The Principle of First Mention

Author: Diana Bigham, LMFT-S

The Principle of First Mention states that the first time we learn about a subject creates a lens from which we continue to look through that same topic. Everything else we learn about that subject is weighed through that lens. For example, if you learn that the subject of sex is negative and shameful, then you will tend to think of sex as shameful even if you are told otherwise, scrapping anything you hear about sex being a normal and natural part of life. The implication is that there is significance for parents to be the first ones to teach their children about the subject of sex, rather than peers or media.

Here are some tips to help you as you think through educating your children about sexual health and development:

  • Think of the conversation you will have with your children on the subject of sex as being ongoing, rather than a one-time talk. Avoid an intense marathon talk. This should be an ongoing dialogue throughout their life based on their age and comprehension.
  • Incorporate age-appropriate books that teach on this subject. For very young children, start with books that talk about the anatomically correct parts such as “Who Has What: All About Girls’ Bodies and Boys’ Bodies” by Robie Harris.
  • Teach continuously about what constitutes healthy relationships. Teach them to listen to their inner voice and discern how to make good decisions. Teach healthy boundaries: emotional and physical.
  • Cultivate a safe and shame-free relationship with your child where they can come to you about any issue. Manage your own feelings when talking about sexual health and development and their level of curiosity.
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