Saturday, September 29, 2012

Child's Sexual Identity Awareness

During the first two years of life, as your child begins to explore her own body and to notice sexual differences, your actions and reactions will help her from a healthy sexual identity. As early as their first year, children begin to wonder why they are made the way they are. Their tentative explorations provide the first awareness of their bodies as a source of pleasure; before long, they learn that touching or rubbing their genitals creates feelings of excitement. Parental acceptance of this early behavior is important. For your child, the romantic fantasies and fixations of adult sexuality do not exist; her sexual exploration and experience reflect nothing more than a natural curiosity and healthy delight in her body. If her hand is angrily slapped away from her genitals, the toddler feels that there is something bad or forbidden about a part of her body – a part that, to her, is no different from her nose or toe.

 During the second year, the toddler’s growing awareness of differences between males and females sets the stage for the establishment of her own sexual identity. Increasing contact with siblings and playmates, coupled with the uncovering of body parts previously hidden under diapers, leads the toddler to a truly exciting discovery: Although children look pretty much alike with their clothes on, they are made in two distinctly different ways. This realization leads to close identification with the parent of the same sex. The little girl, observing that she resembles her mother, strives to be as much like her female parent as she can. The little body, noticing that he has the same parts as his father, is eager to imitate him in every possible way. Fascinating as these discoveries of similarities and differences can be, they sometimes cause anxieties in young minds. A little girl may silently wonder way she does not have a penis like her brother. A little boy may feel anxious about the obvious differences in size between his own body parts and those of his father. Parents can relieve such anxieties by clearly explaining sexual differences. Tell the toddler that boys and girls are made differently from the beginning; no one is missing any parts, and no one is going to lose the parts they already have. Emphasize the positive aspects of each child’s gender, pointing out that boys can become fathers, and girls can become mothers, when they are older.