There is a video circulating of a boy who appears to be five or six years old, struggling to sexually penetrate an older girl (who seems to be about three years older)

They may be siblings, since the act is taking place in a bathtub. The video movements indicate that the girl recorded them in selfie mode.

I still cannot get over the shock of opening up such a video on my phone. The weight of the shock is not because this is the worst view I have had of children, but because of many other reasons – including the ignorance of adults and children’s exposure to the wrong messages that has led them to behave in this manner.

Both research and experience point to the fact that the first five to six years of life are a time of enormous growth for children in language, concept, social, emotional, and motor competence

They explore their environment, learn to communicate, construct their own ideas and theories about how things work around them. But for most children, the pace of learning depends on the support they get from their parents and caregivers.

At this age, they are empty sponges. They soak up information about anything and everything. They are extremely imaginative also. Their imagination can be as wild as illustrated by the fact that just over two years back, a parent called me with an enquiry. She had just walked in on her her sister’s five-year-old daughter and her four-year-old daughter in an awkward position.

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Her daughter was lying on her back, legs apart and her niece was acting like a doctor, supposedly examining her vulva. Although her child still had her underwear on, my caller did not take it well. She banned her sister from visiting her and never socialised with her sister’s family again. She claimed that her sister was loose and did not teach her daughter appropriately. It took me three sessions with her and a lot of examples (including the below story of my five-year-old) to convince her that many children do this, and that very few learn it from their parents.

Body parts: Is it necessary to have ‘The Talk’ with toddlers?

Parents have to remain calm when something like this happens

They should also use such opportunities to teach children privacy and rules about touching. In last week’s article titled Body parts: Is it necessary to have ‘The Talk’ with toddlers? (which I suggest you read if you have a child under four years old), I discussed how parents of toddlers are eager to be the first to teach their children body parts and privacy.

This and other up-coming articles will continue to outline age appropriate guidelines to talk to children about self-care privacy, sex and sexuality.

At ages four to six, parents can start with the following:

Body parts and privacy

Teach 4 to 6-year-olds body parts and privacy as we did in last week’s article. By this age, children know that boys and girls are both the same but different. That boys have penises and girls have vulvas, which they both use to pee. Tell them that every other body part is the same. Give examples of our heads and what is on heads, upper and lower bodies. Call parts by their names.

Touching

Teach four to six-year-olds that touching of certain parts is not allowed.

At this stage, when they touch their vulvas and penises, tell them not to and they should not allow anyone to touch them. Instead of telling them not to touch, use each touch to teach them why not to touch. Take the hygiene approach to discourage them from touching their own genitals. Manoeuvre their many questions by responding that touching or playing with their penises or vulvas is a private activity, to be done only in the bathroom and toilet, mostly when washing them.

Ownership: teach four to six-year-olds who owns and touches bodies

Like with toddlers, young children should be the only owners and keepers of their bodies. Teach them that doctors can sometimes touch them in the presence of their parents. This should exclude hugs or touching briefly, depending on your culture. For instance, we told our children to notify us when anyone touches them in private, and that keeping this a secret is wrong.

Privacy: teach that privacy is necessary

No one must touch their genitals: NOT even extended family members. Their home is a place where they keep their parts private, and those not staying with them should not see or touch these parts. Let them know that they are also not supposed to see and touch others’ parts.

How to teach this age group where babies come from

  • Teach these children that only adults make babies. You can use their pets like dogs and puppies to illustrate simply, clearly and briefly.
  • Explain that both a man and a woman are needed to make a baby.
  • If they ask how, tell them that the woman needs a part from a man, a cell or sperm and to add to a part from her, cell or egg to make babies.
  • Thereafter, the baby grows inside the mother.
  • It’s safe to tell them that babies grow inside mothers; thereafter doctors and nurses help mothers to take them out from the mother’s stomach or her vagina.

When my older daughter was five, she almost made me break a serving bowl. As I was walking towards the dinner table to lay food, she spoke, “Mommy, I can’t wait to get married and start having sex”. Yes, a five-year-old in a house where we did everything possible to ensure that our children were exposed to age-appropriate materials. Given our lifestyle, I knew that there was nowhere else she got this from, except school. Yes, I found the underlying source of it and met the child whose older sister was married, meaning that she could now start having sex and making babies.

Your child needs support to learn

When you raise children these ages, remember one thing; care and education cannot be separated. EDUCATION means giving children quality intellectual stimulation, creating a rich learning environment and facilitating social, emotional and motor skills development, while CARE means good physical care of warm affectionate relationships that invite secure attachment.

Do you have older children? Next week’s article shall focus on children seven to nine years old. What comes to mind at the mention of these ages? Yes, they cultivate strange possible life-long behaviours at ages six to nine.

As a child’s most qualified psychologist and communicator, remember that between four to six years is the easiest age to teach a child, and what you teach may have a lasting impact on your child, just like what you do not teach them. No good education is ever wrong.