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Teaching Sexual Health - Birth to 6 year olds

As a parent, you know that understanding your child and their development is one of the most important things you can learn. Follow the links provided to find information about all the developmental milestones- physical, sexual, emotional, cognitive and social- from birth up to 18 years of age. This includes the key topics or ideas your child should know at different ages, and how you can help them with that learning, at every age.

Birth to 2 Years

Understanding Your Child’s Development

Welcome to the world of parenting! Your child will go through many changes in just a couple of years. Your child’s development will follow a pattern. As babies grows, they’re able to do more—recognize people, hold things, sit up, crawl, stand and eventually walk. As they become a toddler, they will have constant energy and  strong feelings. They will also start to question everything around them. Learning about your child at this age will help you to understand their development. Read more about what your child’s going through in this stage of development.

What Your Child Needs Your Help to Learn

In these early years, your child will need your help to understand their emotions and their bodies. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Teach your child that their body is private.
  • Use the correct names for body parts including genitals and reproductive organs: penis, testicles, scrotum, anus, vulva, labia, vagina, clitoris, uterus and ovaries (Knowing the correct names for body parts promotes positive body image, self-confidence, and parent-child communication. It also gives children the language they need to tell a trusted adult if sexual abuse has happened).
  • Make sure your child is able to play with other children their own age often. Your child might not get along with others right away—they’ll learn this with time, practice and the help of you and others. Being able to play with other children will help them to form healthy relationships as they grow older.
  • Help your child understand how gender can be expressed differently. A person’s gender identity may be the same as or different as their biological sex.

For more information about teaching sexual health to your children up to two years, visit:


3 and 4 Year Olds

Understanding Your Child’s Development

This is the thinking stage. As children enter their preschool years, they know what they like and don’t like. Their emotions tend to be more stable and predictable. Your child’s picking up on what you say and do. Read more about what your child is going through in this stage.


What Your Child Needs Your Help to Learn

Children at this age are the easiest to teach, as they are very curious and take in everything they see and hear. Your child will use their imagination to make up their own story if they ’don’t understand the explanation they may have been given. Be ready to answer to their questions again and again, as preschoolers don’t always understand the first time.

If you don’t talk about sexuality, it teaches your child that sexuality is something they shouldn’t talk to you about. To give them the facts about their body parts, what they’re used for and how babies are made, see Reproduction and Pregnancy. 


There are some great ways to support healthy sexuality and development. At this stage, children should know:

  • That their body is their own and no one can touch it without their permission—the difference between “good touch” and “bad touch”. This may help children to be more likely to tell a trusted adult if someone is touching them in a way they shouldn’t.
  • The correct names for body parts including genitals and reproductive organs: penis, testicles, scrotum, anus, vulva, labia, vagina, clitoris, uterus and ovaries (Knowing the correct names for body parts promotes positive body image, self-confidence, and parent-child communication. It also gives children the language they need to tell a trusted adult if sexual abuse has happened).
  • How reproduction happens. For example, you could say, “When a sperm joins an egg, a baby grows in the uterus, and is born through the vagina.”
  • Not to pick up things such as used condoms or syringes. Now is a good time to teach them not to pick up anything if they don’t know what it is or if they think it’s dangerous.

For more information about teaching your 3-4 year old about sexual health, visit:


5 and 6 Year Olds

Understanding Your Child’s Development

Your child is starting to form their own identity and their understanding of how they fit into the world. Talking about sexual health and sexuality together now will help to start the conversation and keep it going as your child gets older. Read more about what your child is going through in this stage.

What Your Child Needs Your Help to Learn

Your child will likely understand more about body parts and what they do, but still may not know all the facts. For example, at this age children often think that girls have one opening for urine and feces, and that what girls eat goes into the same place as the baby grows. It helps to use simple and clear explanations for your child—make sure to give the facts and use the correct terms.

