To many, teaching and demonstrating sex positivity to a toddler may seem premature or even inappropriate, but I would argue that it's never too young to start thinking about things you can say to your partner to help raise sex positive kids. Whether we're conscious of our actions or not, what we do and say to our children will affect their outlook as they age and, yes, grow into their sexuality.
A child's first exposure to a romantic relationship, in all likelihood, will be the one they see between their parents. (Or one of their parents and their partner, or both of their parents and those parents respective partners: there's no one way to have a family, people!) So the things you do and say? No pressure or anything guys, but that's going to shape a lot of what the will expect in their own relationships and what they see as "normal." Oops, did I say "No pressure?" It's actually a ton of pressure. But don't worry! A lot of this sex positivity stuff isn't so hard. In fact, it will largely come down to being respectful and considerate, which, hopefully, you're trying to impart to your child anyway. Hooray!
So what can you do to let your little one know that the definition of good sex is sex that is safe and consensual and, in the end, the details are up to you? Here's a start:
"I Love You"
Love and sex are not always connected, which is totally fine, but when one is in a relationship, love is (presumably) part of the deal. An important part of the deal. So, verbally making your feelings known and letting your partner know that you are emotionally committed to (and invested in) them is a good way to nurture sex positivity in general.
Respectful Disagreements and Debates
Modeling for your child how to disagree in a respectful, constructive, calm (or at the very least not passionate to the point of flipping tables) will demonstrate the idea that communication, even when it's challenging, is not only tremendously important but absolutely doable. After all, sex positivity is, at it's core, about 1/4 about communication.
It's important to let kids know that when it comes to one's body, the owner/inhabitant of that body gets final say. In fact, they're basically the only person who has any say. So, when you or your partner says "stop," be it to playful tickling, a hug, a cuddle, whatever; the action immediately stops. Not only will your kids know that they are empowered to tell someone to stop, they'll know that the other person has to listen.
The Word "Sex"
Because sex positivity was born of the (frankly pretty weird) idea that sex is dirty, shameful, and something that is not discussed in polite company. This isn't to say that you need to regale your 4-year-old with graphic tales of debaucherous sex acts (in fact, please don't: sex positivity doesn't preclude the concept of age appropriateness), it's just to say that "sex" isn't a taboo word and you shouldn't go out of your way to avoid it.
No one wants to see their parents sloppily making out on the reg, but showing them that physical affection is part of a healthy relationship is lovely (and totes sex positive). So go ahead and pucker up every now and then: there's nothing wrong with kids seeing that their parents love each other.
Because consent, consent, consent, consent, consent! Guys: I cannot stress the importance of teaching kids about consent nearly enough. That's another solid 1/4 of sex positivity.
"Is This OK?"
Remember how important I mentioned communication is? Continued communication is important. Checking in with a partner to make sure things are going well after an initial thumbs up will send the message to kids that someone else's "OK" can change, and you should be concerned and care about their feelings and wishes.
"How Do You Feel?"/"How Are You?"/"How Was Your Day?"
This is like a combination of "I love you" and "Is this OK?" Because feelings matter! One's emotional well being is always crucial, including when it comes to sex. As parents, we can illustrate that by including it in day-to-day interactions.
"I Respect That"
Respect and acceptance is another 1/4* of sex positivty. Respecting a no, respecting one's choices about what to do with their body, respecting a person's orientation, gender expression, or anything else a person has, does, or is that doesn't negatively affect someone else? Clutch. Highlight this by acknowledging acceptance; not only will it help your child in their journey to sex positivity, it will help raise a tolerant child in general. (No: better than tolerance.)
[*The last 1/4 of sex positivity, incidentally, is safety. It doesn't come up later in the list and I didn't want to leave you hanging. But now you know what the four pillars are, in my humble opinion: communication, consent, respect, and safety. You're welcome.]
Because, hey, making your partner feel desired and adored is great! It's also an excellent way to show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and not a static definition dictated to us my magazines and movies.
"I Appreciate You"
Demonstrating appreciation for your partner does a few things, mainly acknowledging that even when someone is in a relationship, the things we do for one another are rarely "owed" (aside, of course, from respect, safety, consent, and communication). And so we should appreciate our partners, validate them, and treat them the way we would like to be treated, because who doesn't want validation from their loved?
Encouraging sex positivity in children will probably have very little to do with sex (at least not until they get older). Instead, the everyday things we say and do in our own partnerships will absolutely set the stage for their attitudes about sex and relationships for the rest of their lives.