You're listening to Voices of Your Village. This is episode 185. I got to hang out with Rebecca Koon from Everybody Talks and it was so much fun. We are chatting all about body exploration and what to expect from the tiny humans. What is normal typical behavior? And how do we respond? What might come up for us? Maybe from our childhood or our cultural norms and what do we do with all those feelings, our big adult feelings around this jazz because it can be really uncomfortable if we are trying to raise kids in a way that's different than we were raised. Maybe there were shame or judgment or simply silence around body exploration for you culturally growing up, maybe that didn't work and you would like to do something differently. We're going to chat about what that looks like and how we can support the tiny humans. I had so much fun with this conversation because I felt like Rebecca really got it, for me, at least, in a way of like, man this is so different than what I grew up with, and I want to do it differently. And also there's discomfort and unknowns, and it was just such a rad convo. So, thank you, Rebecca for that. And folks, I'm jazzed for you to get to dive into this one with us. Alright, let's dive in.
Welcome to Voices of Your Village, a place where parents, caregivers, teachers and experts come to support one another on this wild ride of raising tiny humans. We combined decades of experience with the latest research to create the modern parenting village. Let's dive into honest conversation about real parenting challenges, so it doesn't have to be this hard. I'm your host, Alyssa Blask Campbell.
Hey everyone. Welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today I get to hang out with Rebecca Koon from Everybody Talks. How are you today, Rebecca?
I am great. Thanks so much for having me.
Yeah, I'm jazzed to get to hang out with you. Can you share with our village a bit about kind of what brought you to this work and your background.
Yeah, totally. I have been a sexuality educator for about 12 years now, and I started out working with high schoolers, and adolescents. And then when I had my own kiddo, who's 8 now, I really started to realize that there's just like not that many resources out there for for parents and caregivers of younger kids, and we really neglect sex, ed until like puberty basically. And so I wanted to take my background as a sex educator and my knee Need as a parent and the need that I was seeing in my, you know, community of other parents that I was talking to and working with and sort of mash. Those two things together to create a resource that would help myself but also other families out there in the world.
I love that. I think that's rad. Yeah, there aren't a whole lot of tools. I think it's one of those things that there are so many of us I think that grew up with, well sex wasn't, if it was even addressed, wasn't addressed until later that like the idea of sex ed or support in early childhood, or for our younger kiddos for this wouldn't have even crossed folks minds, right? Like my parents were like, no tabling that discussion to never, right?
So I think that a lot of this to might feel new for our generation, navigating conversations with kids that maybe we didn't have with our parents or caregivers.
Absolutely. I feel like that's so right on and there there is so much sort of shame and stigma around sexuality, still in our culture. Especially I mean I imagine you have listeners all over the world but especially in the U.S you know, we really have those puritanical roots and there's still a lot of shame and stigma around sexuality and then you're absolutely right that a lot nof parents of young kids now just didn't grow up with good models and so they know they want to do better than their parents did for them but they don't always know how to do it. And so I think it's great that there are like new resources and people cropping up all over now who are saying this is really important and we need to support parents and you know, no judgment like for people not knowing how to talk about this stuff. I think the other thing too is that like there's a mindset shift, right? Like we have to, we have to realize that kids are sexual beings from the time, they're born, that actually we're all sexual people from the time were born until the time that we die. And so I feel like that's a real sort of perspective shift that we once we can really integrate that, then we start to realize how important it actually is to talk about these things from a super young age.
Yeah, let's chat about that for a minute, because like, I had a part of me initially came up. It was like, hmm my like, two-year-old here is not a sexual being in the same way that like a 22 year-old is, right? So can we dive into, like, what do you mean by, they are sexual beings from the get go to the time they die?
