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"I recently caught my six-year-old son and a seven-year-old girl we know showing each other their private parts. How do I clearly explain the severity of their actions without blowing it out of proportion?"

A. It's a tricky but quite typical situation you find yourself in. Many parents have trouble figuring out how to talk to their children about sexuality and related issues. The best strategy is education rather than punishment.

Unless there was inappropriate touching involved in this incident, there is likely no sexual intent in their curiosity. It is normal for kids your son's age to explore their bodies in nonsexual ways. It is perfectly natural for these two children to notice that they are different from each other and to offer evidence to prove it.

Now that the door has been opened, you can use this as an opportunity to start talking to your son about his body. Again, this is not the time to talk about sex per se, but rather a first step in helping your son discover why his body is special. In doing so, you are paving the way for more detailed conversations down the road.

For now, you might say something such as, "God made our bodies and they are beautiful, all parts. However, the private parts are special, so we keep them covered up when we're with other people. Sometimes parents and doctors need to see our private parts to make sure they are healthy. But other than that, there's no need for anyone to look at your private parts right now. I know you didn't know this when you and Susie were together, but from now on it's important to keep your private parts covered and not show others." Give your son a chance to ask questions and answer them honestly. Then pray together giving thanks for your son's body and asking Jesus to help him take good care of it.

There are a number of good resources that can give your son more information if he is interested. LeapFrog has a great interactive book, The Human Body (Quantum Pad Library), which helps explain basic human biology. I also like the book The Story of Me, part of the God's Design for Sex Series (NavPress) by Stan and Brenna Jones. As your son gets older, the video, The Miracle of Life, can be a helpful tool for letting him know about the process of reproduction. You can get a copy of it at most schools and public libraries.

Too many parents wait until their children reach adolescence to have their first family conversations about sexuality, by which point the kids are often too self–conscious to say much. But these early talks with your son will lay a wonderful foundation of trust and comfort that will make future talks about sexual issues less awkward for everyone.

Karen L. Maudlin, Psy.D., is the mother of two and a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in marriage and family therapy. She is the author of Sticks and Stones (W).

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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