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Thursday, July 09, 2020

When and how should you talk to kids about sex and consent? An expert answers

A sex educator explains why and how we should have age-appropriate discussions with kids about their bodies.

By: Parenting Desk | Updated: June 6, 2020 11:58:03 am

“Sex education is a very vast field. Unfortunately we just react to the word ‘sex’ in ‘sex education’ and we think it is only talking about sex. But that is absolutely far from truth,” Anju Kish, sexuality educator and founder, UnTaboo Education, told Express Parenting in a video interview.

Talking about how kids tend to be curious at a very early age, Kish said, “All of us have played the doctor-doctor game, which is nothing but curiosity about other people’s bodies.” Kish highlighted how we skirt discussions around sex education at every step: when the child is young, we fear sex education would take away their innocence; during teenage years, we speculate kids might get thoughts in their minds which are not there. The end result is that we do not talk to children about the issue.

Parents need to step back and analyse the kind of stereotypes they are generating as adults, which becomes a part of a child’s conditioning.

Read| ‘If your child doesn’t ask you about sex and puberty, talk about it anyway’

Kish mentioned the various age-appropriate sex education classes she organises, for those as young as five-years-old to the age of 17-18. She also explained the concept of sexting and its dangers for a digital generation.

On Bois Locker Room, Kish said: “I think what’s pertinent for us to understand is that it’s high time we have open conversations with kids about that. We are leaving them on their own to learn about stuff. When they are very young kids, we say they don’t need sex education because they are too young and it will take away the innocence. As they get into their teens, we probably say that teens don’t need sex education because it will put thoughts in their minds which are not there. And as they grow slightly older, we say, ‘oh, these kids know it all’. I don’t know how these transitions are happening, and how are the parents thinking this. And the end result is we are not talking to them.

“We cannot blame kids if we do not equip them with the tools to deal with this kind of exposure. Or to deal with this kind of online behaviour. I think it is time to stop blaming them, and time to find solutions,” she said.

ALSO READ | Talking About Consent with Young Boys

Kish further said that any such incident is an opportunity to take a step back and see what we are doing. And also take a look at our own home, the kind of stereotype we are generating. “We may be talking one thing, but in our behaviours, we may be doing something else.”

How can parents talk to children about sex, and at what age?

Age-appropriate sex education is crucial. “If we do not talk to them, that is when they are going to head to the internet. So the earlier you speak to the child, it is absolutely much better,” the sex educator added.

Kish suggested that the talks start as early as possible. “It should start when you are teaching the child the names of their body parts. But, having said that, if you haven’t started those conversations, then that’s not to say that you cannot start them at all. You can have these conversations at any age. If I were to give you a kind of a step-by-step process, then I would say that start talking to a child as young as two years old, about their body parts and the correct terms of all their body parts, including the genitals.

“Begin with that, and as they grow slightly older, talk about puberty and the different changes which are happening to them. Talk about crushes, share your crushes with them, have open conversations about the emotions they are feeling. Then of course, talk about the sexual act, reproduction, repercussions, protection, STIs, pregnancies,” Kish said.

ALSO READ | Physical proximity puts couples on the same parenting page: Study

On sex and consent, she said that consenting once to a sexual act does not mean you have to consent all the time. And that everybody has the right to withdraw consent at any time, even in the middle of the act, and teens need to be told that.

Even though these are considered to be taboo topics, Indian parents ought to rise above their own hesitations, and talk to their kids as openly as possible.

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