Yeah, that's such a good question. And you're right, that your two-year-old is not a sexual being in the same way that a 22 year-old is. Child sexuality is different than adult sexuality. And I think that's really important because when we understand that it helps us be more comfortable with childrens sexuality because we're not interpreting it through an adult lens or like putting our own meaning on to childhood sexual behaviors. But I think, you know, when we're thinking about childhood sexuality, we're thinking about things like, you know, using correct anatomical names for body parts, we're thinking about teaching body boundaries and consent. We're thinking about normalizing curiosity around bodies. And actually, one of the things that I teach in my programs is to think about, sexuality more holistically than just what's going on with physical bodies, right? So actually sexuality is its physical, yes, but it also has the social component, it has cultural components, it has emotional components, right? It's not just the sort of nuts and bolts of puberty and how babies are made. And those types of things that we often think about educating older kids about, it's also about like, who we are in our relationships, and how we feel about our gender and our body image and physical sensations of touch. And those are all things that even little kids experience, right? Like, kids are really aware of gender from the time, they're toddlers or like, you know we all know that the relationship that we form with our babies is like a foundational part of them learning, what mature intimate relationships look like as they grow, right? So I think when I say sexuality is a part of a kid's life from the time they're born, I'm talking about those all of those things, right? The like the parts that are innate to all of us in terms of our relationships, our gender, our physical bodies.
Totally. I think that's so helpful to break down because, you know, there's that initial, at least there was a part of it for me the initial reaction that was like an adultification of kids, right, the like placement of like...This little girl came up into my head my first year of teaching preschool. She was 3 or 4 years old and every single day, for nap time before naptime she would masturbate and then fall asleep. And I remember like I was like 21 at the time, teaching my first year and I was like, I don't know what to do with this! I'm not prepared and I luckily had a co-teacher who was prepared and I remember like having those conversations with her parent who was really nervous about it and like, what does this mean and how do I stop it and all that jazz. And I again feel grateful for that co-teacher, who like guided that discussion because I would have been like yeah I got nothing here like this is outside my comfort zone and my expertise and yeah, I came from a house where like there was just no discussion of bodies and I'm the only girl with four brothers. And so even down to like, I remember my mom handing me a thing of tampons and I just tried to, like, rocket it up like as if like gravity- like it would be sucked up into my vagina, turns out you just waste a lot of tampons that way.
And it hurts, not super comfortable.
Not even close enough that it was like going in anywhere, I was just like get it close and it'll be just like like a vacuum was gonna suck it up.
Oh my God, I love that.
Yeah, so solid. So needless to say at 21 I wasn't entering this like three-year-old masturbation discussion with the tools that I needed to support this parent. And but so, when this came up, like she's the first one that popped into my head of now when I look back on it like oh, we were applying. I was applying and I think her mom was as well applying like our adult narratives to what was happening.
And so I'm so glad you brought that up that like differentiation of like it's not the same for them as it is for us as we're talking about these things and just the how important it is to also name parts anatomically correct and all that jazz again, something that I didn't grow up with and like I totally agree with and see the value in and have to like actively use correct terms.
Like I have to think about it.
Yeah, it takes practice for sure, especially if we didn't grow up that way and I feel like, you know, in some ways engaging in this work, as I'm sure you talk about with your emotional intelligence work too, where as we're parenting our children we're really re parenting ourselves, which is so powerful. And so I love that. And I think it's okay to like feel uncomfortable, especially if you grew up in a house where that wasn't the norm and maybe you have to practice in the mirror or you have to practice with a co-parent or another adult to be able to say you know, vulva and penis out loud without feeling uncomfortable about it. And that's okay. Like, I don't want people to feel like this is sort of an all-or-nothing thing like they have to get it right from the get-go because it's it's not we get to practice and the good thing is that, you know, I think a lot of us, another disservice that a lot of us grew up with is just having like one or two big talks, right? Right. And actually, we need to be having these talks like all the time as part of our everyday life with our kid and the good news about the, I think sometimes that can feel really overwhelming to parents. But the good news about it is that, that means you have so many opportunities to practice and to get it right and to, like, mess up and go back and fix it. So, yeah, it's not this like high-pressure perfection thing. It's like no, we get to grow up alongside our kids and, and figure it out together.
Yeah and I'm just I'm laughing because I had a similar experience, with a toddler, or, like, a three-year-old masturbating before I was trained as a sex educator, I was a nanny for a three, and a five year old, and I was on the bus with them one day, and the three-year-old was just like, full-on like panties off in a dress, like masturbating in front of the whole bus. And I was like, I am not equipped! I don't know how to handle this!
I need more tools, help I need them right now!
