Human development and self-exploration start at an early age. It is important to know what the child or youth in your life may be experiencing so you can know how to prepare for conversations about their bodies and development.
We compiled a guide to help trusted adults understand the different developmental stages and what they look like for different age groups. We partnered with local pediatricians to help us understand how medical appointments look too!
Ages 0 – 2
this is the age where children notice love, respect, safety, and trust between their parents, so it is important to role model a healthy relationship. This is also an age where children notice that they have body parts; it is important as a parent to use the correct terms when referring to your child’s body.
Ages 3- 5
at this age your child’s gender identity develops so it’s important to encourage them to respect themselves and those around them. Let your child know they can come to you to talk about anything, without the fear of judgement. Teach them to know about appropriate touching and inform them on how to say “no” when there is unwanted touching. Also, at this age, children tend to wonder where babies come from, so it is important to use the correct terms when describing this to your child.
Ages 6 – 8
this age is when your child will become more independent with themselves and their bodies. Be sure to promote good, healthy body image and explain their bodies will begin to change over the next couple of years through puberty and what they should expect. Continue to talk about having open communication in your house and inform your child they can come to you whenever, including if they have a problem.
Ages 9 – 12
expect questions about puberty as your child is noticing their bodies are changing-hair growing, how girls will react as their menstrual cycle begins to form and how they can get hygiene products. Inform your child everyone’s bodies will be different as they go through puberty and to not worry if their bodies are developing at a faster (or slower) rate than their peers. Reinforce this through this age period, teens will begin to explore their own bodies and question what will happen to their penis and vagina if they feel aroused by someone or something. Talk to them about masturbation and the do’s and don’ts.
As adolescents develop and take greater responsibility for their lives, it makes sense for them to be more engaged in their own health care. Current guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that providers begin having one-on-one time, commonly referred to as “time alone”, with young people as early as age 11.
Ages 13 – 18
stress the importance of consent and contraceptive methods to prevent unintended pregnancies and protect against STIs and HIV during sexual activities. Discuss birth control options and stress the use of condoms and other barrier methods to all of your children. Encourage your child to evaluate their relationships; go over what a health vs. unhealthy relationship looks like and let them know they can come to you if they are in an abusive relationship. Ensure they know what consent is and the important of saying “no” when they are in an uncomfortable situation with their partners and respecting it if a partner is uncomfortable.