Catholic Activity: Early Sex Experimentation
These are some suggestions on how to respond to a child's earliest questions about his/her sex organs.
Since our feelings about sex are intimately related to our attitudes on other subjects — our love and fear of God, our reverence for our body, our recognition of the necessary functions of our organs and the relationship that exists between men and women — your child begins to form attitudes about sex as soon as he becomes aware of his surroundings. If you react in a matter-of-fact way to his early exploration of his genitals — an act of exploration which is necessary for him to discover what his body consists of — you will avoid the common error of calling his attention to his sex organs from his first days and of making him unduly conscious of them.
Bowel and bladder training should also be carried out in a casual, unemotional way. Dr. Odenwald states that a normal child cannot control bowels and bladder before two or three years of age. For this reason, he states, parents should use gentleness, understanding and kindness, so that the child always feels that his elimination is a normal physiological act. "It is important to note the close association of the generative organs and the organs of elimination," he states. "This close association is not only anatomical and physiological but also psychological. Experience with mental patients gives sufficient evidence that patients who have trouble arising from toilet training also have trouble with sex."
Teach your children to use the correct words for their sex organs at the very beginning. You would not use a special, babyish word to describe your child's fingers, his nose or his heart. If you use childish words for the boy's penis or the girl's vulva, you create an impression that the correct words carry a shameful connotation. Of course, the entire sense of shame is in the adult. To the child, one word is the same as another. But many persons who did not know the correct names for their organs until they reached the age of ten or twelve are too embarrassed as adults to use those names even in instructing their own children.
As your child reaches the crawling and walking stages, you should treat any matters relating to his private organs in the same way that you would treat matters concerning his hands or feet. He will accept the fact that he must normally keep his sex organs covered, just as he accepts the fact that food is eaten from a plate, and that fathers wear trousers and mothers wear dresses.
Activity Source: Catholic Family Handbook, The by Rev. George A. Kelly, Random House, Inc., New York, 1959