So, I mean, maybe we should, since we've mentioned masturbation among like preschoolers, specifically? Yeah, let's talk about like, what a good response to that situation would be. So, first of all, I think I would say like, like you were saying, try not to interpret that through an adult lens. Like probably that kid is not doing that for sexual gratification in the same way that an adult or an older child might it's really more about self soothing and like body curiosity. So just having that awareness first of all I think is really helpful and then in terms of how to actually respond to it if you see your child doing that, there's a couple of things. One is to like remain calm and try not to, try to like keep an even tone of voice and just be like really light and casual about it because our kids you know pick up on our facial expressions and our body language and our tone and so if we freak out then they're going to interpret even if our words are saying like that's normal, they're going to interpret that there's something shameful or wrong about it if we can't self-regulate around that so like that might be some self work that people need to do before they find themselves in this situation. So that's the number one thing is like just keep keep as calm as you can and then normalize the behavior but also set boundaries around it. So saying something like you know, I know it can feel really good to touch your vulva and that's something that we do in private. So you know, like in the case of the bus situation like let's wait until we get home and do that, and let's see if we can find another way to self-soothe in the meantime. Like what else, what other body touch could you do that's appropriate in public. That is still going to feel good, right? So sort of redirecting without shaming and and really just making it clear even little kids can understand the difference between public and private. And so just reiterating like this is normal. Your curiosity is normal. You're like touching your own body is normal the pleasure you feel from doing that is normal. It's okay. And it's something that you don't do, we do that in private. So like, would you like to go to your room? Would you like to go to the bathroom?
I love that. Yeah, giving them what they can do. I think, is so huge there and a couple things came up for me as you were chatting, one little, dude, who I had again early in teaching preschool, who would just like hands down his pants any chance you'd like turn around and we'd be like bud, where can you touch your penis? In the bathroom or at nap time?
And he would go but Miss Alyssa, just a little bit? I'd be like no bud, a little bit in the bathroom or at naptime not in block area.
Just a little bit, love it so much.
It's so good and it happens so young and I think like that's the part that when I was first working with kids, really caught me off guard that I wasn't, that I really didn't feel prepared for and then even as I went younger and found my home in toddlerhood, I like man kids, our sleep consultant actually was just sharing a story of her kiddo who like once he could walk like in down dog, with one hand holding his penis, while the other hand is keeping him in down dog, and I was like that's skill like it's a lot of balance.
That's some like really good balance. I wish I could do that.
Yeah. But just like how early like touch was happening and exploration and that came up for me. But then also I think there's so much relief in knowing like even if in that moment you're not fully self regulated and you botch this and you got to come back to it, like kids are going to give you opportunities to come back to it if they're good at anything, it is giving us opportunities to do this again, with so many situations. And yeah, that, you know, we talked about this, a lot in our village to really focus on re parenting and regulation, and our own work and that it's okay if you mess that up and you come back. And you can own that like, wow, I was surprised, you know, like, when I saw you touching your vulva I felt surprised and I felt my body get tense and I wanted to have this conversation again and wanted to share something else with you.
I love that. And thank you for saying that too because I definitely don't want anyone listening who may have reacted that way in the past to feel, to judge themselves for that, so yeah, thank you for for saying, I think it's so important.
Yeah. It's just I think a relief man. We don't have to do this right all the time.
Totally. Oh my gosh, can you imagine like nobody does.
No that's not real but still we somehow hold ourselves to the standard a lot.
I mean even me, like I've been doing this work for a really long time and even sometimes my eight-year-old does something and I'm like well I botched that situation.
Coming back to round two here. Yeah, that was something, we interviewed my friend Trystan Reese at the very beginning this podcast, almost three years ago now, for folks who are interested, it's episode 13 and it was on gender, and one of the things that he said, was like you get to have this conversation every day if you want,when it comes to gender, like it's going to come up all of the time and you're going to blow it a lot of the time. And that's okay too. And I was just like, gosh, it's so comforting.
Totally. Oh my gosh. Totally. Yeah sometimes we just like, need to hear out loud that permission or like recognition that none of us are ever going to do this work perfectly.
Yeah. Well, it's tough. It's tough. When it's like, it feels like it's these big things especially if it's something we didn't get, you know, like talking about sexuality or talking about race with kids or somebody reached out the other day. I was doing a live workshop and there was a Q and A at the end and they were like, what do we do when our kid, like calls somebody fat? And I'm like, well first, we notice, we're having a lot of feelings about that. A lot of fear, a lot of fearof that person's feelings. You know, like there's these are so big and these things are so, and these conversations I feel like can feel like we have to nail it.
