There’s not much I remember about my university days. I do remember the Sydney Harbour cruises held once a semester and the sumo wrestling competitions at our uni social barbecues. As for the lessons taught to me by professors, my mind draws almost a blank.
Except for one conversation.
We were stuck in a class discussing theories related to physical education. Usually boring compared to the physical lessons of touch footy, abseiling and kayaking, but this lesson we were talking sex.
My lecturer asked, “When do you think we should start teaching students about sex?”
Thinking back to our own schooling we answered around Year Six.
“No,” he replied. “You start from kindergarten.”
There was silence. I think we were all thinking the same thing, “Are you flipping crazy? There is no way I am going to be teaching five-year-olds about the birds and the bees.”
He went on to explain, “Sex ed is about more than the actual act. Sure, you aren’t going to be talking to kindergarten children about the act of love making. That will come much later. But, you are going to be teaching them about respect and self-love, two very important values our children need in order to have a healthy attitude about their body and what they do with it.”
Educating about the birds and the bees from birth
Sex is a tricky topic that would make most parents squeamish, but it shouldn’t be. It’s how we all arrived and it’s a far better topic to discuss around the dinner table than things like violence, which our culture seems to think is OK.
Ultimately, the best person to decide when your child is ready to hear the nitty gritty about sex is you. You know their maturity level and what they can understand. Be aware that in today’s society, sex is readily available to be learned about in all forms of media.
You want to ensure that you are the one giving the information and advice first.
Teaching a healthy respect for bodies
Example is our best teacher, so always model a healthy respect for self and others. Foster and guide this within your children through your conversations.
Continually affirm (without frightening them with paranoia) that their private parts are theirs and nobody has the right to touch them without their consent.
Teach them to be confident and assertive. If someone is doing something they don’t like, teach them to firmly state, “Stop it I don’t like it.” If you are playing with them through tickles, wrestling or even cuddles and they ask you to stop, then stop. Demonstrate that they have ownership over their bodies and have a right to be respected. Ensure they are showing this respect to others as well.
Build your child’s self-esteem by focusing on who they are, not what they look like. Of course you are going to tell them how beautiful they are, but don’t leave them believing that their value lies only in their outside appearance.
Communicate and support
Keep open the doors of communication about sexual issues. When you feel uneasy about discussions or certain questions your children ask, say so. If you can’t answer a question talk through with your child about how you can find out.
Never make a child feel guilty or ashamed about any self-exploration they may go through. It’s natural for them to be curious so gently remind them that it’s a private act and allow them to explore.
You always want to be the first person your child turns to for answers, to discuss a problem, or for advice. The best way to encourage them is to value, listen, understand and support them from birth.
Support doesn’t mean giving a child what they want just to make them feel good. It means guiding them to be the best person they can be, and being there for them even when they mess up.
Where do babies come from?
As a child moves into double digit territory they will start asking more questions about where babies come from. Use your good judgement, only you know what your child can comprehend or handle.
Don’t lie; use the facts without attaching any emotion to it. Always speak of baby creation occurring due to an act of love. We want our children to know they were created from love and life is a wonderful miracle. We want them to know that it is a special act reserved only for those who are our special partners.
The birds and the bees nitty gritty
By about Year Five or Six they are ready for their anatomy lesson. Most schools will be delving into the topic at this time. This is where they will learn all the stuff that sends your face red when you talk about it.
Many children at this age will be experiencing huge hormonal shifts as puberty hits. It is essential you talk with them about what to expect.
Discuss with your child about changes and the importance of accepting and embracing it. Celebrate all the good things about growing up. Let them know the physical, mental and emotional changes they will go through.
Ensure your child understands what puberty means. What is their life going to be like now?
Talk to them about safe sex, STDs, and the implications of being a teenage parent.
Focus on dreams and empowerment
The more you focus on your child’s dreams and goals for life and what they need to do to achieve this, the more they will be aware of how decisions may affect and stop their dreams from happening.
If you have been raising a responsible child who is confident in making decisions, understands the concept of consequence, has a healthy self-image and respect for others, you will be in a confident position to trust your child to make the right decisions to suit themselves.