Why Kids Need Information about Sexuality NOW

Jan 5, 2022

by Camille Everett

Creator of Be That Place

Handwritten notes and lunchtime chats from students kickstarted Camille's mission to help families teach sex ed at home. She is a graduate of Utah State University with a bachelor’s in Secondary Health & English Education. She loves having real conversations while devouring bowls of chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

Does the word why drive anyone else crazy sometimes?

“But why can’t I pee in the backyard? I’m NOT going all the way up the stairs to the bathroom!”

Since the last 11 answers didn’t put his question to rest, in exhaustion you pull your phone from your pocket, type “is peeing in the backyard illegal?” and hold your breath while you wait for Google to give you the answer. 

We’ve all been there. 

But don’t you think it would make more sense to already have an awesome answer before the question is asked? Especially the really important, life-changing, decision-altering, and relationship-building kind of questions? I mean, you love your kids — Google doesn’t.

So why do kids need information about sexuality? And why do they need it now?

Honestly, I think a better question is, “Why not?”

We spend a lot of time trying to give our kids good information about the world they live in, to encourage values that shape who they are becoming as a person (their thoughts, words, and actions), and to define limits that give them a safe place to discover and learn. 

These same concepts are critical components of conversations about healthy sexuality. Healthy sexuality is a power-packed phrase that’s important to understand. It helps parents have an idea of the big picture and the decision making that they are trying to help their child cultivate.

Kids really DO need this information NOW

There’s a problem. And it has a pretty controversial answer.

The problem is that young kids are already getting information — often the wrong kind of information — from a lot of other sources. Other kids, siblings, YouTube, books, movies, music videos, other media. An unsupervised personal device in the hands of a young kid — wow. These devices are powerful. They have the ability to strongly influence a very moldable and vulnerable person to think, feel, say and do some risky things.

The controversy is about who should be teaching real, accurate, and positive information to these young kids. Some people feel strongly that schools should step up and focus on these issues in elementary school. Some parents feel that these conversations are best suited for families. And some people are fighting hard on a global scale to get pornography away from our kids.

No matter what you personally feel the answer is to this problem, one thing remains clear.

You have the power to start talking right now.

It’s time to act. You have to realize that good information now will have a huge impact on your kids’ quality of life later. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to give answers to less important, daily questions — like peeing in the backyard — and forget to have the answers to the more important questions already in mind.

It’s possible that you’ll need to think about this information in a way that feels different than you’re used to. That’s called perspective, and it’s a good thing.

Let me share some of that perspective.

Words are just words

Let’s start with a basic thought: words are just words.

Words convey information and understanding over time as children eventually start connecting those words to what they’re learning. But at first, they are simply words. Be careful not to attach YOUR understanding of words to THEIR understanding of words.

For example, as our kids grow, the words we teach them begin to have meaning because WE give them meaning. We say the word “up” and lift our one year old into our laps. We tell our seven year old that he’s not allowed to tackle his sister because she has not given her “consent” or permission for him to touch her in that way. We tell our eleven-year-old daughter that developing good “work ethic” or work habits will help her be successful at achieving her goals. We are always teaching our kids new words and what those words mean in relation to themselves. 

Words are just words! 

When a parent takes the time to introduce and explain new words related to healthy sexuality, he also has the opportunity to connect correct information, sexual values, and personal limits to those same words. His child now has a foundation to put new words and conversations and behaviors into context. Context is the circumstances that allow something to be fully understood.

And I can’t really explain why kids need information about sexuality without helping you feel confident in using words that describe healthy sexuality. Most of the time, a parent’s discomfort comes from needing to say words that describe the body or some type of sexual interaction. But these too are just words!

So start practicing! If you’re uncomfortable saying words like penis, vulva, vagina, sex or intercourse in front of your kids, practice saying them to yourself in front of the bathroom mirror. Recognizing that these words are not bad, embarrassing, or dirty is really important.

Good information versus dirty content 

Media has so negatively affected the word sexuality to mean something dirty that we are neglecting to separate real information about normal human processes and development from disrespectful or crude content. 

Understanding how to wisely communicate about our bodies and engage in healthy behaviors with our bodies is NOT dirty content. It’s called sexuality education. Every kid will experience the changes of sexual maturation which means every kid needs to know how to communicate and behave in a healthy way. 

Simply knowing the correct names of body parts gives families a concrete foundation to open the conversation with kids that are bombarded by sexual innuendos, expressions, behaviors, and beliefs from every direction — even from “kid-appropriate” media. What a confusing world to live in!

Our kids will learn about things related to sexuality over time with or without us. The question is, are they learning about it in a wise way? This is where WE come in. 

We need to help our kids identify information that offers simple, accurate, and appropriately respectful content about natural human processes and development.

There are books for both kids and adults as well as educational online sources. But these books and online sources can have very different opinions, especially on controversial topics like sexual content in kid media, the effects of masturbation or pornography, and how kids should be taught about gender. These are all issues that people feel very passionately about, so you may want to look through these resources before handing them to your kids.

Be That Place feels very strongly that kids and families should be learning about sexuality in a way that strengthens respect, communication and healthy behaviors. That’s why we’ve identified lots of great resources that meet our core values in these areas.

A big part of why kids need information about sexuality is the fact that there is a lot of misinformation that is really bombarding our kids.

Entertainment media is very good at giving sexual misinformation. Don’t let the rating or “kid-appropriate stamp” fool you. The amount of kids movies I’ve seen where a young character displays sexual influence over another kid character is startling.

This may be a good excuse to watch movies with your kids because it’s a natural start to a good conversation. Take time to point out these moments as an example of misinformation, disrespect, or unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

Everyday conversation

My seven-year-old son recently told me, “I don’t understand how a baby could fit through that tunnel when it’s being born.” We briefly talked about how the vagina is one of those amazing muscles that can stretch — just like the stomach when it’s filled with food. He thought that was pretty cool, and we went on with our day.

It was an easygoing conversation, lasted only a minute, and a simple, straightforward response answered a simple question. This conversation also continued to solidify the understanding my kids have that their Mom and Dad will talk to them about any question they have. Gaining understanding about important topics such as these in a safe place is exactly what I want my kids to be doing.

Sometimes I find opportunities to bring up the conversation. After listening to the news while driving, I’ll often turn off the radio and ask the kids what they thought about the news story they heard. Sometimes I explain what it was about and why it was significant. Sometimes I let them come to their own conclusions by guiding them with simple questions. 

When watching a movie I may ask a why question. “I wonder why that character made that choice. Do you think that’s what she actually wanted?” or “Hmm. I wonder why he thinks that’s the best way to get attention. Don’t you think there’s a better way?” Not every question produces a conversation, but they often do. 

Are you going to find a reason to start the conversation today?