Healthy Sexuality

Healthy Choices is a program developed by the Vancouver Island Health Authority to help parents teach and encourage healthy sexual development in their children.

Healthy Choices for Six- to Nine-year-olds

Six- to nine-year-olds continue to be fascinated by their body and the bodies of others. “Bathroom humour” is very popular and they want to share it with everyone. While learning more about male and female roles, children start to attach values and labels to these roles. They strongly identify with children of the same gender, conform to peer norms, and begin to develop a sense of sexual orientation. They identify with and can be affected by stories they hear, often in the media, about AIDS, sexual abuse, etc. Sex play and masturbation may continue.

You can help your child develop healthy attitudes toward sexuality.

  • Teach your children how the parts of their body work. Children should understand the function of all their body parts including their genitals.
  • Discuss the similarities and differences between boys and girls bodies. Be sure to include the purpose and function of the genital organs of the opposite sex.
  • Find out what they know about sex and human reproduction. Children hear a lot of misinformation on the playground, on TV, and in the movies.
  • Share your values about sexuality and sexual activity. Children need to know more than the ‘birds and the bees.’ They are at an age where they can start to attach values to their world and they should be aware of your values.

Healthy Choices for Nine- to Twelve-year-olds

Nine- to twelve-year-olds are getting ready for puberty. On average, girls enter puberty between 9 and 13, and boys between 10 and 14. Puberty is the second fastest period of growth humans ever experience, infancy being the first. It is a time of rapid physical, emotional, and social changes.

Pre-teens vacillate between feeling excited or embarrassed about their new body, worried about being normal, happy to be growing up, and confused about sexual feelings. This is often the start of the ‘emotional roller coaster’ .for both parents and kids. Peers may become more important than parents in some decisions – especially about clothing, language, recreation, and music, but parents still greatly influence other decisions.

You can help your pre-teen develop healthy sexuality.

  • Talk with your child about growing up. Discuss the physical, emotional, and social changes that will happen during puberty.
  • Discuss the physical changes that are similar for boys and girls during puberty including: increased height and weight, development of underarm and pubic hair, oily hair, oily skin, and acne, perspiration and body odour.
  • Discuss the changes that are sex specific. Be sure to provide information on what happens to both boys and girls reproductive systems. See Physical Development for more information.
  • Reassure your children that their bodies and sexual development are NORMAL. Everyone will go through puberty when his or her body is ready. There is nothing that can be done to speed up or slow down puberty changes.
  • Assist your child with getting ready for puberty. Puberty is hard work; children need good nutrition and lots of sleep. Fluctuating hormones cause perspiration, oily hair, oily skin, and acne. Help your child make decisions about showering, deodorant use, and acne care. Discuss who is going to be responsible for buying menstrual pads, cleaning of bloody clothing, changing of sheets, and laundry.
  • Be aware of what your child is watching and reading about sexuality. This is the age when children are very influenced by what they see and hear around them. Continue to share your values about sexuality and sexual activity.
  • Respect your child’s increased need for privacy and independence.