Gone are 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.
Typically 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.
Sexuality is more than sex – it is about many things like your body and what changes happen to it, about your emotions, beliefs and relationships.
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 situations
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 liked.
- 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.
A very important part of sex education is teaching children about abuse.
- Acquaint yourself with all facts regarding sexual abuse so that you can best prevent it from happening to your child.
- 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.