Children and healthy sexuality

Published 1:15 pm Friday, April 6, 2012

Editor’s note: In observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Steps to HOPE will submit several articles on related topics during April. The following is the first of these articles.
Sexual violence is an issue that affects everyone in a community, regardless of age. Understanding and talking to your children about healthy sexual development can help parents and caregivers to protect their children from sexual violence.
Parents and caregivers often want to know what behaviors and expressions are part of normal sexual development for children. Ideas of what’s “normal” can vary depending on culture, beliefs and other factors. It’s important to remember that:
• Human beings are sexual beings from birth. It is common for children to be curious about the body and sexuality.
• Children receive messages about sexuality from a very young age. Sexual behaviors can be ignored, highlighted, punished, or supported. For example, consider how differently parents may react to a child who touches their private body parts while taking a bath. Such reactions send messages that may stick with children and help to shape their view of sexuality as they mature.
• There are warning signs of child sexual abuse and it is important to know what they are and to know the difference between behaviors that are cause for concern and behaviors that are common and healthy.