Thursday, May 5, 2011

Talking to Toddlers and Young Kids About Sex: Part 2

I'm so happy to welcome back our first Guest Blogger, Dr. Ashleigh Turner. Dr. Turner, DHS is a Clinical Sexologist, Sexual Health Educator, and all around sexual health nerd. This is part two in a two part series where Dr. Turner will discuss talking to your toddlers and young kids about sex.  Thanks so much to Dr. Turner for this important contribution!

What about Sex, Sexuality and Gender?
Sexual orientation, gender identity, gender roles, and biological sex are all
independent parts of sexual identity. Although they are related, they are
independent of one another; meaning we cannot use one to predict another. Here is
an example: If a baby is born, and it is determined that the biological sex is XY, we
know that the baby is biologically male. We cannot assume that his gender identity
is also male, or that because he is male his sexual attraction will be directed toward

I grew up wearing a lot of pink. By the age of two, I was already conditioned to
believe that pink was the colour for little girls, and colours like blue and green were
for little boys. This is one example of how gender stereotypes start very young. Most
experts will agree that it’s best to raise children in a gender-neutral way, and to
not use stereotypical sexuality. Instead, dress your child in many different colours
of clothes, and attempt to purchase gender-neutral toys (blocks, lego, etc.). I know
this can be difficult when friends or family members buy gifts; consider using a gift
registry for birthdays, or other events to help steer the well-intentioned towards
the gifts you want for your child. Don’t worry if your son decides he wants to wear
a dress; it may be a sign that he is experimenting with his gender, or it might just be
that he thought he looked good in the dress, both of which are perfectly normal.

How do I explain condoms to my children?
I love my job. I really do. I get to talk about sex all day long, and help keep people
feel comfortable with their bodies. But, there is one part of my job I don’t love. It’s
the part where I have to explain condoms to young children. Some people are just
plain rude when it comes to disposing of their condoms. Instead of throwing them
out, they leave them on the ground; at playgrounds, on the street, or anywhere else
where a young child might find them. To kids, they look like balloons, and they want
to pick them up. The best way to explain this is to be very matter of fact:
“Sometimes when adults love each other, they really love to have sex with each
other. Sometimes when they do this they use condoms. When polite people finish
using the condoms, they put their condoms into the garbage can. When people are
rude, they throw condoms out in schools, at the park, or at the beach where children
can find them. If you find one, it’s important not to pick it up. It’s sort of like picking
up tissues off of the ground. Instead, tell an adult who can clean it up.” (Adapted
from The New Speaking of Sex by Meg Hickling)

Final thoughts
A colleague of mine did something very sneaky with her daughter. She inserted Boys,Girls, and 
Body Science by Meg Hickling into her daughter’s nightly bedtime story
rotation. My colleague read the book to her daughter like it was a normal
story. Her daughter never thought anything of it. She loved the pictures, and would
happily point out the parts of the body along with the story. By inserting this book
into the rotation, sex became normalized. It wasn’t a big deal, and it made it easier to
talk about.

Sex is a tough discussion to start, but once it does, it becomes easier. Wouldn’t
you rather your child hear accurate and correct information from you, than from
another kid on the playground? I know I would! There is much more information I
could give, but my input is already quite long, and sex is a life-long discussion. Check
out the resources below for more helpful tips and information

The New Speaking of Sex by Meg Hickling is an invaluable resource for parents.
I would also recommend her book Boys, Girls, and Body Science to help you start
the discussion. The Public Library should have both of these books. If you’re lucky
enough to live in Vancouver, Kids Books on West Broadway usually has these books in
stock. I encourage parents to check out the library in their community, because they
typically have many sex-positive and age appropriate books available—and a lot of
the time they aren’t being borrowed all that often.

Dr Ashleigh Turner, DHS is a Clinical Sexologist, Sexual Health Educator, and all around sexual health nerd. Educating people about sex is a passion for Ashleigh, as she believes that sexual health knowledge is an imperative aspect to a healthy life. Her goal is to educate people on how to be sex positive, and decrease the shame and fear folks have around sex. In her ideal world, there would be no need for Sexologists, because the population would be open to sex being a healthy part of everyone’s life. When she’s not working on making the world more sex-positive, she spends her time watching hockey and football with her partner Justin, and her cat, Nat.  Dr. Turner can be found online at, on Facebook, and on Twitter!
Dr. Ashleigh Turner

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  1. Hey! Thanks for The sweet comment and follow! I'm following you back! I'm goig to follow all your other blogs too!! Have a wonderful weekend

  2. Thanks for sharing this great post. Thanks for stopping by and following. I'm your newest follower.

    Inspiring You To Save


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