Talk to kids about sex to avoid the hazards

It’s not easy but parents must do it

There is no doubt that talking about sex to your children is never easy. it is dreaded by parents and children, and more often happens after the fact.

Anecdotal evidence points to teenage pregnancy, transactional sex, risky sexual behaviour being on the rise, and yet parents – myself included – are not talking to their children about these issues and about making sure they do not fall victim to these.

The question is what is it that makes parents uncomfortable when it comes to talking to their children about sex. i asked a few friends who have teenage children whether or not we should be talking to our children about sex and sexuality. these were some of the responses: • It is not our culture. • It is inappropriate for parents to talk to children about sex because it would encourage them to have sex, thinking their parents approve.

  • Children should not talk about sex at all, moreover not to their parents, it is just not right. Where do you even start? if you are inclined to react as these parents, here are a few shocking facts to consider:
  • The Human Sciences Research Council estimates that 18% of all students in south Africa either get pregnant or make someone pregnant.
  • That 36% of all maternal deaths recorded in the country are teenage mothers.
  • In a poll conducted by Young Africa Live in 2013, only 9% of young people indicated that they get advice and answers about sex from parents. As a result they end up getting advice elsewhere and making wrong decisions.

So where do you start? Parents should take advantage of every opportunity to break the silence on this difficult subject. Everyday life situations such as a pregnant friend or relative, a tV advert, or children’s reaction to people kissing on tV provide lots of opportunities to start the conversation.

The talk should focus on what the child is capable of absorbing, and the questions they ask. For instance, my eight-year- old son always laughs when people kiss on tV. this presents the perfect opportunity to start engaging him about what he knows about kissing, why he finds it so fascinating and speak to him based on his knowledge.

As the Young Africa Life study shows, parental talks about sex and sexuality need to occur much earlier than they do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that parents have only one shot at getting it right.

To make things easier, and to take some of the pressure off, experts advise that sex talks should be an ongoing dialogue, rather than one uncomfortable discussion that parents have to tick it off their list.

Fact is most of us have probably internalised the same discomfort and avoidance that our own parents displayed in talking about sex. But times have changed and there are programmes that can help parents break the silence. Organisations like soul City have programmes which they run in communities to teach parents to communicate with their children about these uncomfortable topics.

Experts also say parents should discuss issues with their children at age-appropriate times, and that the discussion should evolve as children mature.

The World Health Organisation and local organisations have advocated the critical importance of open discussions between parents and children about sex and sexuality in reducing HiV infections, sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancy.

Available evidence dispels the widely held notion that talking to young people about sex causes them to experiment. studies have actually shown that teens who talk to their parents about sex are more likely to delay their first sexual encounter and practise safe sex when they become sexually active.

So, next time you see a couple kissing on tV, talk to your child about it and see how that goes – it will help you both.

Original article (The New Age, 22/07/15) by Phinah Kodisang.

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