There is a lot of debate as to whether or not we can teach sex education to children less than 6 years old, which topics such an education would include, and at what age it should start.
But in recent times, with the increase in child molestation and rape cases, parents are beginning to agree that sex education has to be done earlier than before. This revelation can make you wonder if there are other ideas you held about sex education that are wrong.
Some misconceptions about sex education are:
1. You have to wait until kids are older. Wrong!
The concept of sexuality is usually attributed to adolescence and kept separate from childhood. However, unlike a can of soda and Mentos mix, sexuality does not burst forth suddenly during adolescence; it starts from the moment a baby is born.
Multiple studies have confirmed that sexual education is a lifelong process that begins at birth. Thus indicating the need to start sex ed early. (Meltem, Akhan, İbrahim, & Yildiz, 2015)
2. You should use cute, playful words for genitals or tell magical stories when they ask uncomfortable questions. Wrong!
Recent research shows that this practice can cause confusion in children. They begin to wonder why some of their body parts have unusual names and some don’t. It would also mean that when they are older, they will be uncomfortable calling their sexual organs by their names.
Also, calling the organs by their names also makes it easier for children to report sexual abuse or molestation to adults, and allows for such reports better understood.
For Example, if your child told you ‘someone tried to eat my sausage’, you are less likely to think he was referring to his genitals.
3. If you talk about sex, it will only make them want to have it. Wrong!
Sex education does not make kids promiscuous. The opposite is actually the case. Talking to them about sex and their private parts – which parts of their bodies it’s okay for others touch and which isn’t – makes them less likely to be pressured into sex and more likely to report molestation and abuse.
It also helps them develop healthy relationships as they grow older. Using this opportunity to talk about your family’s religious, spiritual or moral values is only advantageous.
4. Punish them if they do or say inappropriate or sex-related things. Wrong!
Rewarding their curiosity with anything other than accurate information delivered in an age-appropriate manner without judgment or harshness would result in them seeing sex-related things as evil, or an unspeakable taboo.
What this means is they become less likely to report molestation or abuse. They would also seek this knowledge from somewhere else, such as by experimentation or watching pornography.
5. You must have the ‘Birds and the bees’ conversation all at once. Perhaps in a 3-hour long teaching. Wrong!
This notion cannot be more wrong. If there is one thing we are sure of, multiple studies have confirmed that sexual education is a lifelong process that starts at birth.
So there is an age-appropriate way to talk about sex, which provides the knowledge a child needs at each developmental stage. Talking about everything all at once can be inappropriate or scarring to the child.
Some things need to be repeated to be learnt.
6. The talk is a monologue. Wrong!
It is imperative that you allow for dialogue. Posing some questions back to the child helps you get a clearer picture of some of the questions they ask, what they mean, and how much they know. It enables you to slow down the pace of the conversation, buying you plenty of time to think.
Finally, doing this provides an avenue for you to correct any wrong notions they previously had from the beginning of the conversation. Win, win, win.
7. It must be an awkward conversation. Wrong!
It is easier to have a sex talk using everyday examples. For example, If while watching a movie a guy and a girl kiss or have sex after a date, that is the perfect time to get their ideas of what they think is ‘right’ and how much they know about sex. Ask questions like “Do you think that is realistic, healthy or right?”, “What are your thoughts on that scene?” etc. Use this opportunity to correct any wrong notions.
8. Don’t start the conversation if your child hasn’t asked about anything sex-related. Wrong!
Do not wait for them to ask, because some children tend to be shy, not asking a lot of questions about anything. It is vital that you initiate a sex-conversation with your child.
Ask them what they know. Use nature such as your pets mating or animal reproduction to explain or reinforce positive ideas about reproduction. If you see a pregnant woman use that to start up a conversation about where babies come from. Ask what they are taught at school, etc. These simple things would go a long way in making the sex talk easier for you.
9. It’s too late to start now. Wrong!
There’s no such thing as ‘too late’. Sex education is a continuous process that spans from birth to adulthood. So if you have missed a couple of stages, be sincere with your kids and admit that you haven’t been talking about sex, growing up, relationships and their sexuality, but you want that to change.
‘Late’ sex education is better than no sex education.
10. Sex talk would take away their innocence. Wrong!
There are plenty of ways to satisfy their curiosity without psychologically scarring them.
For example, if they ask where babies come from, what they need to know is that a part of daddy and a part of mommy makes babies come from mummy’s womb. They don’t need to know about sex until they ask questions like ‘how did the baby get there?’
When it comes to sexuality education, it is useful to ask ourselves questions like: “what did my parents teach me about sex?”, “How did that prepare me for adult sexual experiences?”, “do I want my kids to have similar experiences?” etc. The answers gotten from these reflective questions would give you a bearing on where to start.