It is never too early to talk to children about sex! Yet, the thought of conversing about intimacy and intercourse with youngsters, scares many parents.
Nonetheless, Behavioural Change Communication Specialist at the National HIV and AIDS Commission, Alexis Nurse, has suggested that mothers and fathers should discuss sex with their children at an early age.
Ms. Nurse provided guidelines for these essential conversations at a recent HIV sensitisation workshop held for parents of teenage children at the St. Mary???s Church. The session was organised by the Internal HIV Education Committee of the Barbados Government Information Service.
Ms. Nurse shared the view that parents needed to teach their children about sex in the same way that they taught them to cross the road. ???Start the discussions when the child is young, so the subject is normal and not taboo,??? she said, reminding parents that their role was to prepare children for life, recognising that sex was part of life.
???Sex is normal, so if parents make sex normal, not secretive or taboo, then it is less likely that youth will be secretive. Parents need to know what their children are thinking, planning to do, or doing, so you can guide them… This can be done by getting involved with your children???s lives…??? she stated.
Stressing that these conversations should be age appropriate, she advised: ???When children display sexual behaviour or ask questions, parents should respond calmly and answer the questions as simply as possible, based on the age of the child.???
The Communication Specialist recalled that when her daughter, then five-years-old, asked her the ???big question??? – where do babies come from, she answered her candidly.
???At that time she wanted to be a doctor, so I said, ???babies come from their mother???s uterus?????? That satisfied her curiosity??? I didn???t give the specifics on how babies were made, but I answered her question truthfully,??? she said.
The Communication Specialist suggested mothers and fathers should prepare for the ???sex talk??? by improving their knowledge on the topic. She also proposed that parents and care givers boost their confidence through role-play with another parent or friend.
The talk itself should outline that sex comes with responsibilities and consequences; dangers and necessary safety precautions should also be explained.
???Most parents focus on pregnancy, but the consequence of contracting a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) can be dire. Some females will never be able to conceive as a result of contracting a STI??? Pregnancy should be least of the concerns as some STIs have life-long consequences that are more challenging than having a baby,??? she asserted.
Acknowledging that the ???sex talk??? could make some parents feel squeamish and nervous, Ms. Nurse cautioned against lying, ignoring the topic or delegating the discussion to someone else.
???If you leave the discussion on sex to others, you can never be sure what information will be shared with your child or if that information is correct,??? she warned.
Ms. Nurse further advised that there were no stupid or inappropriate questions and urged parents to avoid getting angry or self-conscious. ???If a question is too difficult, do not make that the child???s problem by getting angry. Just explain that you will think about it and get back to them,??? she advised.
The Communication Specialist encouraged parents to raise their children to be open and comfortable talking to them about anything. This could be achieved through being supportive and truthful – often resulting in a confident and informed child.?????If your children believe what you tell them, then they will defend that position when faced with alternatives,??? she added.
Also emphasising that this honestly builds truth, she recommended parents be aware of what was happening in their children???s world.