Sexual exploration is a normal phase towards understanding the human body. Sex education teaches children about their body and even makes them feel comfortable about themselves. Addressing sex with your child is also an important aspect of establishing open interaction with them. Truthful, and accessible communication between parents and children is essential, particularly as your child approaches adolescence. If an open atmosphere is created, children are more likely to talk to their parents about the struggles of puberty, including insecurities they face, anxiety, depression, substance and alcohol consumption, sexual relationships and sexual related problems.
However, it still baffles me why many parents shy away from talking about this to their kids. This is particularly common in most African countries. Take Nigeria for example, where talking about sex seems to be like an abomination. Watching movies is a major form of family bonding time in the home. I’m sure as a Nigerian, growing up, you probably can recall watching an interesting movie with your parents in the living room, chatting and enjoying every bit of it and then suddenly, a sex scene appears on screen that seems to last for a while. Before you can say Jack Robinson, there is just this awkwardness and silence that fills the room and any parent or guardian found in such a scenario begins to feel uncomfortable, desperately hunts for the remote control to change the channel or switch off the television. In many Nigerian households, the topic of sex was something no one wanted to bring up. From the parent’s angle, it was way easier to pretend that it didn’t exist. But the truth is that it does exist and ignoring the elephant in the room will not make it go away. How do you know something without being taught?
Getting pregnant outside marriage was the most shameful thing a girl can do in an African home, at that time. As a result of this singular reason, most African mothers tell their daughters that “if a boy touches you, you will get pregnant” with no explicit explanation after the sentence.
A good sex education approach is to initiate a discussion with them about sex early enough and continue the discussion as the child grows. From a young age, letting a child know the parts of their body that are private or off-limits for anyone to play with and encouraging them to speak up if eventually they get touched in those parts of their body, can actually help in identifying sexual abuse cases in children.
As your child enters puberty, they begin to notice certain body changes. It is important to create an environment whereby they can feel free to discuss this with you. When parents address sex with their kids, it is important that they pass across the right information. A child’s first knowledge about sex should come from their parents. Parents should not leave sex and sexuality for schools to educate their kids. What a child knows at school, from peers, and from social media is likely to be unreliable or misleading. It can also be disturbing or even harmful.
While the media is loaded with sexuality and nudity, it is often presented in the most dramatic and shallow way. Reasonable depictions of relationships and intimacy are scarce. Knowing the right information can protect them from unsafe actions as they get older. The truth is if parents do not educate their children about sex, they will learn about it somewhere else, and this can be detrimental.
Contrary to the belief that sex education encourages promiscuity, what most African parents don’t know is that by educating your child about sex, it creates an avenue for you to instil family morals, values or home training as it popularly known. Say for instance, you come from a home that maintains that sexual intercourse is reserved until after marriage, this can be incorporated in discussions about sexuality. But there is a good chance that your teenager might not be receptive of this if discussions about sexuality has never been brought up before.
Refusing to chat about sex with your children would not stop them from engaging in sexual activity. The tempting unknown can also act as a trigger for misinformed and unsafe exploration. It is better to be close to your children and talk to them often.
So dear African parents -SEX EDUCATION IS NOT SHAMEFUL!!!