I don’t recall ever having a conversation about sex with my parents. Even as an adult, the word ‘sex’ and its family members have never been exchanged in conversation. I pretty much figured it out as I grew up and sadly learnt from other resources that may or may not have shaped my mind in the wrong way.
As an intending parent, I want to lead the conversation on sex with my children. I should be the first person they learn about it from. And hopefully, it will happen as soon as they are old enough to appreciate the lesson. Puberty starts around 11 for girls and 12 for boys, but children can begin from as early as 7 for girls and 9 for boys. With these body changes, internal questions will arise, and as a parent, you should be the one to answer these questions. Sex is everywhere these days, and children pick up things much quicker than we would like to imagine. So, instead of focusing on what age exactly to have the talk, here are a few tips to make the talk less dramatic.
Avoid being dramatic
For most Africans, we can be quite dramatic ☺️. To make things worse, children have a way of asking questions out the blue, hardly giving you any time to compose yourself. Try to react and answer as calmly as possible, so that you don’t scare them off for the next time they want to ask you heart wrenching questions. You could ask ‘Where is this coming from?’ or ‘Where did you hear that word?’ to give you more context and time to frame your answer. You could also rehearse your answers in advance so that you’re not caught off guard.
Be honest and open
Teach your children the correct words for their private parts. ‘Penis’ and ‘vagina’ aren’t swear words, they are body parts. You can introduce the topic of sex by telling your children how they came about. Of course, it may not be necessary to go into detail but just enough for them to have an idea. If they tend to play with their private parts, you can use that opportunity to teach them appropriate behaviour. E.g. playing with their privates at their friend’s party = *cringe*.
Teach them boundaries early
Talking about private parts, the earlier you teach them that their private parts are as the name implies ‘private’ and should not be touched by just anyone, the better. Parents and doctors, with parents’ consent, are the only ones allowed to do this, for specific purposes. If an adult is ‘playing’ with their private parts then encourage them to come to you, hopefully, this kind of situation will not occur.
Prepare them for puberty and what it entails
I remember being shocked and confused when I went to the toilet in another country and saw blood. No one had prepared me for this moment. Thankfully it was a school trip, so an older student explained to me what going on. Then my teacher gave me all the support I needed. When your children hit puberty, guide them through it and teach them about the opposite sex, not just theirs.
These talk points depend again on your discretion and the age of the child. For some points, it may be too early, for others, the earlier the better. Either way, we wish you all the best on this interesting journey with your child.