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Talking to Your Child about Sex

Talking to your Child about Sex

It is not an easy thing to do and it takes some courage and need some knowledge to talk to your child about sex. One of the common myths is that sex education will make a person become sexually more active and promiscuous. This is not true and the research points exactly the other way (i.e. educating children and adolescents about sex on topics that are age appropriate will help their sexual development and remain safe). In my clinical experience, I have come across many young men lacking in knowledge about sex and they are not to be blamed. These men never had any opportunity to discuss about sex either with their parents or teachers. So, they look for sources such as friends and lately internet for seeking information about sex. There is no guarantee for the information passed on by the friend and internet is a big basket of information which makes it difficult for an average person to differentiate the correct from wrong information. In order for your kids to be sexually matured and remain safe and enjoy healthy sexuality, the responsibility starts from home and with parents educating their kids with age-appropriate topics around sex. (Sex here does not mean the act of sex alone but includes body image, gender, orientation, identity, pleasure and intimacy/love).

The big question that every parent should ask themselves is – whether my kids should learn about sex from us or from somebody else whom we don’t know. The fact is, if you don’t want to talk about sex, they (kids) are curious enough to know about sex and will seek from some other source(s).

Some of the tips I would like to give are:

Acknowledge and accept your child’s questions: Don’t scold/punish or even neglect the question. More importantly, don’t make fun of it. Either ways, the kids get a message that their intention to know about sex is not acceptable and make them feel bad. You must feel proud and happy that your child has chosen to ask you which demonstrates the trust and affection they have in you.

Be courageous and comfortable to initiate the topic: As an adult, if you are not comfortable to initiate then your grown up child won’t. Don’t wait for your child to start the conversation. You can do the ice-breaking and kick-start. We don’t wait for our kids to ask about whether it is safe to play with knife and fire. We start telling them about safety well before they ask or do something. Likewise, sex can also be a topic of personal safety and you have the duty and rights to start discussing.

Try and remain honest: Never feel pressured to answer all the questions that your kids ask or make up your own answers. Be clear about what you know and don’t know and be ready to buy in time to find the correct answer. Remember to seek correct answers from credible sources. Probably the father and mother can discuss in private before getting the answer out to kids. If your kid goes to a school that has sex education program, you can consider talking to the staff at school and get more information. It is advisable to keep the messages given by you (as parents) is in line with what the school promotes and vice-versa. As parents you can feed the school on what topics you want the school to address. Mixed messages can be harmful.

Use day-to-day opportunities to talk about sex: Talking about sex doesn’t have to be a scheduled activity. It might be a scene in a TV show or movie, the actions of a character in a book you’ve both read, or your teenager getting ready for a school dance. Teaching opportunities like these give you the opportunity to provide little bits of information over a period of time. In a way, it can be reinforcing what you said previously rather giving one long lecture every 2 months.Sometimes, buying a textbook and leaving it in an accessible manner would trigger the kids to read. Then you both can use the text as a common source to refer to. Some grown up children can read and understand to themselves.

Listen as much as you talk: Many of us are good in telling but not so good in listening with attention. When the other person is talking, it is important to listen and understand what they are trying to convey rather trying to frame an answer/advice or counter what they are saying. Listening carefully and probing (if needed and done gently) can not only make you better understand the issue faced by your children but also make them feel safe and comfortable.

Educate both boys and girls: There is a notion that boys would somehow learn about sex but only girls should be thought. This is totally wrong. Both boys and girls should be educated about sex.

Talk about the positives of sex: Telling kids about safety and hygiene is very important but sex is not about all about rape, abuse, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and HIV. The other side is to educate them on how to feel comfortable with one’s own body, appreciate the sense of pleasure and intimacy. Be sure to share your own family values about responsible healthy sexuality.A lot of parents tell their kids that genital is a dirty organ and don’t touch it. It is important to remember that genital by itself not a dirty organ but what gets excreted through it is dirty. It is advisable that you tell your kids to keep the genital area clean. The mind and body (genitals) should be friends with each other in order to have a healthy sexual development.

Some suggestions for age-appropriate topics:

2 years – body parts

3-4 years – touching one’s own genital.

8-10 years – topics around puberty, basics of sex and reproduction

Early teen – body image, sexual feelings

Teenagers – relationships, communicating sexual limits and protecting themselves from unsafe situations.