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Reflections Magazine : Issue 56 Spring 2014
18 Has a child ever asked, "How does the baby get in mummy's tummy?" Have you noticed that when you change a nappy the child's hand goes straight to touch their vulva or penis? Perhaps a child in your group pulls their pants down or attempts to touch the private parts of others. If you are concerned about a child's safety because of their sexual behaviour or knowledge, how should you respond? First of all, don't panic. Children do not suddenly become sexual beings when they reach puberty or turn 16, 18 or 21. Their sexual development is ongoing from the day they are born and most sexual behaviours are a normal, healthy part of a child's development. The key is to be confident and comfortable in responding to children's behaviour. This creates a positive, protective environment that supports the child's development, while meeting the child protection requirements of the National Quality Framework. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. An important step for many adults is to acknowledge the concept of childhood sexuality. This helps because sexual behaviours can be mapped by age, enabling early childhood professionals to identify age-appropriate sexual behaviours. It is possible to remove the guesswork, support healthy sexuality and provide protection from harm or abuse. This is supported by the Traffic Lights® guide to responding positively to sexual behaviours. Each state and territory is likely to have their own courses for educators regarding child protection issues. It is important to use state based information first when considering exploratory and sexual questions and behaviours of children in your service, and whether they are appropriate or not. Another very important factor is to ensure you are having conversations with families about the types of information and language that they find appropriate for use with their children. These conversations then guide how you respond to children's questions, behaviours and play, as well as building up the trusting relationship with families needed if you have to have more difficult conversations together. This article discusses a program developed in Queensland which may provide useful additional information. Responding positively to sexual behaviours helps protect children: Tips for early childhood professionals Melanie Grabski Early Childhood and Parenting Education Coordinator Family Planning Queensland
Reflections Issue 57 Summer 2014
Reflections Magazine Issue 55 Winter 2014