It's Never Too Early to Set the Tone

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Two-hour training for child care providers on typical sexual development in young children.

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It's Never Too Early to Set the Tone

  1. 1. It’s Never Too Early to Set the Tone Handling Sexuality Issues and Questions in Early Childhood Diane W. Bales UGA Cooperative Extension
  2. 2. How Would You React? <ul><li>What do you think is happening here? </li></ul><ul><li>How would you feel about handling this issue? </li></ul><ul><li>What’s the first thing you would say or do? </li></ul><ul><li>What do you think children would learn about sexuality from your reaction? </li></ul><ul><li>What would you tell the child’s parents when they come to pick up their child? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Sexuality in Early Childhood? <ul><li>The development of healthy sexuality begins in infancy. </li></ul><ul><li>Sexual abuse disrupts normal sexual development. </li></ul><ul><li>Many adults feel uncomfortable with the idea of sexuality in young children. </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers can help parents teach healthy attitudes about sexuality. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Today’s Agenda <ul><li>Why should early childhood professionals care about sexuality? </li></ul><ul><li>The adult’s role in young children’s sexual development </li></ul><ul><li>Uncomfortable issues and questions </li></ul>
  5. 5. Session Objectives <ul><li>Participants will: </li></ul><ul><li>Describe typical sexual development in children. </li></ul><ul><li>List ways that adults can promote healthy sexuality in young children. </li></ul><ul><li>List signs of sexual abuse in young children. </li></ul><ul><li>Brainstorm ways to handle common sexual behaviors and questions in young children. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Why Does Sexuality Matter for Early Childhood Professionals? <ul><li>Children’s attitudes about sexuality begin forming early. </li></ul><ul><li>Attitudes learned in early childhood affect teen sexual behavior. </li></ul><ul><li>Young children learn about sexuality from adults around them. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Setting the Tone in Early Childhood <ul><li>Many teens are misinformed about sexuality. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Many teens have multiple sex partners. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>About 3 million teens get STDs each year. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Only 60% of sexually active teens are using condoms. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Teaching about sexuality begins in early childhood, not in adolescence. </li></ul>
  8. 8. An Important Role for Early Childhood Professionals <ul><li>Young children who learn positive messages about sexuality are less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior later. </li></ul><ul><li>You can influence children’s attitudes about sexuality. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s never too early to set the tone! </li></ul>
  9. 9. Sexuality and Early Childhood <ul><li>Children begin learning about sexuality very early. </li></ul><ul><li>Young children are curious about their bodies. </li></ul><ul><li>You may have to face sexual behaviors and questions in young children. </li></ul><ul><li>Children pick up adults’ attitudes about sexuality (both positive and negative). </li></ul>
  10. 10. Sexual Development in Infants and Toddlers <ul><li>Interest in all body parts and functions </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on genitals during toilet training </li></ul><ul><li>Learn names of body parts, including genitals </li></ul><ul><li>Learn that self-touch feels good </li></ul><ul><li>Need physical affection </li></ul>
  11. 11. How To Teach Infants and Toddlers about Sexuality <ul><li>Set the tone that sexuality is normal </li></ul><ul><li>Teach them correct names for body parts, including genitalia </li></ul><ul><li>React calmly to self-touching </li></ul><ul><li>Provide appropriate physical care </li></ul><ul><li>Hug and cuddle them </li></ul>
  12. 12. Sexual Development in 3- and 4-year-olds <ul><li>Learn by asking questions and by experimenting </li></ul><ul><li>May ask “Where do babies come from?” </li></ul><ul><li>May “play doctor” </li></ul><ul><li>May touch genitals to soothe themselves </li></ul><ul><li>DON’T understand adult sexuality </li></ul>
  13. 13. How To Teach 3- and 4-year-olds about Sexuality <ul><li>Set the tone that sexuality is normal </li></ul><ul><li>Answer their questions in simple terms </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t attach adult meaning to their actions </li></ul><ul><li>Provide appropriate guidance </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage children to make choices </li></ul><ul><li>Continue to show affection </li></ul>
  14. 14. Sexual Development in School-agers (ages 5 – 8) <ul><li>Concrete thinkers </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t connect intercourse and pregnancy </li></ul><ul><li>May be afraid of HIV/AIDS </li></ul><ul><li>More need for privacy in bathroom and dressing </li></ul>
  15. 15. How To Teach School-agers about Sexuality <ul><li>Set a tone of “askability” </li></ul><ul><li>Answer questions matter-of-factly </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss and relieve fears about AIDS </li></ul><ul><li>Allow privacy if requested </li></ul><ul><li>Teach decision-making skills </li></ul><ul><li>Model healthy relationships </li></ul>
  16. 16. A Brief Caution about Sexual Abuse <ul><li>Healthy sexual development is very different from sexual abuse </li></ul><ul><li>Sexual abuse happens. </li></ul><ul><li>Know the signs of sexual abuse! </li></ul><ul><li>Document, document, document </li></ul><ul><li>Report suspected abuse </li></ul>
  17. 17. Possible Signs of Sexual Abuse <ul><li>Bruises or scratches on groin or inner thighs </li></ul><ul><li>Stained underclothes </li></ul><ul><li>Discomfort sitting or walking </li></ul><ul><li>Inappropriate sexual knowledge or behavior </li></ul><ul><li>Fear of a particular person </li></ul><ul><li>Nightmares and bedwetting </li></ul><ul><li>Sudden changes in appetite </li></ul><ul><li>Reports of being sexually abused </li></ul>
  18. 18. Ways to Feel More Comfortable with Sexuality Issues <ul><li>Know what’s typical. </li></ul><ul><li>Listen more than you talk. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask open-ended questions. </li></ul><ul><li>Empower parents to teach sexuality. </li></ul><ul><li>Use gentle guidance to shape behavior. </li></ul><ul><li>Remember that young children don’t understand adult sexuality! </li></ul>
  19. 19. Uncomfortable or Challenging Issues with Young Children <ul><li>Masturbation </li></ul><ul><li>“Where do babies come from?” </li></ul><ul><li>Playing doctor </li></ul><ul><li>Frank discussions about body parts </li></ul><ul><li>Questions about homosexuality </li></ul><ul><li>Gender stereotypes </li></ul>
  20. 20. Parents Matter Too! <ul><li>“ Don’t let my son wear the tutus in the dress-up area. I don’t want to turn him gay!” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What’s behind this comment? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How would you handle this request? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Take-home message: Parents’ attitudes matter! </li></ul><ul><li>Support parents as sexuality educators for their children. </li></ul>
  21. 21. For More Information <ul><li>UGA Cooperative Extension </li></ul><ul><li>www.fcs.uga.edu/ext </li></ul><ul><li>Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) </li></ul><ul><li>www.siecus.org </li></ul><ul><li>American Academy of Pediatrics </li></ul><ul><li>www.aap.org/healthtopics/sexuality.cfm </li></ul>
  22. 22. Sources of Statistics <ul><li>Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention </li></ul><ul><li>National Adolescent Health Longitudinal Study (Add Health), National Institute for Child Health and Human Development </li></ul><ul><li>National Survey of Adolescents and Young Adults: Sexual Health Knowledge, Attitudes, and Experiences, Kaiser Family Foundation </li></ul>

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