If you don’t talk about sexuality, it teaches your child that sexuality is something they shouldn’t talk about with you. They’re more likely to talk to and believe any story they hear from others. Give them the facts about their body parts, what they’re used for and how babies are made.

There are some great ways to encourage healthy sexuality and development. At this stage, children should know:

  • That their body is their own and no one can touch it without their permission—the difference between “good touch” and “bad touch”. This may help children to be more likely to tell a trusted adult if someone is touching them in a way they shouldn’t.
  • The correct names for body parts including genitals and reproductive organs: penis, testicles, scrotum, anus, vulva, labia, vagina, clitoris, uterus and ovaries (Knowing the correct names for body parts promotes positive body image, self-confidence, and parent-child communication. It also gives children the language they need to tell a trusted adult if sexual abuse has happened).
  • Other body parts and body functions: urine, stool, bladder and urethra.
  • How reproduction happens. For example, you could say, “When a sperm joins an egg, a baby grows in the uterus, and is born through the vagina.”
  • Basic information about body changes during puberty.
  • Not to pick up things such as used condoms or syringes. Now is a good time to teach them not to pick up anything if they don’t know what it is or if they think it’s dangerous.

For more information about teaching your 5-6 year old about sexual health, visit:






Trampolines seem like a great way to get children to go outside and play—but they aren’t safe. Playing on trampolines increases your child’s risk of getting seriously injured. Alberta Health Services recommends that trampolines not be used for play or physical activity at home by children of any age.

Injuries from trampolines include sprains, cuts and bruises, broken bones, head injuries (like concussions), as well as back and neck injuries. Injuries can occur when:

  •  more than one child jumps on the trampoline at a time
  •  children do flips and somersaults
  •  children land the wrong way
  •  children fall off the trampoline while jumping

Unfortunately, supervising your child or taking safety measures like using padding and safety nets won’t prevent these injuries, because most injuries happen on the trampoline itself. Less than 30 percent of trampoline injuries are caused by children falling off the trampoline.

The number of injuries from trampolines increased for all age groups between 2011 and 2015, and in Alberta in 2015:

  •    Emergency Departments treated more than 1,900 children under 14 years of age for trampoline-related injuries and
  •  105 children under 18 years of age were admitted to the hospital for trampoline-related injuries.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) recently released a Position Statement on Backyard Trampoline Safety to highlight the risks of using backyard trampolines and to help prevent trampoline-related injuries. AHS recommends that:

  • Trampolines not be used for recreational purposes at home (including cottages and temporary summer homes) by children of any age.
  • Trampoline enclosures and supervision do not guarantee against injury.
  • Trampolines not be seen as play equipment and should not be part of backyard play areas.

There are lots of ways that your children to be active outdoors! Encourage your children to play and have fun outside. They can be active in many ways, making up their own games, running, jumping, kicking or throwing balls, riding bikes or going to the playground.

Where to go for more information about Trampolines and Children & Youth:

The above information contains information from Alberta Health Services’ Position Statement - Backyard Trampoline Safety, 2016. For more information on topics related to pregnancy and being a parent and for information on where you can pick up free print copies of the Healthy Parents, Healthy Children resources, go to

The Healthy Parents, Healthy Children team is a part of the larger Healthy Children and Families’ team at Alberta Health Services. Find us on Facebook at Healthy Parents, Healthy Children or follow us on Twitter @AHS_HPHC. For questions or comments, please contact




Brief pauses in breathing while sleeping are normal but when breathing stops often or for longer periods, it is called sleep apnea. When someone has sleep apnea, oxygen levels in the body may fall and sleep can be disrupted. Most people think that only older people have sleep apnea but children and teens can develop it as well.

When we sleep, our muscles relax. This includes the muscles in the back of the throat that help to keep our airway open. In obstructive sleep apnea, these muscles can relax too much and collapse the airway, making it hard to breathe. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea in children.

