By Basee Saka
There is a lot of controversy about when to start teaching children Sex Ed. Some say it should start at primary level, some say middle school. Many parents prefer that it is taught in school others feel that it’s the parent’s role. One thing that we are united in, is the fact that it DOES need to be taught.
Sex education has traditionally been, the reproductive system, menstruation, conception and birth. In recent years it has included contraception and ‘safe sex’. These have been taught in one lesson per week over half a semester and often not revisited other than in human biology or some humanties subjects.
Traditional methods are ineffective for teaching your children Sex Ed. This subject is something that needs to be ongoing throughout your children’s formative years. Sex Ed. Isn’t just the mechanics and consequences of sex. The word ‘sex’ in this instance should reflect gender; encompassing all aspects of it. A good framework would be as follows:-
|Birth Onwards||Hygiene||Making bath time fun and something to look forward to. As the child grows being independant at meeting hygiene needs should be encouraged and build self esteem. Ie Mmm, minty! When they brush their teeth, ‘you smell like flowers or daddy when he’s all dressed up. Something the child will associate with positively.|
|3yrs Onwards||Stranger Danger!||This is where you teach them what is appropriate contact with others and what isn’t. It’s important to start early to instil confidence while they are still relatively fearless.|
|5yrs Onwards||Appropriate play||Many of us use outside agencies to help us look after our children when we are at work. These agencies have other children there and we have no control over the calibre of parents those children come from. So we have to prepare our own children to identify what is acceptable and what isn’t during play. You can get story books, videos etc to help you find a way that will work with your children.|
|7 – 9yrs||Self Image & Self concept||Children at this stage are beginning to compare themselves with others. Hairstyles, clothes, shape and size. Unfortunately they are also more interested in social media. So music videos, reality tv etc are setting the standard to which they want to aspire to. As parents we need to get in there first and make their world make sense BEFORE someone else tells them how their world SHOULD be. Girls are often shaped like boys, but one or two will already have started puberty and look like the people on the television so the ones that don’t start to feel left out/behind. It is important that our children understand the process of changing shape and how they will turn out. Get lots of pictures of yourself and their father at different stages of growing up so they can see the changes they are likely to go through. Draw attention to how similar they are to their parents. (a great way to introduce genetics) This is where you start to help them feel good about themselves, respect themselves and others and start to plant the seeds of motivation and goal setting. This also does not stop, as they grow and develop so should the depth and detail of your conversations and guidance.|
|10 – 13yrs||Reproductive system and Menstruation||Prepare your children for the onslaught of puberty. Most children will be in this age range when puberty hits. Some will be earlier, So be prepared! Don’t wait until your daughter is having periods to tell her what’s going on, don’t wait for her to use toilet paper before you explain the different types of sanitary protection. Teach your sons what goes on for girls and how to be compassionate. Explain the hormonal changes. Explain to your sons about ‘wet dreams’ don’t wait for him to hide his pyjamas and sheets. Or steal porn mags so that he can recreate that special feeling. Don’t allow them to hide and a feel embarrassed by the changes that are happening, Confident adults come from confident children. (you should be stepping up your guidance on hygiene too during this stage for both your girls and boys, again make it fun, introduce deodorants and colognes if you want to, let the boys choose with their fathers and praise the choice)|
|14yrs onwards||Sexuality||Some children will already be sexually active, hopefully not yours because you have now have confident competent young people who are happy to discuss their concerns with you. You might be reading this and you haven’t had the chance to do the ground work and are trying to deal with your teen now. So you may be battling with ‘I hate you’, ‘you don’t know what it’s like, it’s different from your day’ COMMUNICATE bottom line. Put your feelings of inadequacy, rejection, insignificance aside and let your child lead you into their world. Go willingly, ask non judgemental questions, give options, introduce different concepts, share time together, LISTEN. You learn more when you listen than when you are talking. It works for children in school; it works for adults and the children in they care for. If your child is showing signs of homosexuality, deal with it in your own mind BEFORE you approach it with them. They will shut down like the bank when it’s out of money and may never open up again. If you think your child is sexually active, again deal with it in your own mind first. Whether you believe them or not, don’t call them a liar. Encourage them, teach them about contraception and safer sex,remind them about personal space. Discuss choice. Use examples from their world to talk about consequences. Help them paint a picture of their future and explore ways that can make it a reality. Children need a focus. Vet their friends! Is your child a leader or a follower? If they are followers, distract them with activities they are competent with so they don’t spend too much time with influences you have no control over. If they are leaders, encourage it, suggest activities that will enhance that personality trait. A busy interactive child has no time to explore the bodies of others. DO talk about the feelings they are having though. Share stories from your own lives (the good ones) let them know it’s normal.|
|18yrs onwards||Personal Responsibility||This is where you prepare to let go. Where you prepare them to be independent of you. Where you teach them how to make choices, how to find information and use it to maintain themselves spiritually, physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially. (the only time we want spies in our home) Again some children show a level of maturity much earlier than others, even within the same household. So keep a keen eye on your children and be prepared.|
This is quite a comprehensive framework, families of differing cultures may have different focus at certain ages. Some parents may feel that they aren’t equipped to deliver this level of teaching for their children. Remember you don’t have to do it all yourself. Draw on the experiences of other family members, discuss topics with teachers, religious leaders (if you are affiliated) The library is packed with resources. Take courses. Surf the internet, talk to friends and colleague about the strategies they use. Use EVERY available resource, if you can’t find any ASK!
The education of your child doesn’t stop, EVER! Even as adults we continue to learn things that will enable us to maximise our potential and avoid pitfalls. What we can’t avoid we learn to deal with and overcome making us stronger. As parents we are the foundation our children rely on.
Here’s wishing you a successful Sex Ed process.