Children, Parents and Sex Education

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I was about heading to boarding school at about 11 years old when my mother called me into her room for a talk. I had no idea what she had in mind until she opened her mouth.
I can’t remember all she said but one sentence stuck “you are a man now, do not get a girl pregnant”.
She didn’t seem too comfortable with the topic and the conversation was over faster than it started.

I was a kid who knew nothing about the female anatomy, knew nothing about sexual intercourse, knew nothing about pregnancy but was given an ultimatum “do not get a girl pregnant?” How do I even get a girl pregnant? I didn’t know but was never told.

My dad? The word ‘sex’ seems like a forbidden word because I have never heard him utter any sentence with ‘sex’ embedded in it.

All I know about sex, I had to learn from external sources. I was fortunate to keep my virginity till I was done with my teenage years but that was out of lack of opportunity not intentional.

So my question is, when is it really okay to discuss sex with children? Should parents leave it up to teachers in school? Or friends in the neighborhood?

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Let’s take a look Ebun’s story.

Little Ebun Joseph (pseudonym) was given a rude introduction into the meaning of sex in the most unimaginable way. And it stemmed from what was supposed to be a seemingly harmless question.

“Daddy, what is sex?” The little girl asked one day after school.

The father, who is a clergy, hushed her up gently but firmly. He told her she was not supposed to mention such a word in the house again. The inquisitive little girl sulked up to her mother and asked the same question. She got a similar response.

The next day, still unsatisfied by the answers given by her parents, Ebun asked her mother’s driver as he drove her to school.

“Uncle, what is sex?”

In a moment of surprise, the driver’s mood was twisted by morbid fascination. He warned her not to tell her parents what he was about to teach her. The little girl innocently agreed. He decided to ‘show’ her the meaning. He raped her. She was just six years old at the time. The little girl was too scared to tell her parents. She went through that ordeal until she was 15, without the knowledge of her parents.

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Experts on sex matters have warned about the dangers of parents shying away from discussing sex with their children.

One of them is a child sexuality educator and relationship expert, Mr. Praise Fowowe. He said there was danger in not empowering children about sex education during their impressionable years.

“This is because the strength of a sex predator is the ignorance of a child. But once the child is adequately equipped with the right, appropriate knowledge about sex, it would then be impossible for a predator to molest that child. Sex education, just like charity, should start from the home,” Fowowe said.

According to Science Daily, sex education “is a broad term used to describe education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, and other aspects of human sexual behaviour.”

Fowowe further explained that sex education for children must consider the well-being of a child. “This includes letting them aware of their body parts, and how they respond and react to things about their bodies,” he said.

Also, a counselling and developmental psychologist at the Department of Counselling and Human Development Studies, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Prof. Ajibola Falaye, advised parents to introduce sex education to children when they started to ask curious questions about their bodies and the making of babies.

She stated, ‘‘From psychology, we know that some form of basic sex education should begin from between the ages of three to six. Some children start having immature sex feelings at a young age. When children ask questions about anatomical differences in gender, parents should be able to explain to them with straightforward answers, and not muddled interpretation.

“You don’t have to give too many details to children about sex. It should be said in a way that children can understand and appreciate.”

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However, sex education remains a controversial issue, especially in this clime where some, for religious leanings and fears, believe that children, at whatever age, should not be taught about sex or anything remotely related to it.

A parenting counsellor and children life coach, Mr. Kingsley Obom-Egbulem, said some people have kicked against teaching children about the issues related to sex because of the word ‘sex.’

He said, “Some people have been kicking against sex education because they believe that when one uses the word sex, one is actually talking about sexual intercourse and not just the anatomy. But when it comes to children, I believe parents should start telling their children about their private body parts as from the age of one or two. This would help the child to understand his or her body as he or she grows up.”

Obom-Egbulem likened such basic sex education to ‘arming children against abuse.”

He stated, “Sexual abuse is a real concern at that level. We should draw a line between sex education and sexual intercourse. Parents should help their children to become familiar and comfortable with their body parts.

For child rights activist, Mrs. Helen Oshikoya, “Children should be made to be aware of the basics about their body parts. Also, one can inform them that if they are touched inappropriately or gestures of sexual contents are made to them, they should report such to their parents.”

Besides, Fowowe added that sex education should begin at different stages.

He explained further: “There is what is called age appropriation sexual education, The first stage can start when the child is between 18 months and three years, the next stage is from ages three to five; then five to eight, eight to 12, and from 13 to 18. At these different stages, the children are taught different basics about sex and values according to the age and maturity.’’

He also said, “The challenge is that when parents hear of sexual education, they think it is connotes teaching them about penetration sex. That is not even involved until the child is old enough, at about 13 or 14. From the age of three for example, the child needs to be taught about the body parts, and the proper names and differences between private and public body parts and how to handle the parts. For the younger ages, story-telling, role plays and songs are good methods to use in teaching them basic sex education. From five years upwards, the format changes, which includes, ‘fire on the mountain’ – what children should avoid, and so on.”

Falaye said parents should take it as a responsibility to teach their children basic sex education, and not leave it to others to teach them. She noted that the lack of sex education and awareness of the issue had led to several problems plaguing children and society.

She said, “Experimentation in adolescence and peer influence causes a lot of misguided sexual actions. That’s why there should be mother-daughter, father-son communication on sex education, and let them know the right information. Research has shown that when there is good mother-daughter communication on sex, the girl is wholesome as far as sex behaviour is concerned. It is the same with the father-son relationship.”

On her part, Founder, Media Concern Initiative, Princess Olufemi-Kayode, agreed with Falaye, adding that the best time to teach sex education should be immediately the child started inquiring about it.

She said, ‘‘It is the best time to start teaching one’s child about basic sex education also called sexuality or life skill education, just like one tells children that they should stay away from fire and the reasons why; because today’s children are more advanced and their curiosity is more heightened.”

Olufemi-Kayode noted that parents should also get some needed education to give their kids better education on issues of sex.

Fowowe also noted that it was needful for parents to begin giving their children sex education at an early age because of the rate of sexual exposure from outside sources, including television, Internet and from peers.

Also speaking, a parent, Mr. John Adewuyi, said it was proper to teach children sex education at early ages in order for them to be empowered sexually as they advance in age. “This includes teaching them about their body parts and why daddy is different from mummy,”he said.

It’s high time parents and guardians take the bull by the horn and educated their children and wards to stop the growing trend of paedophiles violating   these little ones.

If you are too shy to discuss sex with your children, someone out there won’t be too shy to teach them a thing or two about sex.

Be guided.

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Edited from an article by ARUKAINO UMUKORO for www.punchng.com

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