And we don't. Yeah they do feel so high stakes though, you're right. And I think I actually I mean I don't love the fact that people feel anxious but I think that it's like a it's a positive sign that people are are really invested in doing it right, you know. Like we wouldn't feel so anxious, if we didn't care so much about doing a good job.
Totally. Totally. I agree. So when it comes to like setting boundaries around body exploration without shame, as we're looking at like, you know, that I would say probably toddlerhood, preschool and beyond what, what are some like appropriate boundaries. What does that look like?
Yeah, that's such a good question. I mean, I think there are a couple that I would say, are universal boundaries that are like safety issues that really every kid should know. And then there are some that are going to be like family dependent and really based on comfort levels around nudity and privacy and all of those things. So I mean the first one that I would say is a universal one is making sure kids know that it's not okay for anyone to touch their genitals or for them to touch anybody else's genitals with the exception of an adult, a trusted adult who has a good reason, and a good reason, would be a health or a hygiene reason. And that if that's the case, it should never be a secret and it should never make them feel icky. So that's the that's like the biggest sort of universal body boundary that I would say all kids need to know from a young age and then also this is this is a little bit like getting in to sort of sexual abuse land which were not really talking about today, but I think having a family rule that you don't keep secrets is really important.
I love that.
Yeah. So, and the way, you can differentiate that with little kids is there's a difference between a surprise and a secret. So surprises are okay because they're things that eventually people will know about and that usually make people feel good and secrets are not okay, and especially secrets from parents and caregivers are not okay. And the big reason for that is that when we look at child predators and grooming behaviors one of the first things that child predators will do when they're grooming a child, is to have them keep a secret and it'll be a really innocuous secret. Like, I'm going to give you a cookie, but you can't tell your mom, right? And so they're sort of testing to see whether the child is vulnerable. And so if the child's, and they've actually done research with child predators and ask them sort of how they select targets and who they groom. And one of the things that they said was, you know, if they ask a child to keep a secret and the child says, no, we have a family secrets rule, we don't keep secrets, then the predator will move on to another child.
Yeah, too high-risk.
Yeah, exactly. And also, same thing with knowing anatomically correct body part names, that's actually a really important safety thing because, predators know that if children know anatomically correct names for their body parts, they probably come from a household where they're having body safety conversations, and it's, they're too high risk of a target. The other thing is about that, that if your child, let's say that you call your kids, vulva, I don't know a cookie, right? And then heaven forbid, they are the victim of sexual abuse and they try to disclose that to you or to another trusted adult. And they say, like, so and so touched my cookie, you'll be like or maybe you wouldn't because you would know what the word was. But if they disclose that to a teacher or another adult outside of your family who maybe didn't know that vocabulary, you know? So it just puts them at risk.
Totally, it doesn't send up any red flags for that teacher.
Yeah, that makes sense.
Those are like the two big universal boundaries, is not touching other people's privates, and no one's allowed to touch yours and then you don't keep secrets the other boundaries I'd say, like I said before, sort of more family and context-dependent, but some really common ones are around nudity and especially with little kids like they haven't yet learned the sort of social norms around when it's okay to be naked and when it's not and so for their own safety, you know you want to distinguish between public and private and make sure that they know that like it's okay to be naked in private but not in public. But different families are going to have different comfort levels around that, right? Like you might be like my kid can be naked anywhere in the house as long as only the people who live in the house are present or you might be like, no, we're only naked in our rooms or in our in the bathroom or whatever so you can kind of decide as a family what feels good to you around that. As long as it's clear to the kid what those rules are.
That makes sense. I like that that provides like freedom for cultural differences and all that as well. Yeah, you know, one thing that like has stuck out to me, my husband, I was just having a discussion about last summer was putting a, because my mom had found my bikini which I called my zoo-kini from when I was three that I loved and she found it and she was just like oh cleaning out. Like do you want this? And I was like, I mean we'll take it because that's fun for me, but I actually was like I dont think I would put it on a child because I was having feelings about like, why would I cover up a zoo-kini sized child, like a two or three year old child nipples based on gender, right? And we had a discussion about it because it was like something that both of us grew up where we were in cultures where that would have happened and it did happen and just like, kind of questioning that for myself and not to say that, like I don't care what anybody else does there. But I started to notice like mmm that feels uncomfortable for me.
