Parent’s guide to educating their children about sex
What can possibly be the most awkward moment in your life as a parent? With hundreds of possibilities, talking about sex to your children may top the list. It can get as awkward as it gets. Since sex is deemed as a highly private matter between individuals, parents from all ages and regions have avoided talking about it all. The society has also portrayed sex as a ‘social evil’ that destroys cultural and religious values, despite it being a natural, human need.
Most children would agree to hearing and learning about sex among the corner walls of their classroom. Magazines, newspaper scraps, conversations with friends and mainly, the internet—most children came into terms with this natural process in their teen years. This should not have been the case. The society names sex as ‘vulgar, dirty’ and disrespects them who even attempt to talk or explore their sexuality. Hence, parents have also hesitated to come forth and educate their children about sex, since early ages.
Often questions like, “How did the baby get into the belly,” are met with counterparts like, “God waved around some magic and boom! The baby got in the belly.” This may look creative at first, but down the line, the child may question further instances with deeper interest and curiosity that leads to further research on the internet. There are many variations of sex on the internet, but a growing child or teen needs to know the basics, or they can be diverted to the bad side of it all.
Researchers have found out that anxious teenagers and adolescents find it difficult to form romantic relationships with others. They look for guidance and suggestions for experienced people. But alas, since sex is made to be such a great, big deal, they refrain from asking anyone any questions related to sex. Apparently, it saves them from ‘peer and social embarrassment’.
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to build your child’s overall development.
How, when and why they learn things, depends on you. Some parents just completely avoid the subject while some finally start considering the importance of sex education. However, even with their earnest spirit, they struggle immensely with how to even approach the topic, without any awkwardness.
But, fret not. It’s completely normal for a parent to feel nervous and awkward. What’s important is that no matter how close or distant you are from your child, you should approach the topic with honesty. Don’t stand back or delay any information, try to do it at the earliest. That being said, most of you would think that it's easy to just type the importance and necessity of it out, but we understand your problem and nervousness too. We aren’t suggesting that you can look for other people to do your job, but a detailed step-by-step guide on how to talk about sex with your kids can help you go through the process a lot easier.
Why is it important to talk about it early on?
Conceptualised as ‘The Talk’ throughout pop culture, the sex discussion of parents with kids is shown as a one-time talk that can be as dreadful as it can be. However, in reality, the ideal conversation should be framed throughout the kid’s childhood, teen and adolescent years. The prime goal is to normalise sexual education which most schools fail to give and even recognise. If you start talking normally about sex more often, it removes the awkwardness out of it. That’s not all. Your child might start seeing you as the older, ideal figure to talk to about anything. They’ll start seeing you as their friend, not some strict, awkward and nervous parent. Sex talks can actually bring parents and children closer than you could ever imagine.
How to talk to small children (age: 3-8 years old)
You may not actually believe it, but it’s true. Young children are the easiest to talk to about sex. In their young age, they are still getting to know and understand different aspects of life and with their innocent expressions, it’s so much easier to talk to them!
The first thing you need to understand is, sex like anything else is completely normal. In sex, our private parts i.e our genitalia comes into play. If you are teaching your child what a hand or a leg is, then you should also include words like ‘vagina and penis’. Most parents tend to term the genitalia as some kiddish word and so it’s all the more necessary to teach them the right words. Like any other, they are also a part of the body. You should also be gender-specific when talking about the same. Normalising the talk of body parts and genitalia alike is the first process.
Talking about the genital parts and the correct names can also remove the stigma surrounding sex. When a child innocently asks anything related to their body, respond to ever query calmly without panicking or freaking out. Also, most importantly, teach your child that it’s incorrect to teach each other’s genitalia. Thread your words carefully because this part can be tricky. Specify gender roles and why it’s not correct to touch anyone in any way they want.
How to talk to pre-teens (age: 9-14 years old)
Kids of this age bracket start experiencing body changes and thus, a billion questions arrive in their mind. There are emotional and social changes as well which contribute to their utmost curiosity. From this age particularly, kids may hesitate to approach parents to ask them about their bodily changes. As a parent, you have noticed your child’s daily movements and behaviour at the beginning and then pick the correct time to talk to them. The discussion should be explanatory and why it’s important to normalise body changes.
Pre-teens also slowly start to know about sex from school, so you need to prep the sex talk as well. The idea can be jarring but conversations about sexual health, preferences and safe sex should be included as well. Researches show that if they know everything and the risks, especially, pre-teens can make overall, better choices.
You should also focus on safe internet surfing since this is the age when children start discovering the vast net and surf various sections available. Educate them about digital rules like why sharing nude or explicit photos available on the internet, among peers, is illegal and completely wrong.
How to talk to teens (age: 15-19 years old)
This is by far the most difficult age bracket to talk to, many would agree. But if you’ve discussed sex head-on from an early age, then chances are that your child considers you more comfortable and a friend than the rest of the parents who didn’t.
Your child can easily come and ask you questions regarding their life or any noticeable sexual behaviour. If they are feeling uncomfortable talking about it, you should take the initiative and start talking by cracking regular, lame jokes just to ease the air up.
However, if you have been quiet about it till now, then you have to face the discussion head-on. Most of the time, you’re met with a, “Ugh, stop it! I already know!” or “Eww, I don’t need to hear about sex from you” and it’s quite common. But you really need to stress the fact that they need to hear all about it. Even if your child doesn’t want to hear it, make them stay.
Start by talking about sexual consent and why one just can’t talk or show any inappropriate sexual behaviour towards others. Consent, being an extremely vital part often goes unnoticed and hence the result? Rapes, dating violence, sexual assaults and molestation.
If you are frank and open, rather than being strict, your child might want to relate with you. Studies have found out that sex talks can reduce any early signs of inappropriate sexual behaviour among teens. Sexting on phones and computers are another natural occurrence that teens need to be aware of. Starting to engage in these activities are alright, but only when they are rightfully educated about it as well.
Next, emphasise the necessity of birth control and protection. That’s real talk. Unprotected sex can be dangerous leading to unwanted pregnancies among teens ad Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Before you sit down, grab a condom or look for a video that explains how and why using condoms is extremely important. That can’t be missed, never. The morning after pills or contraceptives is also related to girls’ periods so it might be easier to talk to girls about it more. When you have the discussion about periods with daughters, pop in the contraceptive and birth-control part too.
It’s vital that you engage in frequent conversations with your children. Adding a story or two from your childhood can also easy up the awkwardness. Talking about sex is not just a necessity but also a way to empower and a step towards awakening their sexual identity. So calm down, gear up and go talk to your child, because a little guidance is what they may need right now.