Mouth-breathing in children will allow the child to get the air he or she needs, it alters “proper oral posture” and causes changes in the child’s growth pattern where changes result in a downward and forward growth direction. Downward and backward growth results in a long lower face and recessive chin.

Children rarely complain of mouth breathing because they quickly accept it as their “normal”. Dental and facial deformities/irregularities can be prevented or minimized by appropriate treatment.

Mouth breathers have different problems so you may need to see more than one doctor. Orthodontists, ENT’S, and allergists all work together to diagnose and correct these problems.

Some signs and symptoms of mouth breathing may include:

  •    Snoring
  •    Narrow palate, crowded teeth
  •    Dark circles under the eyes
  •    Open mouth posture, especially when sleeping
  •    Dry lips
  •    Bad breath
  •    Child requires more than the usual sleep and frequently feels poorly rested
  •    Trouble concentrating at school
  •    Higher than usual infections of the sinus, ear, colds, etc

Strategies for Parents

  •    Make sure your child can easily breathe through his/her nose
  •    Ensure your child(ren) see a dentist by age 1-2 and an orthodontist by age 7.
  •    Check with your physician for possible allergies your child may have, as allergies can force a child to mouth-breathe.
  •    Ensure that your child’s diet and environment don’t contribute to allergies.


While the Canadian and American association of orthodontists recommend an initial orthodontic assessment by age 7 this is especially important for a mouth breathing child. This is because early diagnosis can lead to early intervention and treatment in children to help direct growth to a more favorable pattern and direction. This can involve appliances to widen the dental arches, reduce habits, and advance the lower jaw. It can also allow earlier referrals to other health care providers such as allergists, ENT’s and myofunctional therapists. By the time the patient is in their teen years the bone is mature enough that the expansion phase of orthodontics can become less effective.

For teens and adults, it can be too late for simple orthodontic treatment as facial deformities generally increase with growth. A combination of surgery and orthodontics may be required to shorten the length of the face or widen the dental arches.

Signature Orthodontics is a specialty orthodontic practice located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Dr. Ian McKee and Dr. Shawn Russett had a vision to create a warm and welcoming professional environment, and to build a strong team of dedicated people committed to providing the highest quality of patient care. Over the past 10 years, Signature Orthodontics has continued to grow, and today our team is over thirty plus strong, with each member devoted to providing the very best in orthodontic treatment for our patients. We look forward to welcoming you to our Signature family!




Your teenage daughter calls you to pick her up from school one day, telling you “my head is pounding so bad I think I’m going to throw up”.  You head over to school to bring her home, and may be thinking – “what’s going on?  Should I be worried?”   You pick her up and she looks pale.  She tells you to turn off the radio, and she puts on her sunglasses.  You take her home, she climbs into bed with the door and curtains shut.  She comes out a few hours later, telling you she slept and now feels a bit better.  

Almost 1 in 10 teens experience migraine headaches so it is quite common.  And twice as many girls have migraines than boys during puberty.  The classic symptoms of a migraine headache in teens include throbbing, or pulsing feelings, especially at the temples or the front of the head.   They may be nauseated, sensitive to noise and lights, or have ringing in the ears.  Sometimes they may throw up.  Migraines may last for an hour, or may last up to three days.  There is usually no headache between migraine episodes although a small number of teens may have migraines progress to having a more constant headache.  

The latest research tells us that migraine headaches are likely caused by changes in the nerves in the brain – the trigeminal nerve seems to become more sensitive to changes than in people who don’t get migraines.  This may be due to genetics – migraines often occur in families.  

If your child experiences more than one migraine headache please see your Doctor or Nurse Practitioner to discuss possible medications which may be of help.  Research shows that treating migraines earlier, rather than waiting until your child has had many migraine headaches may be more successful.   There are medications which may be prescribed to take at the beginning of the migraine, or if your child has frequent migraines, medications to prevent them from happening as often.

