We live in the age of information. We also live in a hyper-sexualized era. Put those two together and you quickly realize there are ideas filtering through our cultural climate that you wouldn’t expect a seven-year-old should know.
The information kids receive can be upsetting, disturbing, confusing and unhealthy. It can also spark questions and curiosity. Often kids turn to unreliable and dangerous sources, like pornography, for answers.
One of the best ways parents can inoculate kids from turning to the internet with their questions is to have frequent, layered conversations about love, sex and intimacy in the home. Today we’ll discuss 7 essentials we think parents should include to help protect kids from the harms of pornography and sexual predators.
Our read-aloud books make room for more conversation
Parents tell us one of the reasons they love the Good Pictures Bad Pictures books is that these books allow you to teach young children to reject pornography without broaching the subject of sex.
That’s because we know parents want to bring up the topic of sex in their own way and according to their child’s needs. We think parents are the best people to teach their kids about sex. As you read on, please consider the points below as guidelines around which you can frame your family values.
7 essentials your seven-year-old should know about love and sex
1. A seven-year-old should be able to name all their body parts (and know how special their body is)
In Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. kids learn, “every part of your body is good, including private parts. But taking pictures of them is not good”
Young children are fascinated by how the body works. Parents can capitalize on a child’s inquisitive nature by helping them identify the correct names of all their body parts (private and not private) from a very young age.
When kids know that every part of their body is important it helps them develop a good self-image and have greater respect for others. Knowing the correct names of body parts can also help protect children from sexual abuse! For more information please read, 3 Big Red Flags of Sexual Abuse
Giving kids the correct vocabulary to express themselves promotes health and safety. Think about it, a child should feel as comfortable telling their parents, “My vagina is hurting” as they would “I scratched my elbow”.
Tip: Remind kids that the one of the most amazing parts of their body is the brain. This helps kids focus on more than just physical appearance. That’s why I love this scene from the The Help:
2. A seven-year-old should know where babies come from
Once children learn the correct names of their body, it’s a pretty natural transition to talk about where babies come from. Remember this doesn’t need to be tackled in just one sitting. Find out what your child knows first. Then help them fill in missing details.
Some kids naturally ask, others won’t. I had one like that. Finally I said, “Ok you’re old enough that you might hear kids at school spreading some strange ideas about sex. Let’s make sure you’ve got the facts straight.”
I asked him what he knew. He had some general concepts that when pieced together would have made a strange looking baby. LOL! But with a bit of prodding, we talked about not just the scientific facts (sperm meets eggs) but also, what it means to be in love, married and creating a family.
3. A seven-year-old can know that moms and dads have sex
When I was seven, I’m pretty sure I convinced myself that babies automatically appeared when people got married. My parents had four kids, so logically they must have been married four times! Funny then, but today I might have Googled the answer!
Of course kids shouldn’t know intimate details of their parent’s sex life. But they can know that parents do have sex. It’s even Ok that kids know sex is an expression of married love. This will help kids understand that there is an appropriate time and place for sexual intimacy in relationships.
And when kids know their parents have sex it helps remove any shame or embarrassment kids might feel about the subject of sex. Which means they’ll be more likely to go to their parents with questions they have, rather than look for information in secret.
4. A seven-year-old should know about different kinds of love (friends, family, romance)
This year my 9-year-old son received a note from a secret admirer. It read, “I ❤︎ U … and have since second grade!”
I wasn’t sure if my son would be flattered or run for the hills. Either way, this was serious business. Plus we had the tender feelings of a young girl to consider. I used this as an opportunity to talk to my son about girls, crushes and different kinds of love.
My son and I were pretty certain we knew who his admirer was.
“Well this girl that seems to like you a lot.” I said. “What do you think about that?” He let out a big sigh and then blurted, “The girls all think they should have a boyfriend mom! That’s stupid!”
After a fun chat we decided at his age its good to have girls that are your friends (‘cause girls are cool, too!). But they don’t need to be your girlfriend. Then we continued to talk about why (when he’s much older), it will make sense to date and maybe even have a girlfriend …one day!
5. A seven-year-old should know why love should always be a part of sex
Whoa, whoa, whoa! …Already?
Actually, this is the number one reason your kids need you to talk to them about sex. That’s because 99% of the information your kids will gather about sex outside your home will fail to acknowledge that love is even a consideration!
At school, your kids might learn about sex through the lens of biology, anatomy, social studies, health, consent, contraception, gender identity, etc. But most schools won’t touch on love and the emotional consequences (good and bad) that come with the act of sex.
We live in a cultural environment that promotes sex as something separate and distinct from love. It’s important that children learn from their parents that relationships grow over time. And that sex should be reserved for adults, like moms and dads, who know they love each other very much.
Imagine the instances of sexual exploitation that would be avoided if more people grasped this concept!
6. A seven-year-old should know why pornography is bad
In today’s digital reality parents cannot control when or how their child could be exposed to all sorts of highly sexualized imagery. By age seven your child is ready sit down with you and have a serious conversation about pornography. We know that can feel like a daunting task, which is exactly why we recommend Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids as way to get the conversation going.
In this beautifully written and illustrated picture book parents and children learn together:
- How to define and recognize pornography
- How pornography acts like a magnet to look again
- How pornography tricks the brain into addiction
- How to help your brain reject pornography
When parents talk to children about pornography it’s good to mention that all humans deserve to be loved and treated with kindness. Pornography is the opposite of love. It takes something that is meant to be good and turns it into something very bad.
Read a success story here of a mom who taught her seven-year-old how to reject pornography.
7. A seven-year-old should know where to go to find ANY answer about love and sex
In an earlier post, Will I Rob My Child’s Innocence If I start talking about the Dangers of Porn, Kristen explained:
“In children, we often equate innocence with ignorance. We don’t want them to have to know about “adult” topics. But unfortunately children are at risk of pornography exposure from a young age. Keeping them ignorant of those dangers means they have no way to protect themselves from their own curiosity!
Kids can find information about anything at the click of a button. As parents it’s our job to give them real knowledge on important subjects. When parents speak appropriately about love and sex at home, kids learn to trust that mom and dad have answers to their questions even before they ask.
Become the expert for your kids
It’s hard to believe that by age seven your little one is starting to express more independence. Social interactions occur more frequently through school and playdates. For many kids at this age their access to the internet is expanding.
That said, every child has different needs. So don’t fret if you haven’t started having these conversations yet (I was a late bloomer). Today is always a good day to start!
Talking in age appropriate ways about love and sex in your child’s formative years establishes a safe place for your kids to talk as they grow up and have more sophisticated questions. If your kids learn to see you as the expert today, they will trust you as the expert tomorrow too!