And so I'm glad that like in the nudity discussion that there is freedom to figure out what feels right for your family unit and that as long as that's universal and the kid knows the boundaries and all that jazz that there's freedom there.
Yeah, absolutely. And the other thing about that is too, that like as your child gets older and becomes more aware of the social norms around when it's okay to be naked and when it's not, they're going to sort of make different choices around when they're comfortable exposing their body and when they're not probably. So it'll like, self-correct I guess.
Totally and that's what I kind of figured. I was like there's going to come an age where they're going to be like no I want to I want to wear this whether it's covering up their nipples at the beach or not, they're going to be like, this is what I want to wear, but as long as I'm dressing them. Yeah, I was like I that didn't feel comfortable for me. Interesting.
Let's chat about this, the difference between, when we're looking at gender, especially, if we're looking at it in a binary of boys versus girls the way that society views body exploration. Within that binary, can you speak to that? And how we can kind of start to do this work in our own homes and rewriting these patterns and narratives.
Yeah, totally. I mean, I think the first thing that came to mind for me when you said that, is this idea that I grew up with that masturbation is something that boys do, that girls don't do. And I think, you know, when we actually look at the research around what sexualized behaviors, little kids are engaging in. There's actually not a gender difference, but the, you're right that the social messages around those things are different. And so I think as we think about how to sort of correct for some of those messages as we're talking to kids about this, just really normalizing for your kid. No matter what gender they are that like body exploration is a normal and healthy thing and that everybody is entitled to to pleasure for like touching their body to bring them pleasure at regardless of what gender they are.
Yeah, I love that. Yeah, I definitely grew up in a culture where it was like, this is something boys do not girls.
Yep. Yeah, for sure.
And even though, like viewpoints around boys, having sex versus girls having sex and it definitely was in a culture where it was like hyper-masculine to have sex with a lot of folks. Like that was something you would like be celebrated for but if you were a girl it was the opposite.
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And and there is sort of a lot still of cultural messages that are really based around controlling women's sexuality and also that women sexuality is something that exists for other people and not for themselves and not for their own pleasure that they exist to be an object of pleasure for other people. And so I feel like that's something that, you know, I'm constantly sort of thinking about how to educate against or like change in my work.
00:28:26 Speaker 2
Totally. Thank you.
00:28:29 Speaker 2
I mean, you know, it's like, am I gonna succeed totally, probably not. But like, I think about it a lot.
Well, I'm here for it. When we're looking at these gender norms again, thing from Trystan's, episode that has stuck with me for years that I brought up in a bunch of different context was, he said we have to prepare kids, not just for the world that we want them to fight for but the world that they live in now. Yeah, so when we're looking at that in terms of body exploration, I am curious to hear your thoughts or maybe some like helpful scripts for folks in addressing with their children what the realities are now like in the same way that when we're looking at emotional intelligence, for instance, I would love for kids to be able to go anywhere and to be free to cry and express and be supported by other adults. And that's not always going to be the case. In fact often it won't be the case that like maybe that emotion makes Grandma feel uncomfortable and she's going to try and distract you or she's going to tell you it's okay you don't need to cry and preparing them for that that like yeah sometimes big emotions make people feel uncomfortable and where they can express and what they can do and who's safe to turn to and all that jazz are things that I think is important for us to prepare them for because we're not going to change everyone they will encounter.
And so what does this look like in terms of body exploration if we are creating this culture at home where they know the names of their body parts and we've done the secret talk and they know what they can and can't do or the boundaries around, where they can and can't explore their bodies. And then they go out into the world or they're at Grandma's house, or we're at the beach were on a family vacation. Yeah. What how do we support them for the world outside our home?
