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Teaching Children About Sex, Consensual Touch

Erin Ripley-Gataric
Mary Cullen
Erin Ripley-Gataric is a community sex educator in Bloomington-Normal.

Even if the conversations are uncomfortable, a community sex educator said it's important for parents to start young when talking about themes of sex and body anatomy with their children.

Erin Ripley-Gataric said the best time to enter into those conversations is when the child starts asking.

"Children don't tend to ask questions that they're not prepared to hear the answer to."

“Children don’t tend to ask questions that they’re not prepared to hear the answer to,” she said on WGLT’s Sound Ideas.

Gataric said children will likely ask the same questions repeatedly as they grow up until it feels like something they have always known.

“You children may ask you what parts of their anatomy are called in the middle of shopping, and you can tell them, ‘That’s a private thing, let’s please discuss that in the car.’ And then make sure to follow up on that,” she said.

It’s OK to use nicknames for body parts, Gataric said, as long as the child knows what the real anatomical name is.

By teaching children early on, she said children begin to have ownership over their bodies and can better understand consensual touch.

She said the best way a parent can teach consensual touch is by modeling it in everyday life.

“A great one is reinforcing that, ‘The dog doesn’t like to be petted that way. Some dogs like to be petted there, (but) our dog stops wagging her tail when you pet her there,’” Gataric explained.

She mentioned that a parent can model consensual touch by accepting when the other parent, friend, or family member does not want to be hugged or kissed.

Gataric recommended parents read books to their children that include these themes like "I Said No!" by Zack and Kimberly King, "My Body Is Private" by Linda Walvoord Gerard, and "A Very Touching Book ... for Little People and for Big People" by Jan Hindman.

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