EDUCATING THE YOUNG: YOU CAN’T AVOID TALKING TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT IT FOREVER.
Ever the taboo topic, Sex, becomes even more so the elephant in the room, when it comes to talking about it to your children. But the truth is that, sex is an important part of being human. It will influence how your children will feel about themselves and ultimately the choices they make in their lives. Most parents don’t really have the ‘big sex talk’ because it might be awkward for them. Understandable, but the reality is that parents are the best people to have ‘the sex discussion’ with their children. And if you don’t they are probably already talking about it amongst themselves.
Sex or the idea of it, should be brought up regularly, in daily conversations especially if you have a child who is curious enough to ask pointed questions. Adults often underestimate the capability of children to understand and grasp concepts. If your child is smart enough to ask questions, then they are also smart enough to understand. So, there does not need to be one big moment where you talk to your child about sex.
When I was six, my parents bought me a body book that showed how a sperm & egg meet to become a fetus and then a baby. I asked my father how the sperm and egg meet? He told me simply, “When a man and woman marry they make love. When they make love the sperm from the man and the egg from the woman meet in the woman’s body. Then a child begins to grow in the woman’s stomach. That is how you were made in your mother’s stomach.” That was my first introduction to sex and love-making. I did not need to know more than that at that point. The finer details slowly found their way into my knowledge. But the important point was that there was always an open door for me whenever conversations may have strayed towards sex and sexuality. The more open you are with your children, the easier you make it for them to make the right and informed choices sexually when they will be ready. Of course, as a parent you have every right to tell them when you feel they should be or should not be sexually active. The reality is that, as long as they understand what it is, they are less likely to experiment at an earlier age. Furthermore, they will also not be lead astray by all the abounding sex myths.
O f course, you may be thinking, easier said than done! True story! Talking about sex to your children is definitely easier said than done. You openly discussing sex with your child will ensure that you are providing them with the most accurate information.
First of all, as a parent, you should know your own (and your partner’s) comfort level when it comes to talking about sex. Don’t rush the conversations, know what your own sexual values are before you impose or talk to your child about it. Your sexual values are about your personal beliefs, priorities, and thoughts on sex, sexuality and gender. Our sexual values are in a state of flux and can change over time and with experience. Knowing how you feel about sex can make it easier for you to talk to your child about sex.
If you are at a loss about what you should be talking to your child about, you should start by focusing on the facts about sex. Explain the male and female anatomy and reproduction, talk about sexual intercourse and pregnancy, sexual behaviors, sexuality and sexual orientation, the physical and emotional aspects of sex, self-image and peer pressure (especially to teens and preteens), sexually transmitted diseases, and you should talk about consensual sex.
TALKING ABOUT SEX IS NOT A DISCUSSION YOU WILL HAVE AT ONE SITTING OR IN AN HOUR OR TWO.
If you want to raise a sexually healthy child you do need to create an environment where they are able to learn and ask questions. Having some age appropriate sex education books is always a good idea. There are book stores in Kathmandu that carry such books in English and in Nepali and there are also books published by Save the Children, UNICEF etc that make talking about sex easier and age appropriate.
And as with everything else with sex, practice makes perfect! The only way you can get comfortable with sex is if you talk about it. The more you talk about it the better you get at it.
Talking about sex is not a discussion you will have at one sitting or in an hour or two. When you talk about sex to your children, it is not just the deed that you should be focusing on. Talk to them about their sexuality, gender, sex as in the noun and the verb. Your child’s sexuality is going to be a major part of who they are going to be, so it is important that you take time and make them feel good in whatever space they are in. If your child springs questions on you and you are not comfortable talking about it at that time, let your child know that you will discuss it later, and make sure that you do!
You don’t have to answer every question as soon as it is asked. But do know that it is crucial you answer the question. And you don’t have to have the answers to everything. Don’t pretend you know an answer because you could harm the trust your child has in you. Creating a distance between you can be harmful for your child and the sexual decisions they make.
Also, knowing boundaries, and modeling them for your children is important. In your child’s development, it is important for them to know what is appropriate and what might be inappropriate to ask. You are your child’s parent and not their best friend, so you don’t have to ask every personal question your child asks you. You can be their model. Show them the boundaries about the things you will or won’t talk to about with strangers, family, friends and their romantic partners.
Chari is a Public Health consultant who has a special interest and work experience in the field of reproductive and sexual health. She also hosts a radio program on rvlradio called turn it on.