There are lifestyle changes that may help decrease how often your teen gets a migraine headache.  These include:

  •    Making sure they drink enough water
  •    Making sure they get a good night’s sleep.  Poor sleep is very common in teens with migraines
  •      Look for possible triggers, such as certain foods, scents, caffeine
  •   Help your teen develop coping strategies* for stressful situations, as stress is a common trigger
  •    Have your teen be physically active
  •   Monitor how often they take medications such as ibuprofen, and acetaminophen as this may cause overuse headaches

These medications should not be taken more than three times a week.

*Coping strategies include relaxation exercises, guided imagery, and self-hypnosis.  

You may also find it helpful for your teen to keep a headache diary, or use a tracker app to figure out possible triggers.  

*This column is intended as information and education only.  Always see your healthcare provider with any questions regarding your child’s medical conditions.

Kathy Reid is a Nurse Practitioner at Stollery Children’s Hospital.




It’s that time of year again - time to get active and get moving!  As the weather improves we find ourselves feeling more motivated to go out and get fit. Many talk about getting our bodies bikini ready but the benefits to getting active go far beyond how we look in a bathing suit.  Parents who eat healthily and exercise with their children on a regular basis are teaching them many valuable lessons. By setting the basic foundations of life, parents are the number one source affecting the way children feel about living a healthy lifestyle.  

Dr. Sylvia Rimm author of Rescuing the Emotional Lives of Overweight Children discusses how exercise not only improves physical health, but increases self-confidence and reduces anxiety in children.  She states that exercise is extremely important from a social and emotional perspective and there is nothing better for dissipating anxiety than exercise.  She advocates for exercise over meditation as one of the best forms of relaxation for both children and parents suffering with anxiety.  

Dr. Ron Eaker, author of the book Healthy Habits for a Fit Family, said he began emphasizing family exercise to his patients after reading research about the influence mothers have on their family's habits.  Chantel Sampson and Jenna Brenan, co-owners of J’Adore Dance couldn’t agree more. They see many active families come through the studio doors each week and they try to be leaders not only at the studio for other families but promote an active and healthy lifestyle for their own families.  They believe that parents who exercise with their children not only get healthier, but strengthen the family's bond.  Want to get active? There is no better way to do it then together as a family!  

Both Chantel and Jenna love finding ways to get active with their families.  Chantel, mother of 3 (now 11, 11 and 13), has always been actively involved in not only dance but various other year round sports.  She and her husband played on a co-ed soccer team for almost 10 years.  Most of the team was made up of couples giving it a family atmosphere and their kids playing along the sidelines. Chantel’s children now play club soccer and have developed a real passion for the sport.  The same can be said for their family hiking adventures, watersports and downhill skiing.  “We included our children in everything we did right from the start.  They grew up not only watching us be active but participating along the way.”  Jenna, mother of 2 boys 4 and 6, is an avid runner in addition to teaching dance and fitness at the studio.  This past summer she ran a half marathon with her husband and boys cheering her on.  As a family, Jenna loves hiking, skating, swimming and boating at the lake. This winter she and her husband got to share their love of snowboarding and skiing with their boys for the first time. Both Jenna and Chantel feel strongly that parents who exercise with their children are not only teaching them how to live a healthy lifestyle, they are also reinforcing the family bonds and creating wonderful family traditions. It’s fantastic for super-busy parents who wouldn’t get as much exercise as they need without incorporating their kids in the process.

Both ladies love having a place where families can get active.  At J’Adore Dance there is something for everyone. FamilyFit Warriors is a new program they are offering this spring.  Need some ideas on how to get started working out as a family while having fun? This is the perfect program.  Parents and their kids move through fitness routines, obstacle courses and partner toning sections while listening to fun, motivating and family friendly music.  For moms and babies there are dance fitness baby wearing classes, such as Pump and Groove Mama, Ballet Barre Mama, and Salsa Mama. Looking to move, dance and sing with your kids? J’Adore is proud to offer award winning Intellidance® classes ranging from Babies (3-12 months), Tykes (13-23 Months), Tots (2-4 years) and Family (multi-age).  

