Continuing SRH-Talks: Ages 6-8
As children mature, the amount of detail you go into changes. Children are always looking to trusted adults for guidance – use this as an opportunity to inform your child before they get the information from somewhere else. A well-rounded SRH-education will help your child in making informed decisions as they become more independent.
Be prepared to answer a lot more in-depth questions. Allow your child to express themselves freely and process the information in their own time. Maintain a level of honesty, stick to the facts and repeat yourself as many times as necessary. Check-in with your child and ask them about their understanding and feeling on what you’ve discussed.
Ease into it – If you find the conversation is becoming too overwhelming, take a breather and re-visit the topic later. Remember, effective SRH-education is achieved over years not a few days.
Carrying on with our age-by-age guide on SRH-talks, below we have listed some of the appropriate points to be highlighted when talking to children of ages 6-8 years.
Understanding Bodies: By this point, your child should have an understanding of their own anatomy. Here is where you can go deeper into the internal reproductive organs and start talking about hormones. Discuss how bodies change as we age, and how everyone’s body develops differently at a pace that is normal for them. You may mention how your child will eventually go through puberty. Specific details can be saved for when your child is older and beginning to experience the pubertal changes. However, do keep in mind that some children may exhibit signs of puberty early on.These changes can be particularly stressful for children, and they will likely need extra support during this time.
- Hygiene: By this age group, many children have started exploring their bodies and understand how it feels to touch certain parts. Highlight safe practices with regards to private self-exploration, and how to take care of one’s body – genitals, hair, skin, everything!
- Developing Compassion: Though a child of this age group may not experience drastic social changes, they are still vulnerable to the beginnings of peer pressure and idea of needing to look a certain way. Promoting positive body-image, self-love and compassion towards others is vital. Remind your child that every body is unique and everyone experiences things differently. There is no one “right” or “normal” way to present oneself or be.
- Boundaries Boundaries Boundaries: This doesn’t just apply to sexual and romantic relationships, but is a layered and complex topic that needs to continuously be discussed. We often feel things in our bodies – when nervous, we may feel our chest tighten; when happy or excited, we may feel butterflies in our belly. Teaching your child this concept of physically holding emotions and instincts is important in establishing a level of self-talk in your child. When a child clearly knows how they feel about situations, they can act accordingly and make informed decisions. This helps children navigate the often overwhelming physical and social milestones of growing up. Practicing assertiveness and negotiation can teach your child to effectively and appropriately communicate their needs, enabling them to deal with any conflicts or emotional backlashes.
- Reproduction: Continue building a familiarity with reproduction and present this information as a normal, healthy practice within adult life, when planning a family. Here is where you can introduce your own values regarding SRH and dive deeper into the biology behind the process.
- Love & Relationships: Children often start hearing the terms “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” at this age and at times, they may use these words to tease each other. This is a good starting point for beginning the discussion on different types of relationships and love. Discuss how love is expressed differently, between families, friends and partners. Explain simply how people are attracted to different genders and the relevant sexual identities. It is important to set positive examples regarding relationships at a young age – show your child that they deserve to have supportive relationships.
- Digital Safety: Regardless of whether your child uses the internet under supervision, clear rules on how to conduct oneself online need to be established. Unfortunately, uninformed children are vulnerable to online dangers. The lesson of “stranger danger” needs to be maintained for both online and in-person interactions. Discuss privacy and respect when online. No strangers should be asking for photos or personal information. If anything makes your child feel uncomfortable, tell them to approach you. Maintain a level of calm and reassure your child that should anything happen, you will protect them instead of punishing them. It is likely that your child will stumble across pornography at some point – informing them that they may see some “adult content” beforehand and what to do when that happens, will help make the experience less confusing. Don’t present pornography as something bad but rather state that these are “grown-up sights where people do grown-up things, they aren’t meant for you”.
- Sexual Abuse & Harassment: Building on previous conversations of consent and “no-touch” zones, now is the time where your child can be introduced to the more explicit topics of sexual abuse and harassment. This conversation needs to be handled with care, as it can be particularly upsetting. Always, always, always state that if your child finds themselves in a situation where they or a friend may be in danger, they need to come to you and that no harm will come to them as a result. Abusers often manipulate vulnerable children into thinking that if they tell anyone else about these “secret games” they or their families will get hurt, or they will be punished. Your child needs to know that this isn’t true and that you are there to protect and help them. It also needs to be highlighted that oftentimes, cases of abuse occur at home. Reiterate that your child has a right to say no to someone touching them.