Yeah. Gosh, it's such a good question. And it's, I think about this a lot as a parent too like that tension between trying to create the world that I want in my kid and also being realistic about what they might encounter. And immediately, as you as you mentioned, this, the thing that I thought of was I had a parent, call me a couple of years ago whose kindergartener had been involved in like a playing doctor situation at a playdate at another kids house and the other parent had freaked out and like yelled at the kids and was like they can't play together anymore, just like a handled it in a way that was like basically the opposite of the way this parent who called me would have handled it themself and so they were like what do I do? Because we've always told our kid that like body curiosity is normal and like, blah, blah, blah, we have these rules but the parent really felt like it had been a shaming and confusing experience for her kiddo. And so what what I really encouraged her to do was just to circle back with her kiddo and just sort of process what had happened and really reaffirmed their family values around how normal it is to be curious about bodies, but then also, explain that not everybody feels that way and that different people grew up in, with different ideas about bodies and that they might not have the same feelings about it. And so, that's why the other parent reacted that way, but that didn't mean that the kid had done anything wrong, or, you know, just sort of like reinforcing that it was all normal. Reinforcing those family values while also attempting to explain why the other parent might have, had the reaction that they did. So, yeah, I think that's sort of one possible way to handle it. I think also like talking in advance about like for instance, you know, if you know that you use anatomically, correct words. This is another situation that came up with a parent I've worked with, actually, they use anatomically, correct words in their house, but the grandparents are also caregivers and they're very uncomfortable with that, and they use sort of cutesy nicknames, or they just don't mention those body parts at all. And so there is a tension between the grandparents and the parents about that situation and the parents were like, what do we do? And I basically encouraged a similar approach like just explaining to the kid, reiterating the family's values. This is, these are the words we use, this is why it's important to us, not everybody in different households, they do it different ways, Grandma and Grandpa don't agree. And, you know, here are some ideas about why we think they might not agree. And so when we're at their house, You know, we can still use the words that we use but we can't expect them to change their behaviors and like just basically trying to explain it to them while standing firm in your own family's values.
Yeah, I love that. I think it's so important that they you know, as Trystan said like it's something that really stuck with me that just like they we do need to prepare them. I want this like utopia that I can prepare them for but that they are going to step out into the real world and and navigate hard things and it's not going to be this little bubble that we raised them in and I was just having a chat in my DMs with a mom in our village who's black and raising black children. And we were talking about this with respectful parenting where she was like we have to over and over talk about that it's safe at home to cry and to express your feelings and to have big meltdowns and to have those big emotions and it's not safe to do at the park or at the grocery store Etc and it's heartbreaking and it's the reality we live in.
Yeah. And so I think of this now in so many different areas and I really appreciate your answer there. I think it's helpful to be able to let kiddos know that it, this is our belief. This is our practice. This is how we do things, and that other people do things differently.
And that it's not necessarily a bad thing, right? That, I think that that's a good like cultural difference to point out here too that like in the same, what we just were having this discussion around Christmas and Santa and just being able to like decenter whiteness for 45 seconds. And talk about how this is something that our family practices and there are families all around the world that don't believe in Santa or they don't practice Christmas. This isn't something they celebrate. Would you like to learn about things they celebrate, you know? And then like similarly here like this is something that we do in our family. And here's why, and there are other families that this is not how they do that. Would you like to learn more about things that are in their cultural norms?
Totally. Yeah, I love that. And that, and honestly, that's something I've had to work on a lot for myself. Like, if I say, I'm a person who truly values diversity, and, and I know that's a loaded word, but like, truly values like other cultures, and other ways of doing things. And yet, I'm like, hardcore judging other parents for doing things differently than I do. Am I really living in a way that's in alignment with my values? And, you know, I think there are situations where like, you know, perhaps in that situation I just talked about with the grandparents, you know, maybe there's an opportunity there for the the adults to sit down together. And, and for the parents to, explain to the grandparents, why they're doing it, the way that they're doing it, and to ask them, would they be willing to adjust how they're doing things but that's not something that's the responsibility of the kids and I think also as parents we have to be willing to accept that other people, we can ask. But other people may or may not be willing to change their behaviors, you know, and that has to just be okay? And unless you think that there is serious potential for emotional or physical harm to your child, that you just have to trust that you're instilling your values at home and, you know, and that your kid is gonna, you know, either sort of absorb those or not and eventually they'll get to a point where they get to make their own decisions about how they want to do things.
Totally. And I think it's so powerful when we, you know, at home create a safe space where they can turn to us, where they aren't experiencing shame, or guilt or fear of our reaction. When they do experience that someplace else, they'll notice the difference.
They'll notice that like, oh, I can tell my parent or caregiver this and I told my teacher this thing they got really uncomfortable or they were rude to me or I felt scared about how they were reacting and they'll start to differentiate those things and learn who they can and cannot turn to with their with their big stuff.
