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Let's Talk Month: Talking to Tots

Monday, October 17, 2016

By: Erin Johnson, Chief Community Investment Officer

Oh. With a period.

Not, “Oh!”

Or, “Oh?”

Or even an, “Oooooohh.”

It was just, “Oh.” This is how my 4-year-old daughter responded when I told her sometimes men marry men and women marry women.

As a parent, I am doing all I can now to avoid sitting my future pre-teen down for a forced lecture about "the birds and the bees." Our children are learning things at a faster pace because of how easy answers are to find and how mature they must be to deal with incredibly difficult topics. I may think my child is the smartest kid in her class, but she is not just learning what is being taught in the classroom.  She is learning what is being said on the playground as well.

I want to be the first person to tell my children about love, sex and relationships. My husband and I are very aware that we are modeling what she will believe is a healthy relationship when she gets older. She needs to understand that we can have a dialogue that is open and honest way before she comes home from school and tells me what she heard. My strategy is simple: whenever she has a question, I answer it.  They’re called “teachable moments,” and I take advantage of every one that I find. For example, while taking a bath, I told her why she is the only one who can touch her vagina and bottom. When she gets her feelings hurt at school, we talk about the importance of being a good friend and how good friends accept us for who we are. When she is her typical 4-year-old self and (loudly!) asks questions about every person she sees when we are in public, I talk with her about how sometimes a man might have long hair or how bodies come in all shapes, sizes and colors. When we are picking out clothes, I remind her that there is no such thing as "boy colors" or "girl colors."

I would rather my child have too much information than be clueless. I also don’t want to have to fix a lie I told her when she was four. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I am freaked out when I am talking to her about these things, but I would rather her hear answers from me. I am not going to wait to have "the talk," when there can be a conversation whenever she needs it. 

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