HOW TO TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT SEX (AND WHY YOU SHOULD START NOW!)

talk to your child about sex

We live in a highly sexualized world – bombarded with sex words, sounds, images, and lifestyle! If you don’t educate your kids about sex, someone else will – media, friends, other adults, and popular culture. Sex education, now, has to be deliberate!

It is so unfortunate that most parents grew up in homes where discussing sex is considered sinful! For others, sex was a no-go area — they grew up looking at sex as a “bad thing”; so when they hear “sex”, they recoil on the inside!

But, times have changed, my friend. We have to wake up and educate our kids about sex. Our kids want to practice what they see. The media sells sex to them, everywhere — right in your home, on bill-boards, magazines, and so on.

If you don’t step in and educate them properly, the society, their friends, and the media will sell to them a distorted view about sex and their sexuality.

But, how? How do you start? Where do you start?

5 SIMPLE PRACTICAL WAYS TO EDUCATE YOUR CHILD ABOUT SEX

#1: Your kids need to understand that being a man or a woman isn’t based on their sexual powers. And, neither should anybody be treated like an object for self-fulfillment. The media sells lies– all they portray about sex is “a-must-experience”. Most movies our children watch are “sexualized” and the lady being portrayed as an object of “cooling off” the sexual urge. These (and more) must be corrected.

#2: Model a decent sex-life with your partner. Your kids should see you treating your partner with respect, love, and humility, respecting your partner’s body! How you treat your partner becomes a bench-mark (or template) that your children will use. Be abusive, and your kids will think it is “cool” and okay to be abusive. So it is with the sex-life.

#3: Reassure them you understand the pressures of “trying to test” and that you know how it feels — the peer pressure of trying not to be called a “weakling” (of not “belonging” or “feeling among”), the pressure of hormonal changes, and so on. Let them know it is normal to feel that way. Your children are under pressure, most importantly, sexual pressure. They just want someone who cares and understands with what they are going through. They want you to be there and be understanding. Make yourself available, and guide them on effective ways of dealing with sexual pressure.

#4: Make your home an open and safe environment to discuss sex with your kids. You might not be comfortable with it, but it is better they learn from you, than from the society. Whether you like it or not, kids must be exposed to sex (either through movies, pictures, or pornography), and will talk about it with their friends or whoever is patient to give them attention. It’s okay to talk about sex. Keep your religious mindset down; it is better they learn the right things from you than learning the wrong things from their friends, TV, or somewhere else.

#5: Expose yourself to sex education. You can only give what you have, or rather, you can only parent a child to the level of information that you possess. Invest in parenting education, sex education, effective communication skills, and so on. For a child, sex is a big deal. Don’t be quick to forget when you were growing up; you remember the sex urge and pressures, right? Invest your time, effort, and resources to raise sexually-educated children.

But Why? Why go through all these pains. There are many reasons, but this discussion won’t be complete without mentioning a grave danger your child faces: sexual abuse!

Sexual abuse during childhood increases the likelihood of drug abuse, alcohol addiction, suicidal thoughts (and attempts), eating disorders, prostitution, and relationship difficulties in later ages.

Protect your child. Preserve your child’s future.

But, how? How do you help and protect your child

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD FROM SEXUAL ABUSE

#1: Trust no one. When it comes to this issue, there should be no assumptions. In every four women you meet, one was, most probably, sexually assaulted before she reached 18 years! In addition, 40% of these abuses were by a family member! Follow your instincts. Act on your suspicions. Most child victims will never report the abuse and, surprisingly, parents do not believe most of the few children that are bold enough to report! 80% of those that abuse children are those you trust, because they appear trustworthy and act friendly (in order to gain access to your child!) Shine your eyes! Discourage family friends from calling your child, “my wife” or” my husband”, and so on. Trust no one.

#2: Minimize opportunities. Reduce situations where one adult will be alone with your child. Decrease one-on-one contact of your child with an adult as much as possible. Let there be a third person – an adult. You too, as an adult, avoid being alone with a kid as much as possible. Set an example. Any one-on-one time with your child should be in public places, not behind closed doors!  Who picks up your child from school? Minimize opportunities.

#3: Talk to your child. Consistently, and in a friendly way, ask questions about outings and visits, and watch your child’s moods and reactions carefully. Do not asking leading questions like, “Did he touch you here?” The child is likely to say “yes”. Rather ask, “What did he do?” Abusers tell the child not to report, and that parents would be angry with or disappointed in them if they do, or that no one will believe them. They could also try to convince them that it is nothing wrong, or that it is a “play” or a “game”. Educate your child early and often. Teach them how to use the internet wisely and chat (on social networks) decently. Clearly and firmly instruct your child not to allow anyone touch their private parts – genitals, anus and breasts; and not to allow anyone remove their clothes. Encourage them to report any of such actions. Teach your child, as early as possible, to undress and dress up, to wash and clean private parts. Teach them how; show them. Stop doing the private things for them. Assist them instead of doing everything.  Talk to your child.

#4: Watch out for signs. It is very difficult to know if your child is being abused. Notice when your child starts resisting, avoiding, or becoming uncomfortable with a particular family member or family friend. Observe for use of certain inappropriate language and sexual behaviors. Look at your child’s body. Ask questions. Talk to your child. Check for redness, rashes, swelling of genitals or genital areas. Look out for pain during urination or symptoms of urinary tract infections. Do you notice depression, unexplained anger, withdrawal, anxiety, and rebellion? Does your child always complain of “stomach pain?” Watch out for signs.

#5: Learn how to act and react. Do not overreact. Be careful. If you respond with anger or disappointment, the child will “lock up” or “shut down”. Your child will not open up. You must win your child’s trust. Be your child’s friend, not just a parent. Confirm first. Report to the police, religious leader, traditional head, or a reliable family leader. Let the child see and know that you believe what he or she told you. Thank the child. Praise the child for the courage. Encourage the child to talk if it happens again.

See a doctor. You child might need medical examination and laboratory investigations. The last case brought to me was a 9-year-old girl that was raped by a family friend, a married man! I insisted the police bring the man to me. He turned out to be HIV-positive after running some tests! In fact, he never knew he was reactive. See a doctor. Send me an email: contact@withdrmalik.org

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Dr. 'Malik Haruna King is a practicing Nigerian Medical Doctor and Sex Therapist. He helps people with sensitive health issues find answers to questions they are too ashamed to ask!