Yep, totally. And I think that's so important, I mean, just in parenting in general, but especially in sexuality education, where there's so much misinformation out there. There's so much shame and stigma that I really feel like as our kids, primary sex educators, which all parents and caregivers are. Our biggest job is not to like know the exact right thing to say or to like have all the facts or to be the experts. It's really to create that safe container for our kids to know that they can come to us with their questions, with their concerns, with their feelings, with their whatever, you know, sexual expression they have. And that will be able to hold that and to really celebrate it, or address it or whatever. We need to do in that moment.
Yeah, I thank you. I agree. I one question just came up for me about the doctor thing. Like, what do you do if the kid is like but I want to play doctor or like they were, you know, they were participating in this and were curious and yeah, I guess what's the line there? Like if it's you and you're walking in, you know, or the parent who reached out to you, who was upset about the other parents reaction if they walked in to their preschooler and another preschooler, playing doctor, clothes off. Yeah. Now what?
Yeah, what do you do? Totally. Yeah, such a good question. So I think and I think you might be touching on something here that is a question I get a lot from parents in my sex positive parenting workshops, which is like, how do I like let kids know when certain sexual behaviors are not okay. While also remaining sex positive and not shaming them, right?
And playing doctor is like a one situation where that really comes up. So I would say if you, well there are a couple of things, there's like instances where playing doctor is totally developmentally appropriate normal behavior, that's nothing to worry about and nine times out of ten. That's what it is. There are other situations where it might be sort of a red flag for some other stuff going on. And I can talk about that if that seems helpful in a minute, but since most playing doctor is not that, let me just talk about like the normal age appropriate behavior. So from age, like 3 to 6 is when this is most likely to come up and it's usually between kids that are around the same age or the same developmental stage, and it's totally normal behavior that's just about curiosity around bodies, right? So, kids around that age are noticing that there are differences between people especially like different gender expressions and things like that. So they start to get curious about about private parts and so they will voluntarily just engage in these games where they're like, you show me yours, I'll show you mine, right? And it's nothing to worry about in the sense that it's developmentally appropriate but it's also a behavior that we want to make sure they understand is not safe, right, or acceptable behavior because we want to have those body boundaries around we don't touch other people's genitals, we don't look at other people's genitals so you have to walk this fine line between normalizing the curiosity and setting a boundary around the behavior. So what I would say is first of all same as before like make sure that your self-regulating and your remaining really calm. So if you walk in on it and you notice that you're not able to respond calmly, maybe like take a minute, like take a breath or get. If there's another adult available who can help you respond. Like grab that person and rope them in because you don't want to like blow up and create shame around this situation. So, that's number one. The second thing I would do do is I would redirect them in a really casual way. So just like, oh, hey, let's get a snack or like, let's see if we can find a different activity to do and then I would later, I would sit down with the kids and have a conversation about it. So if this is like kids who are in your same household, you can talk to them about it together. If it was like a playdate, I would wait until the other kid goes home. And I would tell the parent and let them address what happened with their own kid in their own households. So then when you sit down and talk to your kid about it, you want to first of all at just ask them about it asked like be very casual like make it very clear through your tone of voice and your body language and all of that, that they're not in trouble. It's like not a big deal but just be curious like hey I saw that you guys were playing a game and you had your underwear off, what was going on there? Tell me about it and try and get a what you're trying to get a sense of is like, were both kids voluntarily, was there any coercion involved and does your kids seem distressed about it? And when I say distressed, I don't mean like embarrassed or like worried that they might be in trouble. I mean, like, did the actual play cause some sort of emotional or physical harm to them and most of the time that will not be the case. And so then you can say, like it's totally normal for you to be curious about, you know, your friends penis or whatever. But remember we have a family safety rule that we don't look at or touch other people's genitals. So, if you're curious about bodies, here are some other ways that we can learn about bodies and then make sure that you have a book or if you don't have one, like, you can get one from the library and I can, I can send you some resources that you can post on the episode page for people to take a look at. So yeah redirecting to a book, an anatomically correct doll. Even like coloring sheets that are anatomically, correct? So those are all ways that you can let your child know that like, hey, it's fine to be curious about bodies. And here are some more appropriate outlets for that curiosity and then reinforcing your family safety rules, and then I would just like, without letting your kid necessarily know that you're doing this next time that kid is over to play, just kind of discreetly keeping an eye on them to make sure that that is not repeating itself. And if it is just like gently intervene and redirect them to another activity.
