sex education

Talking to your kids about the birds and the bees is a task most Indian parents may cringe doing. If you are also one amongst them, you should know that it is highly important that your little ones learn about it from you instead of other sources like the media or friends of the same age or pornography. Not only is there a chance that they get wrongly informed; but not being able to share their doubts with you creates an impression that it is a bad thing and should be spoken about only behind closed doors. While it may be a task you wish to avoid, it is essential for them to learn about it. Our sexual health experts Dr Vijayasarathi RamanathanRachel Hercman and Dr Paul Joannides explain the importance of imparting sex education by parents to their kids.

How and when to talk about sex?

So what is the right age to talk to your children about sex? Dr Ramanathan explains that sex education is not just about intercourse. It is also important for children to be aware of their genitals and the importance of intimacy. According to him, when children are 3-4 they start asking questions about their genitals. It’s important that parents answer these questions to the best of their abilities rather than shooing them away. ‘A boy may ask about his genital organ (penis) and why a girl doesn’t have it? Remember, this is just out of curiosity to learn about the difference in body parts. Some adults may interpret this through their adult mind and come to a judgment that the child is sexual at a very early age and may even go the extent of punishing the kid. Remember, it is very normal for kids to ask questions about body parts.’

Tackling questions like these may seem daunting but having a friendly approach will go a long way. Let your kids know that you are open to such questions and you are there to solve any doubts they may have on this topic. Dr Paul provides inputs from his book Guide To Getting It On about how parents can tackle these questions. ‘If a child under the age of five asks, ‘Where do babies come from?’ It’s fine to say that the baby grows in mommy’s uterus and point to your abdomen. But note that that you will be giving a very different answer about intercourse when he or she is 10 or 15. Just because you answered a question when your child was five doesn’t mean you won’t be answering the same question every couple of years, but each time in a slightly different way.’

Dr Ramanathan gives some useful tips to parents:

  • Parents could start with very simple topics such as body parts and may be use colloquial terms for male and female genitals. However, sooner than later, it is important to introduce the right terms, for example, ‘penis’ for a boy’s organ and ‘vagina’ for a girl’s.
  • Another important topic would be ‘touching genitals’ and when it is appropriate to do so and when is it not. For example, kids could be told that it is okay to touch their genitals when they are in the shower but not in front of others.
  • How babies are formed is another favourite question that kids want to ask. Parent could explain something like mummy and daddy had a special cuddle and the baby was formed. While this is fine for a young kid, parents could be a bit more specific for a much older kid/adolescent.
  • More importantly, kids should be taught about protecting themselves from others touching their genitals and should be told that they should immediately inform their parents if something like that happens. 

When your kids hit puberty

Puberty can be such a confusing time for a child and it can very frightening if they haven’t been taught about what their body is going through and why. A parent has the potential to ease that anxiety and confusion by being empathetic and if they feel comfortable, even sharing their own experiences with hitting puberty. 

Says Rachel Hercman, ‘A lot of the information about sex that is found in the media is inaccurate, unrealistic, or lacks the proper context to understand sex. When a parent teaches a child about sex, it’s not just about sex itself, it’s also about the values and ethics that come with it.  Things like sex being consensual, that it should be fun, that it’s healthy to have sexual needs—these are important concepts that don’t necessarily come through in the media. Hence the parents play an integral role in discussing sex before the media teaches it to the child differently.’

Your reaction says it all

Lastly, in order for parents to be more open about it, they themselves need to be comfortable with the idea of sex. ‘We send many non-verbal messages, often without realising it, and if a parent is not comfortable talking about sex then the child will get that message regardless of how young he/she is. In cases where the subliminal message is – we don’t talk about that dirty thing – the child probably will never bring it up, or if they do, they will learn from mom/dad’s reaction to never broach it again,’ adds Rachel.

If you fear that educating your child about sex would make them promiscuous, you are very wrong. Research has shown that sex education makes children and adolescents more informed, responsible and safe. So stop being shy and talk to your children, so that they grow to be sexually responsible individuals, capable of making their own decisions.

You may also like to read:

For more articles on parenting , visit our parenting section. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest updates! For daily free health tips, sign up for our newsletter. And for health-related queries, visit our Questions and Answers section.

  • aneesh

    Happy.life