The power of saying NO
This is not intended as an exhaustive list - it's a mixed bag of tips intended to help children avoid attack and abuse. Use this advice to stimulate a change in possibly well-intended, but overly-cautious or conservative care-giver thinking.
Rape or sexual abuse is not "sex", so don't categorise it as sex when discussing it with your children. It's a violent act of assault, often with deadly consequences. Girls and boys need to understand what it is and that it can happen to them.
We need to get over ourselves and stop using euphemisms. It's not a "willy" or a "vajayjay". It's a penis or a vagina. We know that speaking regular mother tongue language to babies and children helps them develop a good vocabulary early in life. So cut the baby talk and diminutives.
Children today are not like children were 15 years ago. They are digital natives and are exposed to life in all its beauty and ugliness, way ahead of when we were. Many are playing with and learning from tablet devices at two years of age.
Protect your child from explicit internet porn pop-ups by installing Net Nanny or other software on the consumption devices they use.
Every day we delay educating a child about sexual and other wellbeing matters is another day closer to that child being exploited or abused because of their naivety.
If your child is watching National Geographic, Animal Planet, documentaries or educational DVDs, they will see animals mating. Everything in nature has a reproductive process. You can use flowers, plants, trees and pollination as sensible explanations for reproduction.
Better your child hears facts from you than myths from strangers.
Prepare your facial expression and body language well in advance. If you wince or flinch when asked a straight question about sexuality, the message is "this must be secret - or dirty".
When talking about sensitive topics, don't let your voice change or express stress. Remember that tone and manner are part of non-verbal communication.
Our children can be taught at a very early age that their body is their private space. We need to equip them in advance with strategies in case that little body is inappropriately touched or invaded. Teach them to say loudly "inappropriate touch" or "no touching" if they feel someone is behaving abnormally.
Children don't deal well with ambiguity (mixed messages) about sex or life. We need to be simple and clear.
Talking to children about sexual matters is not going to lead to experimentation or early sexual behaviour. The opposite is proven to be the case.
We don't need to get into graphic explanations of biological processes (like menstruation, for example). Keep the child's age, mental development, general knowledge, social awareness and so on in mind. As with most things, we all acquire a fuller understanding over time.
I've told my little guy, "If someone comes along and says, 'Clive has asked me to collect you,' (for example) you simply say, 'No, that's not true. He would have told me'." Teach the child to shout very loudly "Help, help. This person is trying to take me away" if the person becomes physical or persists. Teach them to kick, fight and scream like crazy, if necessary. Always tell your children about collection plans. Route messages through the pre-school, school teacher, sports coach or play-date supervisor about collection arrangements.
Can your child easily repeat your cellphone number? I made a tune of mine. It helps to repeat it with a rhythm for little people to remember.
If at even five years of age our children are not equipped to cry foul when threatened, we have failed to equip them with the necessary defences. Do it now to prevent tears later.
There is some wonderful literature available on age-appropriate child sex awareness and broader education. The jozikids blog is a mine of useful information. So are Google and amazon.com.
What is forbidden or mysterious is always appealing. Remove the veil of mystery.
Simpkins is a marketing and communications strategist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article originally appeared on http://www.zaparents.co.za, the parenting blog for jozikids.co.za and kznkids.co.za