Your Basic Questions Answered
- Are Sex & Sexuality the Same Thing?
Sex can refer to both:
– biological characteristics (penis, vagina, x & y chromosomes etc) that define humans as female or male. While these sets of biological characteristics are not mutually exclusive, as there are individuals who possess both, they tend to differentiate humans as males and females. (WHO)
– sexual intercourse which may include intercourse involving penetration of the vagina by the penis or intercourse (such as anal or oral intercourse) that does not involve penetration of the vagina by the penis. (Merriam Webster)
Sexuality is a bigger concept. WHO defines it as “a central aspect of being human throughout life (that) encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction.”
“Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.”
- Why Should I have the Talk about Sex and Sexuality with My Child?
- If you won’t do it, somebody else will. And then you have little control over the kind of information your child is receiving. It may be inaccurate, incomplete or even misogynist. This situation can be avoided by you initiating and having the ‘talk’ with your child.
- Having ‘the talk’ fosters the bond of trust that already exists between you and your child. Unlike other adults like teachers and counsellors, as a parent, you are most likely to be with your child as they enter different phases of their life. Thus you can ensure that ‘the talk’ is an age-appropriate and continuous process. Also, experts are of the opinion that talking the basics of sex and sexuality with your child at a young age can lay the foundation for dealing with more complex issues later in life.
- Even as we may try to deny it, the fact remains that we live in world where sex is everywhere. It is on the internet and in movies, songs, tv shows, newspapers, & magazines. A growing child is bound to be curious. It is time to acknowledge this and act accordingly.
- Information is the first step towards safety. By keeping the child informed, you are enabling them to be self-aware and confident. Thereby, empowering your child to protect themselves from harm including abuse, under-age pregnancy, STDs among other risks.
- When Should I Start Having ‘the Talk’ with my Child?
- The basics of personal safety and sex-sexuality education can begin from early childhood. However, it is important to note that the ‘talk’ is not one long lecture session where a child is bombarded by concepts of sex and sexuality. It is continuous process that changes with the age and needs of the child.
- It is important to ensure that the talk is age-appropriate. For example, for a pre-school child the ‘talk’ may consist of just teaching them the proper name for their body parts including genitals. Talking to them about the details of intercourse would be unnecessary and inappropriate.
- There is no one right age to start ‘the Talk’. Each child is unique and as parents you are best placed to judge and know a good time to have the conversation. You can base your judgement on the questions your child asks you. Scroll down the page for age-appropriate issues and tips for having ‘the talk’.
- Can all this Information be Harmful for my Child?
No. On the contrary, it is the children who have not received appropriate and accurate information about sex and sexuality who are more at risk from sexual abuse, STDs, unplanned pregnancies etc. Imagine when you were children and someone had sat you down and given you the right information about sex and sexuality? Do you think it would have harmed you?
In a culture where sex and related concepts are taboo, empowering the child with information also helps them cope positively with the fears and anxieties associated with bodily and emotional changes.
Also, sex and sexuality is not just about the biology of intercourse. It is about values, attitudes, sexual orientations, dealing with societal pressures, the ability to make good decisions and knowing where the child can reach out to seek help. These are things that will enable the child to take care of themselves, become better individuals and most importantly, will help build a bond of trust between you and your child.
- How can I Initiate the ‘Talk’ about Sex and Sexuality with my Child?
- Before initiating the talk, ensure that you are prepared.
– You must be informed with accurate and updated information. We highly recommend you purchase and read Tarshi’s amazing Yellow Book – A Parent’s guide to Sexuality Education.
– You must be confident. Rehearse with a mirror if necessary.
- Use everyday examples and teachable moments to initiate conversation & explain concepts. The most obvious teachable moment is when your child asks you questions. Other instances that can be used to initiate the talk may be – coming across a condom or sanitary napkin advertisement on tv, when the mother is breastfeeding a sibling, finding out your child has been watching pornography etc. However, you don’t always have to wait for the child to ask questions. If you see fit to have a talk, use a teachable moment to initiate discussions.
- Space out the conversation. You don’t have to have the entire conversation in one go. Don’t overwhelm yourself and your child.
- Conversation is a two way street. Do not deliver a lecture. Listen and respond appropriately to what your child has to say.
- Be candid. If you don’t know the answer to a question the child asks you, tell them that you will find out and get back to them.
- Most importantly, do not be judgmental – neither in words nor in tone. Do not be angry. Do not assume that just because the child asked a sex-related question that she/he is sexually active.
- Don’t try too hard to enforce your views on the child. Allow them to form opinions based on the information you have given them.
- Before initiating the talk, ensure that you are prepared.
- What should ‘the Talk’ Encompass?
- Telling them clearly about the biological functions of all the parts of the body, including the genitals.
- Dealing with changes in child’s body through various development phases – both physical and emotional. Thus, enabling them to develop a positive body image
- Guidance on how to negotiate love, friendship & relationships including the importance of consent and how to communicate and assert it.
- How they can keep themselves safe from all kinds of abuse – sexual, emotional & physical.
- Places and individuals from where they can seek help.
- What Should I Do If I am Uncomfortable With Having ‘the Talk’?
- We cannot stress enough the importance of a parent having the ‘talk’ with their child but in case you are extremely uncomfortable, these are a few options you may try:
1. Ask another trusted adult to have a talk.
2. Send your child resources that can help them including books, websites etc. (click here for a list)