By Miriam Jomo
Some call it the tale of the “birds and the bees;” others call it “the talk.” Regardless of the name, it is almost always associated with feelings of awkwardness, anxiety, and uneasiness. This is a discussion about sex and sexuality.
How much should you tell your children about sex? What’s “too much” for them to handle? To me I think that children should be able to know about sex and their sexuality as soon as they are able to understand their body. Start small and as they grow their knowledge for the same will get broader, lay it to them as it is, lets start calling a spade a spade and not a big spoon.
While many young people are uncomfortable in asking their parents for advice on sexual topics they end up turning to other sources for the information including their peers, television shows or pornography. The first part of this discussion, I wrote about how hard it is for parents to talk about menstruation with their girl and even boys. I have decided to take the topic even further and this time talk about the other most feared topic by parents. Sex.
I was one of those shy girls who would go to the extent of crying when confronted by a boy. I would run to my mother every time a boy say hi to me, and my mom being a typical African mother would tell me that that was the right thing to do. I grew up fearing boys, and I used to hate the classroom arrangement where a girl had to sit in the middle of two boys or a boy to sit in the middle of two girls.
My parents never thought that it was important for me to know anything about boys and the only thing that they used to tell me is “jichunge”. While this word was supposed to mean a lot of things I interpreted it as to stay away from boys and not even talk to them. While growing up I was the stay in kind of child and was not so much into going out of our compound. My parents back then thought that was the best for me as a girl, for they feared that I would be too exposed to the outside world.
And now I don’t know whether to thank them or question their decision. Having an open and honest conversation with your children is so beneficial as much as it is for children to talk to the parents to talk about sexuality because they are experienced adults who have the safety and well-being of the children in mind. Nevertheless, not all parents are willing and open to discussing such topics with their child. Additionally, parents may not know the answer to every question.
Having an open dialogue about sexual health and relationships can be helpful and can bring both the parent and child closer together. Apart from having this talk with the science teacher in school, as parents it’s of additional importance that you cover the puberty, when to start dating and sexual activity, different sexual orientations, how to have safe sex and cultural, religious and family values with the children. This will make them aware of what’s right, wrong and when is the right time for all this and also know that they can have this conversation with you outside school.
Many parents have a hard time breaking the ice and getting the conversation started. Choose a movie or TV show that you can watch together that will spark the conversation. Also try making dinner or any meal together, for me this was the most convenient time to try and have a real conversation with my mom.
While most of the times parents think that they are always right, it is good when they also listen. In order to have a proper conversation, you have to be willing to be open and attentive, and not attack the children responses. And for the children, if there is something that the parents say that you disagree with, let them know your thoughts on this issue, but do so in a respectful manner.
Next time you have a question, try asking your parents for help. They are experienced adults who care for you and want you to be safe in all aspects of your life, including sexuality.
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