Sunday, 14 August 2016

When to teach children sex education

ARUKAINO UMUKORO examines the suitable time for parents to teach their children about sex
Little Ebun Joseph (not real name) was given a rude introduction into the meaning of sex in the most unimaginable way. And it stemmed from what was supposed to be a seemingly harmless question.
“Daddy, what is sex?” The little girl asked one day after school.
The father, who is a clergy, hushed her up gently but firmly. He told her she was not supposed to mention such a word in the house again. The inquisitive little girl sulked up to her mother and asked the same question. She got a similar response.
The next day, still unsatisfied by the answers given by her parents, Ebun asked her mother’s driver as he drove her to school.
“Uncle, what is sex?”
In a moment of surprise, the driver’s mood was twisted by morbid fascination. He warned her not to tell her parents what he was about to teach her. The little girl innocently agreed. He decided to ‘show’ her the meaning. He raped her. She was just six years old at the time. The little girl was too scared to tell her parents. She went through that ordeal until she was 15, without the knowledge of her parents.
Experts on sex matters have warned about the dangers of parents shying away from discussing sex with their children.
One of them is a child sexuality educator and relationship expert, Mr. Praise Fowowe. He said there was danger in not empowering children about sex education during their impressionable years.
“This is because the strength of a sex predator is the ignorance of a child. But once the child is adequately equipped with the right, appropriate knowledge about sex, it would then be impossible for a predator to molest that child. Sex education, just like charity, should start from the home,” Fowowe said.
According to Science Daily, sex education “is a broad term used to describe education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, and other aspects of human sexual behaviour.”
Fowowe further explained that sex education for children must consider the well-being of a child. “This includes letting them aware of their body parts, and how they respond and react to things about their bodies,” he said.
Also, a counselling and developmental psychologist at the Department of Counselling and Human Development Studies, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Prof. Ajibola Falaye, advised parents to introduce sex education to children when they started to ask curious questions about their bodies and the making of babies.
She stated, ‘‘From psychology, we know that some form of basic sex education should begin from between the ages of three to six. Some children start having immature sex feelings at a young age. When children ask questions about anatomical differences in gender, parents should be able to explain to them with straightforward answers, and not muddled interpretation.
“You don’t have to give too many details to children about sex. It should be said in a way that children can understand and appreciate.”
However, sex education remains a controversial issue, especially in this clime where some, for religious leanings and fears, believe that children, at whatever age, should not be taught about sex or anything remotely related to it.
A parenting counsellor and children life coach, Mr. Kingsley Obom-Egbulem, said some people have kicked against teaching children about the issues related to sex because of the word ‘sex.’
He said, “Some people have been kicking against sex education because they believe that when one uses the word sex, one is actually talking about sexual intercourse and not just the anatomy. But when it comes to children, I believe parents should start telling their children about their private body parts as from the age of one or two. This would help the child to understand his or her body as he or she grows up.”
Obom-Egbulem likened such basic sex education to ‘arming children against abuse.”
He stated, “Sexual abuse is a real concern at that level. We should draw a line between sex education and sexual intercourse. Parents should help their children to become familiar and comfortable with their body parts. For child rights activist, Mrs. Helen Oshikoya, sex education should be taught at the appropriate time, from the puberty ages between of 11 and 13.
Oshikoya however noted that sexual awareness should not be introduced earlier.
She said, “Children should be made to be aware of the basics about their body parts. Also, one can inform them that if they are touched inappropriately or gestures of sexual contents are made to them, they should report such to their parents.”
Besides, Fowowe added that sex education should begin at different stages.
He explained further: “There is what is called age appropriation sexual education, The first stage can start when the child is between 18 months and three years, the next stage is from ages three to five; then five to eight, eight to 12, and from 13 to 18. At these different stages, the children are taught different basics about sex and values according to the age and maturity.’’
He also said, “The challenge is that when parents hear of sexual education, they think it is connotes teaching them about penetration sex. That is not even involved until the child is old enough, at about 13 or 14. From the age of three for example, the child needs to be taught about the body parts, and the proper names and differences between private and public body parts and how to handle the parts. For the younger ages, story-telling, role plays and songs are good methods to use in teaching them basic sex education. From five years upwards, the format changes, which includes, ‘fire on the mountain’ – what children should avoid, and so on.”
Falaye said parents should take it as a responsibility to teach their children basic sex education, and not leave it to others to teach them. She noted that the lack of sex education and awareness of the issue had led to several problems plaguing children and society.
She said, “Experimentation in adolescence and peer influence causes a lot of misguided sexual actions. That’s why there should be mother-daughter, father-son communication on sex education, and let them know the right information. Research has shown that when there is good mother-daughter communication on sex, the girl is wholesome as far as sex behaviour is concerned. It is the same with the father-son relationship.”
On her part, Founder, Media Concern Initiative, Princess Olufemi-Kayode, agreed with Falaye, adding that the best time to teach sex education should be immediately the child started inquiring about it.
She said, ‘‘It is the best time to start teaching one’s child about basic sex education also called sexuality or life skill education, just like one tells children that they should stay away from fire and the reasons why; because today’s children are more advanced and their curiosity is more heightened.”
Olufemi-Kayode noted that parents should also get some needed education to give their kids better education on issues of sex.
Fowowe also noted that it was needful for parents to begin giving their children sex education at an early age because of the rate of sexual exposure from outside sources, including television, Internet and from peers.
Also speaking, a parent, Mr. John Adewuyi, said it was proper to teach children sex education at early ages in order for them to be empowered sexually as they advance in age. “This includes teaching them about their body parts and why daddy is different from mummy,”he said.
Another parent, Mrs. Ronke Johnson, who has three children, said she would only start teaching her children about sex before the age of 10. “But I will start earlier with my girls, because of the moral decadence in the society,” she said.

