Understanding Your Child's Growing Sexualityby Carle O'Neil, Waln Brown
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Children learn by watching, by listening, by questioning and by formal instruction. Curiosity about sexuality is a focus of interest in childhood, especially during the teens. An important and at times difficult challenge for parents is to be instructive about sexuality. Adding to the challenge are the misinformation, confusion, mystery and taboos that surround this topic.
Parents must have accurate knowledge about sexuality. They also should be confident and at ease with the topic. Likewise, it is desirable that parents be clear about their own sexual values. Lack of accurate information, as well as uncertainty about how to instruct their children in this area, can prove frustrating to parents and confusing to their children.
To complicate matters further, "abnormal" sexuality has received far more attention than has its "normal" counterpart. Perhaps this is in part due to the mistaken belief that openly discussing human sexuality may encourage "bad" sexual behavior. As a result, millions of parents get by on bits and pieces of folklore, partial truths and false information. All the while, they speak of the subject in guarded terms often couched in guilt, especially in conversations with their children.
The recent rise in responsible scientific study of childhood and adolescent sexuality is welcome by some and disfavored by others. However, these studies have led to a growing knowledge about juvenile sexuality, helping to dispel the myths and confusion of the past. While there is still much to add to this body of knowledge, we now have reliable information about the sexuality of young people.
Some parents fear their child's emerging sexuality. Unsure of themselves or embarrassed by the topic, they may turn silent or make threatening responses, leaving their offspring to gather information on their own. Children are perceptive of parental attitudes. Avoidance of the topic or gestures of distaste or silence in response to questions are powerful ways to communicate to children that sexuality is not open to discussion.
What are "normal" sexual impulses for children to have? At what ages do these impulses begin? From where do they originate? How should they be regarded, explained, controlled, forbidden? What does a concerned parent need to know? How do parents understand and teach their children about the functions of their bodies and guide them toward the fulfillment of responsible adult sexuality?
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