Sex Education – At what age should we begin?

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Wikipedia defines Sex education as an instruction on issues relating to human sexuality, including human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual activity, reproductive health, emotional relations, reproductive rights and responsibilities, abstinence and birth control.

That in my opinion definitely says it all. So we now know what sex education means, what it involves.

My question today is at what age should be lessons begin?

And I know a whole lot of parents and guardians are confused on this issue. Frankly, I am a little unsure about it myself. Yes, I don’t have a child of my own yet but I’ve got lots of nieces and nephews and really I don’t want to wait until my child comes before I know when to begin what and which lessons.

In the days of our parents… I mean like in the fifties and sixties, I was told by my mother that such talks hardly ever took place at all. i mean it was such a conservation period that the mere thought of it sent both mother and daughter into a film of avid colouration. And fathers and sons never ever talked about it. Nature was simply allowed to take it’s course.

Well, in my opinion nature did take it’s course and left in it’s trail a wide range of disasters.

Now in my time, which is the eighties and early nineties, mothers have started approaching this cheek-reddening issue with a measure of wariness. I vaguely remember a really short course on what to do and not-to-do now you are having your period. But the fact is that prior to the short course my mother being the really conversational person she was has told us about her time and how clueless she was about most things in life up to her high school days. 

These days though, are we expected to wait until they hit puberty and hormones are going wild inside of them before we do the talk?

I think not.

Let us also take into cognizance the age we live in. Whether you call it the jet age, or computer age, the technological age, the information age… and so on and so forth. It doesn’t matter what age is called. The fact is we are in an age when things are happening really fast, and children seem to know way too much at absurd ages. It’s an age where children have access to the internet via computers, phones, iPads etc. And they amazing thing… they are not technologically challenged at all.

A child knows much more what to do with a laptop or an android phone than his/her parents. Unless of course, the parents are computer wizards and software developers… and how many can boast of such parents, huh?

So there.

This brings my first question when is it appropriate to talk to your child about his/her sexual anatomy? That should be the first thing.

It is important they understand their bodies. It is important to teach them how to respect their bodies. It is important they know that others too have to respect their bodies.

And next, when is it appropriate for them to learn about sexuality? And in a world where we have all kinds these days, and it’s no more the traditional male/female union, I consider this a most important subject.

Then when do we teach them Safe Sex? Now don’t shrink and run off like this is a taboo… especially for us Africans… FYI, they know about it already. Yeah, your child already knows about sex, so chill out and decide when you are going to have the contraceptive/abstinence talk.

Then finally how do you get them to keep talking to you? Yes, at some point, they stop being so open and the secrets begin. How do you avoid, cope and manage that excruciating period and help your child along his/her most trying years?

I looked through some sites, and found this age appropriate guide on when to do these inevitable life lessons.

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INFANCY – between 1 -2 years.

This is when you teach your child how to name the parts of his/her body.

They already came with their individual genitals, so don’t screw up your face and give me the I-don’t-want-to-expose-her-too-early-to-such-things excuse. He/she is going to figure it out soon anyway… so why not be the teacher.

And starting off early on these lessons, helps to build early the bond you will need for future years.

EARLY CHILDHOOD – 2 – 5 years.

This is where the lesson on Privacy Rights begin. This is where you teach your child the difference between the male and female sexual organs. This is when your child learns that his/her body is personal and has private parts. This is when he/she learn that certain touches are just not right. That there should be a limit to how another person can touch him/her, irrespective of who they are.

And let me remind us, here in Nigeria, this age bracket is when your child begins school. And you do know what is going on in schools these days, right? Uh hmmm.

MIDDLE CHILDHOOD – 5 – 9 years.

Now is the time to go further on Privacy lessons. No more running around butt naked. Lessons on nudity, proper dressing and covering of the body are to be taught at this point.

And scary and dreadful as it may sound, lessons on sexuality – heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual – should also be given at this point. Remember you child is in school already and children are really much more curious than cats.

And towards the end of this age range, pre-puberty lessons should be added. I’m sure if you are a parent already and seeing how fast you little girl is forming, then you don’t need to ask why.

TWEEN YEARS – 9 – 12 years.

This is pre-teenage to early-teenage years. At this point your child needs to know about sex.

Yes, the real lessons begin now. But if you’ve been taking your classes faithfully and never avoided any lesson, it won’t be as scary and hideous as you fear.

What sex is is an important lesson conversation to be had between your child and you. Safe Sex is thought during this period.

When is the appropriate age to have sex is established and discussed between you two. Under what context should sex be considered and practised should also be discussed.

And the importance of contraceptives and the need for abstinence should be taught step-by-step to your child.

Remember, it is not a go-red-around-the-ears or start-stuttering-and-using-mystifying-terms talk time. Be open, straightforward and friendly.

Also make sure that the Q & A part of your lesson is a two-way route.

And finally…

TEENAGERS – 13 – 18 years.

At this point, your teaching job is somewhat done. This is really the Question/Answer period of your lesson time. And this is when you know if you’ve been a good teacher.

Now let us keep in mind, teenagers are naturally secretive… I blame those rioting hormones… But for whatever reason, teenagers start confiding less in you, parents/guardians and more in their peers. A usual recipe for catastrophe, I know.

At this period, you are an observer. And I don’t mean an helicopter-hovering observer. Back off a little, duh!

learn to stand at a safe distance and watch your child. Be very interested in his/her friends. Try as much as possible to create an environment where she can bring home friends without fear of facing the firing-squad.

If you had done a great job with all your previous lessons, you won’t have much to worry about. And if you are open and accessible, the friendly, high-five, burger-sharing kind of parent, then I can assure you, you child will still come to you and share… at least most things with you.

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So there. That is what I just learnt and just shared with you. I believe in this method because I was privileged to share the growing years of some of my nieces and nephew and I, have without consciously following this mapped out method, have had these lessons with them and have felt better knowing that they are a lot better equipped to handle themselves out there.

Sex education is not a taboo. It is not a just-before-the-wedding course outline. It is not go-to-you-father-meet-your-mother talk. It is the responsibility of every parent/guardian. It should be done not avoided.

And it should be a sharing-moment talk not a do-as-I-say lunch hour date.

I do hope that when my time really comes, I do a great job and so be less exposed to HPB when he/she suddenly turns sixteen.

Cheers.

*Info thanks to aboukidhealth.ca*

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