By Ritika Jain
A lot of parents feel awkward talking to their teens about sex, schools apparently don’t cover a lot and peers know as much as your child does. So who teaches them about the ethics involved or addresses their concerns? Kids will feed their curiosity, either using the net or asking the next available person. So, parents need to start explaining (age-appropriate) concepts at a young age and progress in time, by debunking myths and by helping to deal with tricky situations.
If your child is small, keep it factual. For example, of there being a male and a female in all species in the natural world. Name sexual organs so there’s no ambiguity. It’s like having an ear or a leg, nothing to be ashamed of. Talk about good touch and bad touch and encourage them to talk to you if anyone ever makes them feel uncomfortable. This is also a good time to teach them about respecting other individuals and making friends with people, regardless of the gender. Kindness and sensitivity have to be ingrained around the same time we’re teaching them to say Thank You and Please to be socially polite. After a couple of years, you could revise the topic again if only to additionally inform them of the risk of online predators using fake profiles and grooming. And keeping tabs on their online activities and making all accounts private just to warrant that they are not vulnerable.
If your child is a teenager, they’ve most likely been exposed to sexual behaviour via the internet, media, movies, maybe even porn. This is when they are intellectually capable of processing a lot more information and should be encouraged to make informed choices. They should understand that everyone has their own milestones and nothing should be done under any coercion or peer pressure. They also need to be careful about sharing too much too soon, not only keeping emotional maturity in mind but also because we live in times of online shaming and trolling that can cause lifelong scars. The fact also is that you can’t fight biology. They’ll be attracted to the opposite (or same) sex. So, here’s what all you should cover with your not-so-young kids before they start their journey into adulthood:
Make sure your child understands that whoever they choose to be intimate with is someone they can trust. Casual hook-ups over dating apps can be disappointing at best and be dangerous at worst. We’ve all heard date rape stories so even if it’s a classmate they’re seeing, one needs to follow their instincts. Even in a relationship, pressure or abuse of any sort should be totally unacceptable. MUTUAL CONSENT IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE. Being emotionally prepared for break-ups and promiscuity etc is yet another story.
Where they choose to be for a rendezvous is also important for safety reasons. You don’t want them to be exposing themselves in a public place or shacking up in a shady motel. If you’re aware of them being sexually active, you could suggest a comfortable space. Their first meeting should always be at a public place.
Avoiding Sexually Transmitted Diseases and unwanted pregnancy are sound reasons for always insisting on protection. Instead of trying DIY methods, your teen should be consulting a medical practitioner to understand their choices. HPV vaccines are recommended for girls before they are sexually active to prevent getting cervical cancer.
There are numerous ways a sweet thing can turn sour. So, please ask them to draw the line on sharing their pictures or letting anyone take pictures or videos of them. Not even their best friend!
It helps if your teen understands that a sexual experience can be awkward, pleasant or terrible depending on why they choose it. They shouldn’t do anything they don’t want to, for appearances sake. They must understand the psychological reasons behind an advance too. One person may not be as emotionally invested as the other. Nobody should feel cheated later. Also make sure they understand that porn is an entertainment industry just like the other film industry and every act you see a person enjoying on-screen is akin to reading a fantasy novel. That way, they won’t have skewed expectations or go out of their way to please anyone. To the uninitiated, it can seem all too real.
Think back to your youth and you’ll realise how different the pace of life is today. Young kids want a girlfriend or a boyfriend, and are getting exposed to adult content sooner. Vulgar comments based on appearances and gender stereotyping is rampant. For older kids too, not everything is pleasant out there. You’re getting judged for your sexual preferences by others with a moral compass. Plus there is aggressive sexism, crass humour and misogyny. Terms like scoring, bragging rights and slut-shaming are commonly used. You don’t want your kid to be uncomfortable talking to you about what they go through.
So, don’t forward them this article. Sit down and have an actual conversation with them. Counsel them they’re not obliged to do anything they don’t want to, not even selfie challenges that everyone popular seems to be doing. Tell them that they have to look out for their friends and vice versa. Teach them resilience so if they suffer a heartbreak or emotional burnout, they know they’ll pull through what seems to be the worst. They might think they’re old enough to handle things on their own but they still need your guidance on drawing boundaries. Lastly, let them know you got their back!
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