Norwegians woke up Tuesday morning to news that a respected Oslo pre-school teacher, backed by child psychologists, thinks children should be allowed to openly express their own sexuality, not least through sex play and games in the local day care centers known as barnehager, or kindergartens.
The vast majority of Norwegians send their children from the age of one to the kindergartens, where they spend their days until they begin school at age six.
Pia Friis, leader of the popular Bjerkealleen Barnehage in Oslo and a well-known pre-school educator, told newspaper Dagbladet on Tuesday that children should be allowed to express their own sexuality at day care centers. She doesn't want to stifle what comes naturally.
Children, she said, should be able "to look at each other and examine each other's bodies. They can play doctor, play mother and father, dance naked and masturbate.
"But their sexuality must also be socialized, so they are not, for example, allowed to masturbate while sitting and eating. Nor can they be allowed to pressure other children into doing things they don't want to."Friis said there's a lot of uncertainty around how day care center employees should handle children's sexuality.
"The only thing that is absolutely certain is that children, sooner or later, will play sexual games and examine each other at the kindergarten," she told Dagbladet. "When the personnel are uncertain, that passes on to the children, and it can be negative."
The issue is the topic of an article in the latest edition of the magazine published by Norway's industry association for privately owned kindergartens, PBL-nytt, and Friis thinks it's important. So do child psychologist Thore Langfeldt and family therapist Jesper Juul. "Children must learn about sexuality, otherwise things can go very wrong," said Langfeldt. "Children can't object to something they don't know about, and children can more easily and readily report assaults if they already are aware of their own sexuality." Juul conceded that "many are disturbed by children's sexuality, but I think it's important to put it on the agenda. That, in fact, is what we're doing."
While Norwegians are known for being liberal and tolerant, the issue already has sparked heated debate on radio programs and in online opinion forums. And some politicians are outraged, not least those on the conservative side. "I thought at first that this was a joke," said Karin Ståhl Woldseth, a spokesman on family issues for the Progress Party.
"Sexual games don't belong in a kindergarten," she declared. "Children don't need more exposure to this in kindergartens. We think it will damage their health."
Source: Aftenposten English Web Desk