can receive information relating to:

menstruation, ejaculation, changes that occur with puberty; reproduction; differences between gender identity and biological sex; homosexuality; falling in love, ambivalence, insecurity, fear, jealousy; differences between friendship, love and lust; pleasant and unpleasant relationships; types of sexual abuse and how to avoid them; unwanted experiences; peer pressure, media, pornography; prevention.

Skills that mum and dad can foster:

use appropriate terminology; integrate the changes of puberty into one's life; understand the relationship between menstruation / ejaculations and fertility; effective contraceptives in the future; clarify the differences between sexuality in "real life" and in the media; express and recognize emotions in oneself and in others; knowing the boundaries to respect between oneself and others; manage needs, des and delusions; establishing social contacts, building and maintaining relationships; ask for help and support in case of problems related to puberty, relationships with others, potential hookers; manage media and smartphone correctly.

Attitudes that can develop:

understand and accept changes related to puberty and growth; understand that contraception is the responsibility of both sexes; understand that sex must be consensual, voluntary, on an equal footing, appropriate to age; understand that everyone has their own times; don't feel guilty for your desires; respect the privacy of others; understand cultural and religious differences; be aware of the risks.

Around the age of 15 and beyond

By maintaining a peaceful dialogue with your growing children, you can gradually accompany them to accept the changes of puberty, and also in terms of sexual experiences, to resist peer pressure, to make free and responsible choices, respecting diversity in the sexuality and sexual orientation and with the understanding that contraception is important to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases and avoid unwanted pregnancies. It is important that the clear demarcation between consenting sex and prevarication, violence and perversion is clear. That they know that there are services in the area to turn to (family counseling for example) for information on sexual health and in case of need for help or support to live a serene and conscious sexuality.

Read also:

teenagers between sex and love

How to talk about sexuality?

The counsel of the psychotherapist is not to dismiss the subject, regardless of the age of the son or daughter and the question they ask, with phrases such as "these are not things that concern you" or "we do not talk about these things!". Why make sexuality a taboo? Rather, we can take advantage of the opportunity to reiterate that sexuality is about life and we can talk about it quietly together. Postponing the answer "until later", if the question is asked in an inappropriate context or time. And should you use vulgar words, it should be noted that more appropriate words must be used: why vulgarity and not the argument should be avoided.

“Today - suggests Oliverio Ferraris - there are many children's books that explain and illustrate how the human body is made, what the sexual organs are like, how sexual reproduction occurs, etc. providing adequate explanations from time to time to age. They can therefore be a tool to use to talk serenely about sex with children ".

"Obviously - he adds - we will inevitably return to the same topics several times, because they will be explored differently according to age".

Where do babies come from before they enter mommy's womb?

> To a little girl from 3 6-years one can answer by explaining that “mum and dad love each other and that dad places a seed of life in mum's womb, where there is already a grain. These two seeds meet and form a kind of egg that nine months later will become a child ”.
> To those who are older (6 7-years), on the other hand, it can be explained that that seed of life is called a spermatozoon and that the man with his willy places it in the woman's little hole, where there is another seed called an ovum. From their meeting in the woman's womb, an egg is formed which will become a fetus and then a newborn ".

In practice, if the explanation of the two seeds to talk about conception may be suitable for preschool children, afterwards it will be necessary to provide further explanations and more details, gradually more and more scientific.

“It is important - adds the psychotherapist - to use the language they use, so potato chip, weasel, seed is fine when they are very young. And understand what they already know and what they want to know, without going beyond their curiosity ".

"Speaking of anatomy and sexuality with older children, however, it is important to use scientific terminology, albeit understandable to them - says Oliverio Ferraris - not only to give a correct name to what we are talking about and enrich their vocabulary, but also because scientific terms have the power to free language from all those vulgar connotations that surround sex and sexuality ".

"With adolescent children, moreover, when you want to touch on certain topics, sometimes you can do it by referring to their experience, while others, in order not to create closure and embarrassment, it is preferable to talk about them anonymously, referring to friends or events that have happened . In short, it is better not to start by asking what he does / does not do with his boyfriend or girlfriend, but rather take ideas from a film he has recently seen and from a book to probe what he knows and what interests him ".

First time

Anna Oliverio Ferraris proposes this decalogue to reflect on for a serene confrontation with their teenage children on sex and the first time.

1. Loving and making love are not the same thing. You can make love without feeling love or, conversely, you can love without making love. For example: you can make love with a person we like without being in love with him, or a novice boy may not be able to make love with the person he is in love with for fear of failure.

2. Don't expect too much from the first time, it is over time that an understanding and knowledge develops that facilitate the relationship and make it richer. It may happen that emotionality makes the male impotent and the girl non-participatory.

3. Better not be in a hurry. Better to wait for the right person and before embarking on intimate adventures, understand who you are dealing with.

4. Nobody should feel obligated to do what they don't feel like doing. Sexuality can be detached from feelings or accompany them. Respect for the partner must however be maintained. It is good to make sure that he is consenting.

5. Males (often worried about proving their virility) tend more than females to reduce the time of acquaintance that precedes the first intercourse. For girls, on the other hand, more often the first relationship is equivalent to a fairly stable relationship: it is good that boys do not ignore this difference.

6. Sex is a varied and personalized aspect: not everyone seeks it with the same frequency or experiences it with the same intensity.

7. Reality is often different from what appears in the movies. We must not expect the partner to look like or behave like a Hollywood star: luckily we are dealing with a real person with his body and her emotions.

8. If a lot of pornographic material is circulating, it also depends on the fact that the management of the body appears easier than that of feelings. Behind every body, however, there is a person with aspirations and feelings: many complications arise from the fact that they are not taken into account.

9. Only one intercourse is enough to contract a sexual disease, including AIDS. Therefore, even the first time, the necessary precautions must be taken, know what a condom is and how to use it.

10. Avoid using substances such as alcohol, drugs or Viagra to feel safer with your partner or have sex with "whoever happens to be".

Do not delegate your children's sex education to the Internet

The smartphone is a passpartout for surfing the net, and on the net "surfing indiscriminately - without any filter and without any control - not only children but also adolescents can get a wrong and even disturbing idea of ​​sex and physical relationships between partners , accessing pornographic sites where sex scenes sometimes border on violence, abuse and perversion. ”For this reason Oliverio Ferraris suggests the use of“ filter ”software that prevents access to inappropriate and dangerous sites.

Updated on 26.03.2022

  • couple life
  • sexuality
  • teens
  • first time
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