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Sex Education: A Blind Spot? (Part 1)

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Sex Education: A Blind Spot?

Introduction

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Sex Education is the voyage, which no parents or school, wish to explore.

Let’s dive into the topic, without wasting any time.

Sex Education and Parents

The modern age has the problem of “Too Much Information” or TMI syndrome.

Children are exposed to a hoard of information on the internet.

The natural curiosity of the older child and tween is already high and the exposure to flammable material often leads to half-baked ideas.

These can be harmful to the child’s psyche in the long run.

Parents, especially in traditional societies like India are often reluctant to speak about sex to their children.

Topics related to sexuality are often taboo in all sections of society. This leads to serious repercussions in later life and in the personality traits of the child.

Children often get a tough deal in this regard. They are kept in dark on issues related to sex and face lots of issues in subsequent relationships and even marriage (Part 1 and Part 2). Is sex education important?

Sex is often treated like a subject that can be discussed only behind closed doors.

Parents themselves have many reservations about the topic and are hesitant to broach it with their kids.

The correlation between love and sex is never made clear to the child in the family set up. This translates into confusion and an absence of understanding of the impact of sex in any romantic relationship.

Parents are more concerned about marriages being successful in terms of monetary parameters, dowry expectations (Part 1 and Part 2), and social status. Both boys and girls face this issue.

The parents are not open to the kids about sexual orientation and often miss the chance to impart values that give them a clear idea of what to expect.

Trust, commitment and values get left out of the equation.

The general belief amongst parents is that the school should be responsible for imparting sex education to the child.

But, in reality, a heart to heart talk in a nurturing environment is required.

It is in the home that the child can ask questions and get clarity without getting embarrassed.

Even if the school does give a modicum of information, it is important for the parent to review the same and clarify any doubts. This will lead to a healthy and open relationship between the child and the parents.

The teenager will be able to talk to the parent without reservation and will not be easily coerced into unwanted relationships, or be pressured by peers.

Acceptance is a big issue at this age and the teenager might be lured into damaging sexual relationships just to try and fit in.

Parental counseling goes a long way in helping the child keep a stable mindset.

It is a myth that sex education leads to promiscuity.

Parents should gauge the readiness of the child’s mind and personality before they proceed to impart sex education to their children.

Courtesy – Youtube

What is the right age to have the talk?

There is no right age as such to talk to your child about sex.

The child could be exposed to external information earlier than the parent anticipates.

You could gauge the readiness of the child by initiating the conversation in easy language.

If the child is on the internet and has access to unfiltered information, you could be talking to her as early as 11-12 years.

There are a few warning signs that your tween or teen is ready to talk about sex.

There could be changes in the body that make her/him conscious about gender differences.

The child may be craving personal time and spending a lot of time in the bathroom.

The need for privacy could lead to your child to spend a lot of time locked in the bedroom.

The sudden hormonal and bodily changes may create confusion in the child’s mind.

The child feels frustrated and moody and can face a lot of anxiety too.

When this hormone surge is coupled with frustration and inappropriate information from friends and spurious internet sites, the irritability quotient can be sky-high.

She might avoid school and family time and lose concentration.

This is the time that parents should step in.

The trick is to have a warm and open relationship with boundaries since early childhood so that the child is comfortable speaking about intimate feelings and curiosity.

How does the parent initiate talks?

There is no easy way to initiate sex education.

Parents need to be direct and clear with the child. 

The talk needs to be in clear and simple language.

It should be factual and you can use the help of visual aids from the internet or illustrated books to make the concept clear.

There should be no confusing terminologies and indirect talk.

It may confuse the child even further and there will be no forthcoming discussion or questions that will satisfy his natural curiosity.

The talk should not be overtly moralistic but fair and honest.

It is a good idea to start discussions at a young age and deepen the breadth of information as the child grows older.

The ‘good touch’,’ bad touch’ talk is a good place to start making your child aware of her/his body.

A child needs to be able to feel free to talk to the adult without fear and embarrassment.

Short talks over a period of time are more conducive than one long talk that makes your kid uncomfortable.

Children need to hear about menstruation, pre-marital and casual sex, unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and also the positives of healthy sex life.

The positives should be tempered with fair warnings about unsafe sex and promiscuity and its downfalls.

Parents should be open about the risks but not in a preachy way.

The child should be cautioned gently about sexual indulgence before they attain physical and emotional maturity.

