Why is sex-ed important and how one can talk to their children about sex
The importance of imparting sex education to your children
In 2019, Netflix released a ground-breaking series called, ‘Sex Education’ and it became an instant hit throughout the world. The premise of the show is that the students of the Moordale Secondary School have no one to guide them about sex and hence a student whose mother is a sex therapist starts giving students advice for a small fee. The show is funny, emotional and inspiring but above all, it shows that youngsters want to know about sex. Hence, sex education is a topic that can no longer be ignored.
In India, sex is still a big taboo, although sex-related stuff is everywhere. Our movies have songs that are suggestive and our shows are getting bolder, and naturally, our children are getting more curious about sex. However, parents are still reluctant to have the talk with their children and that attitude needs to change if we want our children to be well-adjusted adults.
What is sex education?
Many schools today attempt to have at least one lecture in a year about sex education. Private schools can choose to not have any sex education classes at all. Even if a lecture does take place, often the guest lecturer would share only the most basic of information. The students would be informed about what their genitalia can do but would often overlook topics like intercourse, sexual identities, sex among LGBTQ, sexual health, STDs, types of protection and much. Half information is just as dangerous as no information, so it is upon parents to provide proper sex education to their children.
It is understandable to feel anxious when deciding to talk to your child about sex. Hence, begin by first clearing your own prejudices from your mind. If need be, visit a sex therapist and ask for their guidance on how you should broach the topic of sex with your children. Chances are your therapist will first ask you about your own personal views about sex. This is a good starting point. Once you are more up to date with the current norms and conversations around sex and are free from your own sexual biases, you can begin educating your own child. It’s important to note that you should be very patient and kind when talking to your child about sex. Always be truthful, if you find that it is tough for you to explain something, then tell them you will get back to them when you are more prepared. However, do make it a point to get back to them in a few days
or a month, don’t leave them waiting for an answer. Also, do not pass judgements or be harsh, or label your own child. If you don’t understand something (new terms like pansexual, transperson, etc.) then educate yourself.
Now, let’s understand what exactly should you be talking to your children when it comes to sex education.
Sex education covers a broad range of topics
Sex education is definitely not about bees and flowers anymore. Here are the topics you should cover if you want your child to have a comprehensive understanding of sex and sexuality.
Human Development – Here we talk about what sexual organs are, how they develop, stages from puberty to adulthood, mensuration, gender identities and sexual orientation.
Relationships – Talk about different aspects of a relationship. The physical and emotional love between parents. What is friendship and how to be a good friend? Discuss what dating is, what consent is and how to respect boundaries.
Personal Skills – Teach your children interpersonal skills. How to talk to someone? How your body language can make someone comfortable or uncomfortable. How to be a good listener?
Sexual behaviour- What is sex and how is it done? Sex between different-sex and same-sex couples. What is masturbation? What is abstinence? How should one feel about their own sexuality? What is the appropriate age to have sex?
Sexual crimes – Teach your children what is good touch and bad touch. What are sexual crimes and how to report to them if they ever feel uncomfortable being around an adult?
Sexual Health – Talk to your children about hygiene especially keeping their private parts clean. Tell them about the different types of contraception and why condoms are essential to preventing Sexually transmitted diseases. Talk about pregnancy, especially the pitfalls of teen pregnancy and what is abortion.
Society and culture – This is a very important topic. Discuss how our culture stops us from having conversations about sex, however, give them assurances that they can talk about anything regarding their sexuality without the fear of being judged.
Age by age guide to talking to children about sex
It is obviously going to be difficult to make your two-year-old child understand what Sexually Transmitted Diseases are. Hence, it is important to impart sex education that is age-appropriate. So, here is an age-by-age breakup of sex education.
Birth to age 2
Teach your child the anatomically correct terms for their genitals. To help your child understand gender identity better when they are older, use sentences like people with penises or people with vaginas, rather than saying boys have penises and girls have vaginas. At age two, children start exploring their bodies. If your child is in the habit of touching his/her genitals, explain to them very gently that it is something that should not be done in public.
2 to 5 years old
Teach your kids about what is good touch and bad touch. Teach them that others should never ask them nor should they allow others to touch their genitals. If your children ask about how babies are made, tell them how they were conceived, however, don’t fail to mention that even same-sex couples can have children through different ways.
6 to 8 years old
Kids at this age are now getting exposed to the internet and social media. It is again time to revisit what good touch and bad touch is. You can also inform them gently about what sexual abuse is and empower them to speak if they feel they are in an uncomfortable situation. If your children are starting to enter puberty then it is a good time to talk about why their bodies are changing.
9 to 12 years old
Children at this age experience a range of emotional and social changes. Children with penises are hitting puberty and children with vaginas are dealing with menstruation. This is the right time to talk about sexual hygiene as well as masturbation. Since their bodies are also changing, it is also the right time to talk about body acceptance and gender identity.
If you have had conversations with your children at an earlier age about sex and sexuality then chances are your children will be comfortable about asking you questions about sex. However, if you haven’t had these conversations then it is important to broach the topic with your children. Now is the right time to tell them the exact mechanics of sex, different types of sex, how to practice safe sex, how to use condoms, how pregnancies occur, how can they be avoided or terminated, what is consensual sex, how to not give in to peer pressure, how celibacy is a choice and nothing to be ashamed. Teach them what terms like asexual, bisexual, pansexual, etc. stand for. More importantly, teach them body positivity and to be comfortable with their sexual and gender identities.
In closing, sex education is very important and parents shouldn’t shy away from having the talk. It’s one of the best ways to empower your child, as they can become courageous enough to speak up if they feel they are in an uncomfortable situation and they can articulate their thoughts and feelings about their own sexual journeys better. But most important of all, they will become well-adjusted members of society.
Sex Education. Netflix TV series
Chowdhury, J. (2020, March). Why Is Sex Or Sexuality Education In Indian Schools Still A Taboo? www.feminisminindia.com
What is Sex Education?
Kneteman, L. (2021, September). How to talk to your kids about sex: An age-by-age guide. https://www.todaysparent.com/