Ages & Stages of Healthy Childhood Sexual Development
How does a parent, caregiver, or educator know what is typical, healthy childhood sexual development and behavior?
What are typical childhood curiosity-related activities, and what are warning signs of abuse or trauma?
What do children need to learn to develop into sexually healthy adults, and at what ages do we teach them?
These are some of the questions that caring adults grapple with as they seek to guide children along their path to adulthood. The answers to these questions have not been easy to find. When my colleagues across the country told me that they need a tool to share with parents and educators that outlines healthy childhood sexual development, I took on the challenge of gathering and organizing the information to create such a tool.
As I searched for information on the topic of typical sexual development in childhood, I learned that finding information on this topic is challenging. Since most adults want to believe that children are asexual and innocent, it has been difficult for researchers to study healthy childhood sexuality. Parents and organizations that work with children have not been willing to give permission for children to participate in studies. Therefore, most of the research on childhood sexuality is based on children who have experienced child abuse. The resulting information is slanted toward describing child sexual behaviors that are alarming rather than behaviors that are normal.
Nevertheless, after reviewing many sources of information, I was able to gather plenty of helpful information about childhood sexual development. From these sources, I developed a set of charts that outline the following:
- Typical behavior,
- Behavior that may indicate a problem,
- What children need to learn for healthy development, and
- How Puberty: The Wonder Years™ helps teach children what they need for healthy development.
Healthy Childhood Sexual Development Charts
These three charts provide guidance for parents, caregivers, and educators on ways to promote healthy childhood sexual development:
- Ages and Stages of Sexual Development: Ages 5 to 8: Middle Childhood
- Ages and Stages of Sexual Development: Ages 9 to 12: Late Childhood
- Promoting Healthy Sexual Development: Ages 9 to 12: Late Childhood
These resources aim to help adults who are committed to helping children navigate their curiosity without feeling shamed. They can also be a resource for adults who wonder if they should be concerned about a child’s behavior or accept it as normal. Finally, these resources make a case for schools to take on the task of partnering with parents in educating children about puberty and relationships, a foundation for developing into a sexually healthy adult. Read more.
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