What if there was not necessarily like coercion. But like even just the peer pressure of like yeah, well they wanted to play doctor and take off their underwear and like essentially like I was down you know but that it was led by the other kid. Yeah. And like the peer pressure. I guess of that.
Yeah totally. I would say like that's an opportunity to maybe talk to your kid about like what do you do just in general, if you're in a situation just in general where one kid wants to play something that the other kid doesn't want to play and maybe like brainstorming with them well what are some things that you could say next time if your friend wants to play something that you don't want to play or like asking them to identify. Well how did you, what did it feel like in your body? How did you know that that was something you didn't want to do and then what could you do next time and giving them some sort of like strategies for identifying and then offering alternatives and ways that they can, concrete ways that they can respond in the future and not necessarily focusing it on the fact that it was sexualized play. But just like in general, you know, what do you, how do you respond to peer pressure?
Yeah. What if your kid is like, no, I did want to play like I do want to. And that the thing that is really stopping them is that this is a family rule, right? If that's the only reason they aren't engaging in the play. I could just see for like a four-year-old that being a really hard line to toe of like yeah, I want to do this. First of all, feel included, right? Like yeah. Connecting with this other human. I feel included. It's really hard to stand up for yourself when you're an adult. It's really hard to stand up for yourself when you're four. And it doesn't, like it feels good like it. this is comfortable. I don't feel uncomfortable in this and this other part of me that says, like, I know my family rule and I'm not supposed to do this.
Yeah. Yeah. Gosh, that is such a good question. I don't know that. I have an excellent answer for that because you're right. It is really hard when there is like something that you really want to do and you just, you're not doing it because of some external circumstance. Yeah. Yeah, totally.
Yeah. I wonder if just like the vigilance of the parent, then going forward is helpful, like just intervening so that it's not on the table.
Yeah like in the same way that you're like. I don't know like maybe you have a family rule that you can only eat one cookie a day and then you like leave the cookie jar on the counter. Well that's like super tempting for your kid, right? So maybe you should put the cookie jar on a high shelf where they can't even see it, right?
Right. Yeah, exactly. I wonder if maybe that's kind of the solution because as you were saying where it's like between three and six that like then there comes a time where the peer pressure is different and it's there is a different I guess sense around like they're not going to be playing doctor in the same way that they play doctor at three, as an eight-year-old, you know?
Totally. Yeah. And typically around school age. So like by five or six kids are understanding enough, social norms to recognize that sexual behaviors are private and so they're typically not engaging or they're like, they're, they may be engaging in sexual behaviors but they're more secretive, or covert about it. So you may not see it as much. Yeah, but certainly, like most kids are probably not playing doctor after that age,
Right. That makes sense. Okay rad. Where can folks? Like if they want to dive in deeper, if they are navigating some personal stuff and they're like wow, I have more questions. What do you have for resources? And where can folks connect with you and your tools?
Yeah, totally. So my business is Everybody Talks as you mentioned at the beginning, I have a few resources on my website and some courses, some online, self-paced courses that are available for purchase. I also have a pretty like active instagram page, so I definitely encourage folks to follow me there. I answer questions from families and share resources there, I also would really recommend sex ed rescue, which is a sex educator out of Australia and she does a lot with this age group, and I love her site. She has book reviews and all kinds of free resources on her website. She's great. And then, if folks are interested in more like sexual abuse, prevention stuff, I would check out consent parenting.
She's been on the podcast.
Oh good. Yeah, she's fantastic. Definitely my go-to. For all things sexual abuse prevention.
Yeah, she's great for that and Melissa from sex-positive families. I just got their book. They're awesome and I like can't stop talking about their book.
I haven't read it yet. I'm so excited to check it out. Yeah, I love them, too. They're just fantastic and such a like leader in this work.
Totally, totally. Yeah. I feel like also spans different ages. So cool. There's a bunch of resources we'll link all of them in the transcript for this episode. If folks are on the go and you want those links and you can't remember all them off the top of your head because you're human, you can go to voicesofyourvillage.com and access them when it is convenient when you do have time to kind of check back in with them. What is your Instagram handle?
It's @every.bodytalks and there was a period between every and body.
That's what I was looking for. Thank you, perfect. Well, Rebecca. This is rad. Thank you for having this conversation with me.
Thank you so much. This has been so fun. I love talking to you. I mean I just love talking about this stuff in general but it's been really great. Thank you.
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