Let’s face it, having the ‘birds and bees’ talk with your offspring isn’t something that many parents look forward to, but learning about sexuality is a normal part of child development. Modupe Omolabi shares some tips on how to take the ‘cringe’ out of the whole process, for everyone.
Click…. that was the sound of the door shutting behind my mum as she walked up to my bed and sat down. I had only just told her moments before that my body was experiencing some changes which scared me, so she sat down with a smile and started talking about the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and the various changes a girl experiences during puberty. All of this didn’t make much sense and was a bit too much information for my pre-teen brain but the seriousness on her face made me pay attention.
How do you approach the ‘talk’ with young children, because there will come a time when they will want to know where babies come from or what they should call their private parts and as they hit pre-teen years how do you curb the influences of the internet and social media? Is there ever a right age, a right time to discuss sexuality with your child, pre-teen or teenager? How do you approach the issue, what do you say and how do you say it?
Let’s look at the areas to consider when you have that ‘talk’ with your child.
What is the best age?
Puberty starts quite early for some children, and as such the decision on when to have that ‘talk’ with your pre-teen is and should be at the discretion of the parent/s. For younger kids who are very curious, you can help them to identify the different body parts, making sure you use the proper names i.e ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’. Also, be clear about what parts should be seen and not seen in public and the parts that should not be touched by anyone, except doctors, nurses or yourself when treating for pain or physical exams.
Get in there quick!
There is every chance that pre-teens/teenagers may have already seen, learnt or even tried out stuff before you get the chance to have the talk, so try to identify what they already know and determine their curiosity levels. In this age of social media and advanced technology, it’s necessary to ensure you help them to have healthy perceptions of sexuality. Now is not the time to impose your own notions of sexuality and relationships, be open to currents trends like online dating etc.
Make it a date
You can organise a date for the discussion with your child in a comfortable environment, familiar surroundings are best such as their room, the games room, or even a quiet corner in your favourite family restaurant. If you have a partner, decide if you will both be present or one of you will handle the talk; boys tend to be more comfortable discussing such issues with a male figure and vice versa for girls.
Have a good relationship with your child
Try to establish a good relationship with your child so that they feel able to confide in you at all times. You don’t have to become their best friends but it’s important that they can come to you with problems and personal issues that may be bothering them.
Follow our three-point checklist to help foster a great relationship with your child:
It’s important to make time to talk with your child and be available for advice, encouragement. Always try to use a calm, neutral voice and not resort to yelling. Most importantly, listen to what is not being said.
What are their interests, what activities are they currently involved in? Try not to let your curiosity turn into ‘helicopter style parenting’ but keep observing to understand and learn their ways and methods of communication, slangs, body languages etc.
Love your child unreservedly, a child who feels unloved is prone to keep secrets which is a recipe for disaster. Be there for emotional support and always assure them that you would be there for them no matter what.