House Calls

WIN 2019

House Calls Magazine is a quarterly publication that focuses on health and wellness. It includes a wide assortment of articles with topics on the latest health and wellness information, nutrition, safety, lifestyles, and more.

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for the family K ids are a curious bunch, and their bodies are a source of endless fascination. Babies suck their thumbs and squeeze their toes; toddlers marvel at their belly buttons. And as little ones grow and start asking questions about their various parts, parents should be prepared to have ongoing chats with them about body changes and sexuality. "Now more than ever, parents need to have open, frank discussions about sexual development," says Dr. Jennifer Fisher, a Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated OB/GYN. "You want to give your kids correct information before they are misinformed." Children who don't learn about "the birds and the bees" from their parents or caregivers will likely turn to other sources, including their friends and the Internet, where inaccuracies abound. "Rather than having a one-time talk with your children about sex, conversations should be ongoing and age-appropriate," notes Dr. Fisher, a mother of two, ages 10 and 2. "For example, as infants, you can teach them proper anatomical terms for private parts." (See sidebar at right for an age-by-age guide.) Some parents worry that talking to their kids about sex will make them more likely to engage in risky behavior, but, in fact, the opposite is true. Arming your children with accurate information about their bodies can improve their physical and emotional health, reduce their risk for sexual abuse, and help prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, Dr. Fisher explains. "Talk to your kids about sex and sexuality in a calm, shame-free way," she recommends. "Having those discussions—even if kids don't say much—will give them an advantage when confronted with peer pressure or when caught in a risky situation." And the earlier the discussions start, the better. "If you wait to have such talks until kids' teen years, they're more likely to feel self-conscious or think they already know everything," Dr. Fisher says. That said, she adds, it's never too late to open the lines of communication. About Those Birds & Bees… A Roper St. Francis OB/GYN offers modern-day tips for talking about sex and sexuality with your children – B Y C A R O L I N E F O S S I Talking Points Though there's no strict timeline on when to start teaching kids about sexual development, here are some general guidelines: Birth-age 2: As tots are learning to talk, teach them proper names for their body parts. Just as we point out noses and toes, we can label private parts such as "penis" and "vagina." "Studies show that teaching children the correct terminology for their genitalia can help minimize their risk of sexual abuse," says Dr. Fisher. Ages 2-5: Most toddlers and preschoolers can grasp the concept of consent and respect for others' bodies. Talk to them about what sort of touching is appropriate and what's not. Be sure they know it's OK to tell someone that they don't want to be hugged or kissed—and to respect others when they voice the same. Ages 6-8: Conversations about puberty should start by age 7 or 8, says Dr. Fisher. "That's when kids become especially attuned to their changing bodies but aren't yet embarrassed to talk to their parents about it." Explain that these discussions should stay within your family, and that it's not your child's job to educate other kids. 4 Ages 9-11: Adolescents are mature enough to learn the basics of gender identity, sex, and reproduction, notes Dr. Fisher. 5 Ages 12+: Young teens should learn about safe sex and birth control. Even if you encourage abstinence, there's no guarantee your teen won't have sex. (Almost 40 percent of U.S. high school students are sexually active, according to a 2017 survey by the CDC.) Talk to your teens in a judgement-free way, and remember to have ongoing discussions, says Dr. Fisher. 12 { winter 2019 } h o u s e c a l l s

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