Now talking about sex to your three year old is not going to be the same as if she/he was eight, thirteen, or eighteen. But it is a good place to start and get some things out of the way. It makes it easer to have the bigger talks when they are older. It lets both of you become comfortable with the idea of talking about it and actually having the conversation. The other part is that three year olds need to know some things.
It is a sad thing to say, but for some people a three year old is a sex object and they will prey on them. It is good to let your children know what is ok to touch or have touched as soon as possible. It is also important that children know the real names of their parts so that if some one does touch them then they can say, “So and So put his hand on my vagina”, instead of “he rubbed my kitty.” This is one of the biggest problems police have is that kids use slang words that their parents taught them to use. The police don’t know if the kid means that some one actually touched their penis or vagina or did they touch the kids pet cat, or bird.
So how do you start a conversation about sex with a three year old, and what do you talk to them about?
1) When potty training use the correct term for their bits, penis or vagina. I tend to use the word bum though, not anise. I started when I was changing their diapers, I would tell them I was cleaning their bum, or that is your penis or vagina. It is a very simple thing to do, and to be blunt what is the point of using some made up name or word; it is just going to confuse the kids latter on. It is funny because my three year old keeps saying it is her penis, and I have to keep reminding her that she has a vagina because she is a girl and that boys have a penis.
2) It is also easy to use potty time to mention that their bum and penis or vagina is their private area. This makes it easer for you to let them know that you have private areas as well and that your child needs to tell you if some one is touching your child on their private areas, or asking your child to look at or touch their private areas. Rule of thumb is that if your underwear covers it then it is a private area.
I have asked my three year old and four year old about if anyone has touched them. I was told that the daycare person was cleaning that area when my three year old went in the diaper or potty. She told me, she understood the concept of someone touching that area was something I needed to know. Now I completely expected that answer and have no concerns about the daycare workers as long as that is what her answer is. My 4 year old is expected to clean himself at daycare so if he told me someone was touching him on his private areas then we have a problem.
Today when he used the potty, I asked him for the first time if anyone has asked him to touch his or her private parts. He said no, and we talked about how he should say “No”. He is the one that came up with “No thank you, that’s yucky” and now he knows to tell me about it. It will take some time to get it to the point were he knows to tell everyone who will listen that “so and so” tried to get him to touch their private parts or tried to touch his. But the conversation has already started.
3) Bath time is also a great time to make sure you talk to your kids about what are the names of their parts and what are private parts. This is really great as you get them to wash. We have a story where our kids wash their toes and up to their heads. We go over each body part, and the kids wash. We always leave the private parts last, partly because it helps teach kids not to wash their bum and then their face, but to wash their bum last. It also re-enforces the names of their parts and what is ok and not ok. Like it is ok for them to wash them, but someone else should not be touching them.
4) Today in a public bathroom my daughter noticed a dispenser for pads and tampons. She asked what it was. I told her that it was a dispenser for pads and tampons that women use when on their periods. That was good enough for her, she was happy with that answer. I was happy that she asked and I was able to mention to her for the first time about pads, tampons and period. I know that over the years more opportunities will come and I will use them every chance I get. Especially if my kids open the conversation.
By talking with them now I am creating the groundwork for some real conversations latter on. If I don’t get them comfortable about talking to me now, why should they feel comfortable about talking to me about this type of stuff latter. The same goes for me, if I cannot become comfortable about talking to them about something as simple as what their body parts are called, how can I ever have a real talk about sex and every thing that comes with it with them.
I have to admit that part of the “this is a private part/area” conversation came about because my then two year old started hitting me on my breast and hit her dad in the “jewels” so we started using “no touch that is my private area” in self-defence. She still got a time out for hitting, but she also learned that there are some parts on Mom and Dad that she cannot just reach out and grab or hit. That is just as important for kids to know that as it is for them to know others should not be touching them in the same areas.