Child Sexual Development

Parents want their children to have healthy, happy relationships with their spouses when they become adults, yet many feel uncomfortable when they see signs of sexual development in their child. Sexual development is part of a child's normal growth. It is important for parents to be aware of the changes that their children are going through and provide appropriate information and education. A child who does not get satisfactory answers from his or her parents will look for information in all the wrong places: playmates, a friend's older sibling, or social media.

Sexual development starts during infancy, when a baby begins to explore his or her body and become aware of gender differences. As a child grows, self-awareness and curiosity increases, and he or she begins to ask questions. Young children need to be given simple, honest explanations and correct terminology. Sexual curiosity is part of normal development. Without judgment or criticism, children need to be taught to respect and interact appropriately with each other. 

Teach your child what to expect before he or she reaches puberty. If talking is uncomfortable, you can provide your child with reading materials and then answer questions. Since sex education in schools is usually limited to one gender, explain what happens to both boys and girls as they mature.  

Adolescents develop more intimate friendships and often experience crushes or romantic feelings for each other. These experiences are important preparation for adult life. Teens need opportunities to interact socially, do things together and in groups, and develop relationships. They also need parents to set appropriate limits, guide them through emotional ups and downs, teach them to resolve conflicts, and offer support.  

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