Chantel and Jenna also recognize the importance of taking time for themselves.  J’Adore offers a variety of adult fitness classes such as DanceFit, Dancer Body Bootcamp, PiYo, Garuda Conditioning and Pump and Groove.  Both ladies and their staff continue to work on staying educated in the latest techniques and certifications so they can make sure they are bringing J’Adore families the very best programing possible.  

By keeping J’Adore a family focused studio, Chantel and Jenna have watched friendships develop throughout many of the classes. It is a great place to meet new people and develop a social network.   Dr. Vonda Wright, MD speaks about the importance of exercising in groups of friends or family.  In her online blog she states, “Exercising in groups of friends or with family is actually better for your brain.  Your neurons really get fired up when you add social contact to exercise.  The social support of a group you are comfortable in seems to minimize the stress and maximize the benefit of exercise on your brain.”  Chantel and her husband met on the dance floor and to this day love dancing together.  This fall, Ms. Heather and her husband Michael tried one of J’Adore’s new program, Garuda Conditioning, together. This weekly “date” has become a special part of their week.  “What I like about taking a class with my husband,” Heather explains,

“Is that we get a chance to reconnect outside of the house. It's a positive environment in which to celebrate our successes, work towards goals, and commiserate over sore muscles! While giving us an opportunity to bond in a different way than going on a traditional date would.”

As parents, our children are watching our every move, mirroring our every action; if as a parent we are sedentary, there is a good chance our children will be too. So let’s make the decision to get active together as a family.

For more information about J’Adore Dance, visit

Instilling Responsibility in Today's Children

October 27th, 2010

By: Marvin Marshall, Ed.D.

If you find that disciplining your children and fostering a sense of responsibility in them is stressful or unsuccessful, the use of traditional parenting approaches may be the problem. Why? Because traditional parenting approaches, including using lectures, rewards, and punishments, rely on external motivators to change the child’s behavior and aim to obtain obedience and compliance. But telling young people what to do, rewarding them if they do as expected, and threatening or punishing them if they don’t are counterproductive, increase stress, and diminish strong parent/child relationships.

In fact, whether the approach is telling-based, rewards-based, or punishment-based, the bottom line is that it’s manipulation, which is never permanent. All these approaches are something you do to another person and have little long-lasting effect. This is in contrast to collaboration—working with a person.

Whenever you impose something on someone, it only produces short-term results because the person doesn’t have any ownership in it. Think about it…if these external motivational approaches were effective, irresponsible behaviors would be a mere footnote to parenting, rather than a leading cause of stress.

The irony of manipulating behavior is that the more you use it in an attempt to control children, the less real influence you exert over them. Clearly, manipulation breeds resentment. In addition, if children behave because they are forced to behave, the parent has not really succeeded. True responsibility means behaving appropriately because children want to—not because they have to.

Here is the paradox: We want to assist young people to be self-disciplined and responsible, and both traits require internal motivation. Yet, lectures, rewards, and punishments are external motivators and place the responsibility on someone else to instigate a change. The challenge then for parents is raising a child who will do the right thing even when there is no threat of punishment, no lure of a reward, and no lecture before and after the act. So how do you do that? Following are some parenting techniques you can try today that don’t use punishments, rewards, or lectures and that internally motivate children to act responsibly.

Challenge the Child

Every time you try to make children do something or not do something, the children will likely resist. Children interpret the request as an attempt to control them, and no one likes feeling controlled. However, virtually all children enjoy a good challenge. They like to show off their talents and prove how good they are at things. So instead of trying to force a behavior, challenge your children to show responsible behavior.

For example, suppose you have a four-year-old son, and every time you try to get the family in the car, your son jumps into the driver’s seat and refuses to move back to his car seat. Rather than bribe him into the backseat, threaten to take away his favorite toy, or talk for 30 minutes about why he needs to be safe in his car seat, offer a challenge. You could say, “I bet I’m faster. I bet it will take you longer to get into the backseat and buckle your seatbelt than it will for me lock the front door and come back to the car.” Then watch how fast the little one jumps to his car seat.

