Ever tried to imagine one day your young child or relative comes home and asks you (without bating an eyelid) what intercourse means. What will your response be? Hesitation at first; and then, if ever you muster the courage, you may ask “where did that come from?”. Some will transfer the responsibility to another with a “go and ask your mom/dad/teacher/uncle/aunty” response or “we’d talk about it later”. Very few people will actually sit down and deal with it.
The importance of sex education cannot be overemphasized; yet many parents shy away addressing sex-related questions from children. Usually, parents share tales of first tooth and first steps in a celebratory tone compared to sexual development. Some even oppose to sex education for pre-teens with a view that it will corrupt their mind, steal their innocence and open them up to promiscuity. They put it away and just never come around to discussing it. One day you are changing diapers and the next day, they are all grown up, I know. The speed at which puberty shows up these days does not even help (I am still trying to understand the science behind it). I know it can be difficult to decide when the right age is to discuss sexual issues, but if you really think this through, it is more of how comfortable you feel about the topic than the timing or age.
Children need to know that they can talk about these issues with an adult whom they can trust. Parents need to move past the stage of being shy and face the realities of the dangers of not providing the guidance. You find many teenagers having sex without the knowledge of their parents. Remember, there are alternative sources of information that may not be trustworthy or accurate- like friends, the Internet and the media. Get comfortable at discussing these topics with children as they go through the different sexual developmental stages. Toddlers are curious on how babies are formed, on why their bodies differ from mom and dads’. Teenagers are curious about relationships with the opposite sex, gender dissimilarities, sexual intercourse, pregnancy, and even marriage. They most often share these sorts of issues among themselves and exchange information, which may not be accurate.
There are many myths on sexual issues. I have heard tales of parents telling their female children that they will get pregnant if they were kissed or merely hugged. Such children come to believe that expressing physical affection is inappropriate. They eventually grow up not knowing the difference and living with the assumption that merely touching the opposite sex is a preamble to sexual intercourse. I am no professional at this but, here’s my two-pence on educating a child especially a pre-teen about sexual issues:
- The conversation does not always have to come from the child; you can preempt it and cut out the shyness or embarrassment that may be stalling the conversation. You’d be amazed at what they already know.
- When the questions come, do not laugh at them or feel embarrassed, offer age-appropriate responses and take time to correct any misconceptions.
- You need to be honest and open. Do not just stop at answering, “why sex” with “to have kids”, explain the pros and cons. Let them know whom else they can approach on “embarrassing” tales if they ever needed an adult’s guidance and they were reluctant to come to you.
- Nope! In case you are thinking that one lengthy conversation has done the trick; I tell you, you have to keep an open communication line and always go back on topics.
- Master the art of sharing your own past tales the child can relate to. Puberty comes with a lot of physical, psychological and emotional changes that may be quite terrifying to an unprepared child.
- I personally do not encourage fake names for body parts at a certain age. Call it what it is, explain which parts are private and teach them about “the secret touch” not been acceptable.
A few days ago, a friend sent me an email, here’s a summary,
His wife brought up a discussion about her friend who had earlier visited with an issue. The lady has a 14-year-old daughter who is quite big for her age. She had been going through her daughters’ school bag earlier that day and found a condom. She scolded her daughter on the assumption that the girl was sexually active. After he heard, he decided to give the girl a chance to hear her out. So he called her and she reiterated her explanation of not been sexually active and said the condoms were used to teach sex education the previous year in her class. He described the condom as old and tatty, definitely not new. He went on to discuss with her mom and asked if she would rather have her daughter carry a condom or not? Considering the fact that if truly she is sexually active and has a condom in hand, that simply gives a level of assurance that she has taken an educative conclusion to sex (not that he supports her getting sexually active at such an age though).
My friend, whose story I shared has said he will rather have a child who is sexually aware and educated than have one that has no clue or has the wrong approaches. I believe that it is ok to assume that children (teenagers) are not ready for sex BUT it is safer to provide information and guidance on sexuality, these include, but is not limited to, abstinence, contraceptive methods, and sexually transmitted diseases. This way they are well armed when they are ready, otherwise, they will make more costly mistakes.
What do you think?
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