Talking about sex with your parents then, was taboo and considered disrespectful. Times are however changing fast and ‘the talk’ is becoming more crucial than ever.
Opening up to your child about sex may be uncomfortable. But there are many ways you can tackle the topic and make them understand.
According to Dr Michael Mbiriri a child psychologist and psychotherapist, here is where you can start:
What sex is?
The entry point to having the talk is first explaining to your child what sex is. A simple and detailed definition will do depending on the age.
Intercourse entails the body, so help your child understand their different body parts with their correct names, how they function, how they define and of course how to clean them.
Where do they come from?
Gone are the days when you could tell your child that they came from the supermarket. You can use simpler terms to help them understand.
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For young kids, it is easier for them to understand that they came from mummy’s stomach, so go with that. You can expound on the same once they grow older and can understand.
There are age-appropriate relationship discussions you should have with your child. For young children, don’t just warn them against playing together with the other sex. Help them understand why and explain boundaries.
As children develop, they tend to observe male and female relationships, right from how mom and dad behave around each other to the outside world. This will inform how they relate to the opposite gender.
When having the talk, especially with your teenager, the topic of dating cannot be avoided. Explain to them what relationships are, when they can have a boyfriend or girlfriend and how dating works. And don’t forget to describe to them what a healthy and unhealthy relationship looks like.
The talk on consent can begin without sex in it but as time progresses, be open and direct with your child about giving and getting consent. It begins when you let your child know that it is inappropriate for anyone to touch their private parts and no one should do it in exchange for treats.
From a young age, teach them how to ask for permission before touching their peers. Teach them when it’s okay to say YES, NO and STOP, and how important it is to respect one’s choice. Help them understand that they should not force themselves to kiss or hug someone without consent.
Menstruation and menstrual hygiene
Children from as young as 10 years begin their menses. Most parents leave it up to teachers to give the talk forgetting their input is equally important.
Talk to your child about the monthly cycle and hygiene. When talking about periods, the talk about pregnancy cannot be avoided therefore be open to discussing it, especially with teenagers.
It is quite disheartening that rape, molestation and defilement of children from as young as 2 years is news we interact with daily. As a parent, it is your duty to protect your child against any form of abuse.
Talking to your child about abuse helps them understand what it is and gives them room to speak up in case they experience such. The conversation could start like’ It is not okay for anyone to see you naked or touch your vagina, penis or anus or tell you to touch theirs.
If anyone, including uncle, aunt, the big boys and girls or teacher touches you there and tells you not to say, it is bad so tell me immediately. You can also let them know when it is okay for them to be touched, like during medical examinations but only conducted in your presence.
Tell the boys that they can also be abused and educate them on rape, sodomy and molestation. For older children, tell them that if the same happens to them physically or even on the internet, they should report it immediately. Show them the channels through which they can report abuse.
Content they consume
Talk to your child about what videos they’re supposed to watch and not watch, and what sites they’re supposed to visit. For teenagers who have mobile phones, explain what they are supposed to be chatting about especially with the opposite sex, where to draw boundaries and when to report abuse. Using parental control on devices could help regulate what your child consumes through their gadgets.
Making your child as comfortable as possible encourages them to open up to you about sexual-related topics and abuse. Create that conducive environment and as much as you might know more, give your children room to contribute and ask questions. Do not force them to engage in the discussion.
Sometimes parents are shy and cannot talk about explicitly about sex. That should however not worry you. In case you find it difficult, you can always share with them articles and books that talk about sex and puberty. You however have to read through it to ensure that it is safe for consumption. You can also enrol your child on seminars or seek the help of a counsellor.