Young children often know what to do. Having them demonstrate responsible behavior merely takes some creativity, namely, “What can I say or do to prompt them in a way that they interpret it as a challenge rather than an attempt to control them?”

Put the Child in Charge

Everyone likes being in charge of something, even something small. Adults and children alike need a sense that something in their world is within their control. Therefore, if you want your children to exhibit responsible behavior, put them in charge of the exact behavior you want them to display.

For example, suppose you have a school-aged daughter who is always getting up from the table during dinner, thereby disrupting the environment you want to maintain during mealtime. In this case, think of the exact opposite behavior of what your daughter is doing and put her in charge of that responsibility. You could say, “Hanna, I need your help. I want you to be in charge of having all members of the family remain seated during dinner. Can you handle this?”

When put in control of something, children will always perform the appropriate behavior because incongruity (doing the opposite of what the person is in charge of) is very difficult for young people. This approach to changing behavior immediately is foolproof. If it doesn’t work, reflect: Did you think of the exact opposite? Did you use the exact wording of putting the person in charge and phrasing the responsibility in positive terms?

Change Your Question

People know when they act irresponsibly, and that includes children. But their knowing does not stop the behavior. While knowing the cause for behavior may be interesting, it has nothing to do with changing that behavior. Until the child accepts responsibility, he or she will not act differently, even when the child knows the reason.

Therefore, rarely ask a child why the behavior occurred. “Why?” implies that knowing the reason for the behavior would make a difference in the future, but it does not. A more effective approach would be to ask, “What are we going to do about it?” Then listen to what your child says. You’ll be amazed at how developed their reasoning skills are, even at a young age. And when they outline the steps or actions that need to be done, they’ll have ownership of the ideas and will actually do them.

Empower with Responsibility

When children know that others are counting on them, and especially when the child has an attachment to the adult, there is a great incentive to carry through with the request. Children don’t want to let down others they care about. They want people to view them as someone who can be counted on. Having children be responsible for something, such as a family task, can have a significant effect on developing responsibility.

The task can be large or small—anything from feeding the dog to setting the table for young children to mowing the yard or sweeping the driveway for older kids. Realize that this is beyond a simple chore that the child receives money for doing (which is a rewards-based approach). This is about letting the child know you are depending on him or her to follow through with this task, because doing it benefits the entire family in some way.

Use Creative Phrasing

Rather than scold children or talk down to them, use creative phrasing with a youngster who has done something that shouldn’t have been done, has misbehaved, or has had to suffer the results of a bad choice. For example, you could say, “I know you didn’t mean for that to happen. What went wrong?”

This phrasing sends the message that you think highly of the child regardless of the negative situation and that you know the child didn’t want to end up with the bad results. It demonstrates empathy and opens the gate for the young person to think back over the whole issue without getting defensive.

Make the Responsible Choice

As a parent or caregiver, your goal is to assist children to become responsible, self-reliant, independent problem solvers; yet, external approaches set up young people to be dependent upon an external agent. Therefore, the ultimate goal should not be to have the child obey and keep parents happy. The ultimate goal is that young people act in a responsible way because it pays off for them; it is in their own and others’ best interests. Using the strategies outlined here will help give your children both roots and wings. You will find yourself on the parenting journey of raising responsible kids, with less stress and more enjoyment for everyone involved.


Dr. Marvin Marshall is widely known for his programs on discipline and learning. His approach stemmed from his acquiring knowledge about youth as a parent; a recreation director and camp counselor; a classroom teacher; a school counselor; an elementary and high school principal; district director of education; and as a certificate holder from the William Glasser Institute. He is the author of “Parenting Without Stress: How to Raise Responsible Kids While Keeping a Life of Your Own,” as well as other parenting books and programs. More information is available at

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