Maximizing Sexual Respect for Children under 10
Sheryl Overby MS NCC LIMHP
If everyone in the world has sexual respect, then there would be no sexual abuse. One of the best ways to help kids have healthy ideas about sexuality is to teach sexual respect. The world and its “pornified culture” will have a huge impact, sure, but do all you can to minimize that impact by implementing ideas of sexual respect.
Here are my best tips…….
- Clothing Choices: It is a good idea for ALL family members to be conscious of what they wear outside of the bedroom. Seeing others in their underwear or pajamas may be over-stimulating to a child. Reframe desire for clothing choices from sexual “hotness” to appropriateness for the event or comfort
- Language: Suggestive, sexualized, objectifying or obscene language is not allowed from anyone. Reframe focus of compliments from attractiveness to character strengths.
- Objectification: The concept that people are treated like objects, most typically a sexual object. Do all you can to avoid this from a very early age. The American culture is prevalent with pornography, sexualized media and the meeting of sexual desires with people outside of relationships. But, it is more than sexual objects, so teachers are more than just teachers, waiters are more than just servers, husbands are more than a paycheck, etc.
- Sexually explicit materials such as magazines, videos, catalogs, or TV programs should be completely eliminated from the household. Don’t keep TV and Video game systems in your child’s room that have adult swim or internet access that they can use in the middle of the night.
- Computer time should be monitored to make sure the youth is not “accidently” exposed to sexualized images. Remember, the youth has more time, energy and motivation to break through the parental controls software than the parent has to maintain it. This includes ALL MOBILE DEVICES and gaming devices.
- Explain what you are doing Kids want to know why. Depending on their age, you can give varying degrees of explanations about why you are putting filters on the internet, or not allowing TVs in their room, etc. Most of them will appreciate your involvement. Go to commonsensemedia.com for videos you can show your kids about how sex is used for marketing and advertising.
- Don’t use porn Sexual respect means ADULTS have sexual activity in a RELATIONSHIP with a REAL LIVE PERSON, not an image on the computer screen, which may or may not be real. Make sure the adults in the child’s life model this message in their own behavior
- Sex Education: All children need basic information about how they develop sexually. They also will benefit from an atmosphere in which it is OK to talk about sex. Appropriate words for body parts, such as penis, vagina, breasts, and buttocks, will give the child helpful words to use to describe themselves, especially if they have to talk about sexual behavior. All children (any age) should have an age appropriate explanation for the sexual behavior that has been done to them if they have been abused by an older teen or adult.
- Encourage them to Say NO Children need to learn that they have the right to assertively say “no” when someone touches them ANY WHERE or in ANY WAY they do not like. Help them to practice this. A youth should NEVER be pressured into touching someone or showing affection if they are not comfortable. If your child has been sexually abused, this is especially important that they can say NO in any type of situation they do not like. This may include situations of feeling intimidated or taken advantage of.
- Mutual Respect Among Siblings Sometimes intimidation is a part of a problematic sexual behavior. This needs to be turned into mutual respect. Encourage equality among siblings by giving younger children equal power when deciding family activities. Teach the appropriate use of drawing straws, taking turns and rotating responsibilities.
- Privacy for Children: Everyone has a right to privacy. Children should be taught to knock when a door is closed and adults need to role model the same behavior. Children also deserve to have privacy with their thoughts, feelings, personal belongings, personal space and time. I am repeated this for a reason, Children also deserve to have privacy with their thoughts, feelings, personal belongings, personal space and time. Think about it. Children who have been abused or who have sexually harmed another person deserve the right to privacy when determining who needs to know about their history
- Secrets: Help the child understand the difference between secrecy, surprises and privacy; this is a tricky thing for all of us, frankly. This relates to gossip, tattling, reporting abuse and sharing feelings. In general, it’s always OK to ask mom and dad for help to figure this one out. Secrets are usually discouraged, privacy is usually encouraged and surprises are usually a lot of fun, except if there is a spider in bathtub.
- Privacy for Adults: Don’t forget that adults need privacy too, especially if engaged in sexual activity. Lock the bedroom door always and make sure children cannot hear sexually related noises. This is extremely overwhelming and arousing for a youth who may not have a healthy understanding of sexuality.
- Follow the 9 Rules: See Handout on the 9 Rules that May Prevent Sexual Abuse
- Practice Critical Thinking: Ask your child why they think the strawberry commercial pretends to be sexual or why a restaurant wants their waitresses to look a certain way. Ask your child why they think a swimsuit top for a 2nd grader would have padding or ask about the current jokes kids tell at school. The goal is to help your child think; send the message that they have a choice about their sexual behavior, their sexual thoughts and their sexual gender issues. Things they will have a long time to figure out if they wait until they are grown up to share their bodies with someone.
- BE PEPARED: Now that your child knows they can talk to you, knows they have a choice, be prepared to have lots more discussions with them about their sexual choices and the sexual messages in society when they are teenagers. That’s a whole ‘nother paper and much more complicated, so come find me when they are about 11 or 12, I’ll have something on sheryloverby.com.