the days of innocence when you could safely leave your child to discover
the intricacies of sex on the wedding night. Today's parents have to be
prepared in advance for providing answers and guidance from as early as
the toddler years.
children settle in to and become aware of their own sexual identity
from 2 -3 years of age.
An infant may touch
his own genitalia but at this stage it is definitely not masturbation.
But from about 2 - 3 years of age a child begins to become aware of his
sexuality and begins to express curiosity about it. At this stage only
simple responses are needed.
- Don't be shy or
embarrassed unless you want to teach your child that sex is wrong and
that certain parts of her body are shameful.
- Remember that
in this age of information she's is picking up everything from TV and
friends. It's vital that you put the facts across rather than letting
her internalise possibly distorted messages from other sources.
- Allow her to see
casually affectionate responses from you and your spouse.
- Answer all questions
as truthfully as possible.
- Remember any taboo
is in your mind not her's.
- Be sure to add
that a youngster should immediately tell you if someone touches him
in a way that makes him uncomfortable.
As far as a toddler
is concerned, answer only as much as he has asked. He doesn't need a long
lecture - simplified concepts are enough for him. However, for pre- teens
and teens, sexual education becomes an absolute necessity. For a parent
(and child) to be comfortable with the idea of the parent as a guide on
this topic it is very important that a foundation of honesty, trust and
comfort has been built up with regard to this topic, from early childhood.
is more than sex - it is about many things like your body and
what changes happen to it, about your emotions, beliefs and
If you are too embarrassed
to discuss this aspect of life with your child, get help. TARSHI
(Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues) runs a helpline
for children. They have also brought out two booklets on "all you
want to know about yourself." The Red book is for ages 10-14 years
and the blue book is for ages 15-19 years. The language used is simple
and direct, and age-appropriate.
Acquaint your children
with the dangers of unprotected sex and with the possibilities of abuse.
Don't couch your warnings in vague or undefined terms. Children must know
the exact dangers they face from Aids to unwanted pregnancies to abusive
Teenagers live in the present. Intellectually they may consider
the implications of having sex but emotionally they forget.
Hence the need for strong parental awareness and casual reminders.
- Be a confidante to your children. That is the best way to find out
what is happening in their lives.
- Teach your children to say No.
- Boost self-confidence and self-esteem. A confident teenager is less
likely to go against his own wishes in order to be popular or to be
- Put sex in perspective - as a part of a larger meaningful relationship
between a man and a woman.
- Respect the child's confidence completely. If necessary don't share
even with your spouse.
- Encourage your children to bring home their friends, including those
of the opposite sex.
- Don't be judgmental or you will only succeed in driving them underground.
very important part of sex education is teaching children about
- Acquaint yourself with all facts regarding sexual
abuse so that you can best prevent it from happening to your
- Get into an honest discussion of the child's goals in life (the child's,
not yours). Then explain how dangers like AIDS or unwanted pregnancy
or even a bad reputation could hinder the achievements of those goals.
Keep the discussion casual and friendly.
- When you discuss your child's day don't just ask what he studied
or how much. homework he has done but spend more time on what all has
happened in his day - at school and at home. Also make a point of talking
to him about your day instead of questioning the child. Share your day
with him. Discuss minor problems from work and ask for his opinion.
Once the child feels that it is a two-way exchange he is more likely
to talk to you freely.