There should be complete transparency between the child and the parent about the on-going physical and emotional upheavals in the child’s life. 

Studies show that children who have received a modicum of sex education are less likely to be embroiled in risky sex practices at a younger age.

Even if you are a parent who has open communication lines with your child, the discussion may become awkward for both sides at times.

Most children find it difficult to accept that their parents have an active sex life.

It is a better option to not discuss personal experiences.

Teenagers are very private in general and the parents have to make them comfortable with the conversation.

These conversations may be easier to conduct while you are doing other tasks like walking the dog or washing the car together. It seems like a natural conversation and not a forced talk.

How to give the right signals to your child about sexuality?

It is obvious that your child is going to want more information.

There are a lot of topics that can be too awkward to handle.

The child should be gently guided into reading high-quality research and books that can help him/her gain more insight.

Studies have proven that children who receive sex education are more likely to be better equipped to handle sexual relationships at every age.

Gender divides and inclusive sexuality becomes easier to interpret and embrace.

The child who feels trapped in a different gender can be open with parents about his/her sexual orientation and not fear rejection.

Sex education, when discussed in the correct way, will help children to form healthy relationships.

They tend to have better cognitive, physical, emotional and social awareness about the different aspects of sexuality.

The transition from childhood to adulthood becomes easier.

Teenagers make better choices in life and tend to be more emotionally grounded when they have open communication lines with their parents.

It is important that the parents explain to the child that there is nothing repressive about sex. It is a necessary bodily function and can be the bedrock of commitment.

Children need to be taught to be aware, and sexually responsible.

The values of respect, inclusion, gender equality and empathy are well defined and adhered to.

Sex education imparted responsibly can reaffirm the empowerment of women and their health and well-being.

The girl child benefits more as even today the gender discrimination and violation risk are much higher for girls.

Sexual and reproductive health can be maintained with knowledge and awareness.

Preparing yourself to discuss sex with your child

Parents should be well informed and prepared when they go-ahead to talk to their children about sex.

Be prepared by reading and studying as much as you can on relevant topics like puberty, contraception, homosexuality, pre-marital sex or multiple sexual partners. You are more likely to be precise and less awkward if you have in-depth knowledge of topics that may come up.

If you are not aware of any new thing that comes up, be prepared with age-appropriate books, journals or videos to help to explain better. Back-up information shows the child that you are open to knowing new stuff and discussing it.

It might be a good idea to try out what you want to say. Prepare a small plan of what and how you plan to initiate and guide the conversation. Practice makes sure that you do not stumble over appropriate topics.

Plan the talk and approach your child before he/she has the chance to ask you questions. You opening the conversation indicate a willingness to discuss a difficult topic. It can make your kid more likely to open up about personal experiences or thoughts.

Finally, it is very important that you structure the conversation as a dialogue, not a one-way talk. It should be interactive and easy. A friendly chat is more likely to make your teenager come back to you for further discussion at a later date.

Eye contact is very necessary while you talk to your child about sex. If your teenager senses discomfort or embarrassment, they might form wrong conceptions. Help your child feel that sex is natural, not awkward. You could start an open-ended dialogue by using cues around you. A television show, a book, or a newspaper article could be a good place to start.

It is also a good time to explain your own value system to your teenager. It should be an easy conversation and your child should be clear that it is not necessary that e/she should share your feelings about the subject. Listen to what they have to say too.

The negatives of avoiding the sex talk with your child

Children will come to know of and about sex from various sources.  

It is always a better option to be approachable and accessible when your child has questions.

Truthful answers without negative repercussions can help the child avoid bad choices.

Parents who are not open about discussing sex and sexuality with their children may have kids who are confused and make bad choices.

Having inflexible moralistic views may push the child into unfavorable situations.

The modern world has children being sexually exploited and bullied on the internet.

Child abuse is rampant. Parents who communicate have a better chance at keeping their children safe.

Many parents assume that their child is sexually active if they ask a leading question and may panic or give a hysterical reply. This might sound the death knell to future conversations.

The child may feel intimidated and try to fulfill his natural curiosity from undesirable arenas like porn sites or such. This may lead to dire consequences and scar the child for life.

Children are vulnerable and need to be protected.

The best defense to have open communication with your child.

Make her/him feel safe and comfortable in their own sexuality.

The child grows up to be a confident and balanced adult, who has stable relationships and no commitment issues while growing up.

Start the conversation early and keep at it to make a positive impact in your child’s life.

Courtesy – Youtube

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