Family corner

Dear ma, I have a step father who comes to my room every time my mother is not around and tells me to lick his manhood. If I deny, he will beat me with his belt. I tried telling my mother but she did not believe me. She said I wanted to ruin her marriage. Please, what should I do? Banke, 13
My dear, first, I want you to know that there are some children passing through your situation. Some others have overcome their storm.  Never think that what your step father is doing to you is your fault in anyway. Now, going back to your mother may be fruitless, hence I want you to look for an adult you can confide in. There should be someone who is close to your mother and who she respects. I am very sure there is one like that. I also want you to avoid being alone with your step father. If you have a close family friend, plead with your mother that you would want to visit the person, maybe on a daily basis or you ask the person to visit your home. Also, try to convince your mother that you want to engage in summer lessons. The whole point is to avoid being alone with your step father till you are able to get someone who can speak to your mother. You should also be careful not to discuss the issue anyhow so as not to draw the anger of your mother when it becomes public knowledge.
Dear ma, I have a bad habit of stealing from my mother’s purse. Any time I ask her for money, she gives it to me but I always want more. On several occasions, she caught me. She is deeply pained by my habit. How do I stop? Yomi, 15
You need to go back to your mother and cry out to her. Tell her that you want to stop the bad habit; let her know that you are done with stealing from her.  Meanwhile, whenever you are tempted to steal, consciously walk away from the house. Take a walk or go sit outside. You also need to turn a blind eye to things you do not need. It is not everything you want that you should buy. It is important you put a stop to this habit, if not, it could aggravate to something else.
Dear ma, sometimes I think my father loves my younger sister more than me. He is always buying her things. Whenever she asks for something, he is quick to give her money. Yet, when I approach him, he shuns me or tells me he does not have. I feel bad about it.  Ore, 16
I am very sure your father loves both of you equally. He probably sees you as being the older sibling and that you should be more mature about things. Since she is younger than you, he probably wants to pamper her. You could stylishly let him know how you feel. Also, inform your mother about your feelings. I am sure she would speak to your father about it. In the meantime, see your younger sister as your baby. Love and care for her since you are older and she needs your care.




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