How to sex educate your kids
Dreading the birds and bees conversation? Try these tips for help.

Parents expect young children to understand complicated tasks and concepts, but are convinced that they are not capable of understanding the biological process of sex. But really, sex education is just another lesson in shapes and sizes.

  • Sex education starts by explaining the biological process. You can use my example for a five to six year old child e.g. "When Mom and Dad (or the parent and the significant other person) are alone in our bed, Dad puts his erected penis in Mom's vagina. Erected means that a supply of blood has flown into the penis to make it stiff so that it can fit into the vagina. The penis has semen which flows out of the penis inside Mom's vagina. The semen swim to Mom's tubes and clusters around the ovum. Here only one sperm enters the ovum and fertilisation takes place. Fertilise means to make a new life." You can leave out some of the detail when educating a three or four year old child.

  • It is best to use appropriate and explicitly illustrated pictures. Be clear and direct. Never avoid a question by ignoring it. Even when you assume the answer is inappropriate for the age of the child, answer the question correctly. The golden rule is to give the correct information and to satisfy the curiosity of the child. If you don't give them the answer,they will turn to friends for an answer. You will also discourage them from coming back to you for more information. Remember to talk as long as they seem interested and quit when they seem disinterested.

  • Focusing on human beings is vital. Using non-human examples can de-personalise sex. Human sex loses its emotional meaning as an expression of committed love when compared to sex between animals. Using an example of your dog will put you in a tight spot when the child observes the dog having sex when, where, how and with any dog it wants to. Explain that sex between animals is a natural consequence of a response to an instinct. Because humans have brains, we have a choice - the choice to have consenting sex in a mature, committed relationship.

  • Your attitude towards sex will determine whether your sex education is successful or not. Children need to know that their parents have a positive, natural sexual relationship. If children have the impression that parents only have sex to make babies, they will go to their friends, who seem to be better informed, for answers. After all, if you had sex only once or twice, you are not in a position to teach others about sex. If parents' sexuality is a taboo subject, you also communicate that sex is secretive and something to be ashamed of.

  • It is very important that children call their genitals by the correct names. Females have a vulva. The vagina is the opening leading to the internal sex organs. Males have a penis and testicles. Because children will be exposed to these terms, it is important that they know the meaning. It limits misunderstandings when children refer to their genitals by using the universal term. The reason why parents give nicknames to genitals is because they feel embarrassed about it. This message about embarrassment is reflected to the child. You don't give nicknames to a leg or an arm. Why give nicknames to genitals? Many parents say that the biological terminology sounds foreign. But it does not take long to get used to it. Soon the nicknames will sound silly to you. Adolescents give crude names to genitals because the real names sound foreign to them and the original nicknames don't sound appropriate anymore. These children will embarrass their parents and friends of the opposite sex when they use crude names to describe their genitals.

  • Teaching your child about sex at the right time is vitally important. Don' try to get the job done when your child is not focused and you don't have complete attention. The perfect timing could be when they ask questions about a pregnant woman. If this question gets asked in a public place, explain to your child that you will discuss it when you are at home in private. The right timing could also be when they notice the blood of a mother's period or ask about tampons. You can explain the process of menstruation to a young child. It is an old wives tale that children can't be taught these facts. Lying about menstruation and tampons can harm your child when they realise that you tell lies. Menstruation can be explained telling the child that the ovary releases an egg every month. The unfertilised egg will be released via the vagina with some blood. Even the erected penis of an animal does not go by unnoticed. Turn it into an opportunity to explain what a penis looks like before entering the vagina.

  • It is important to reinforce sex education because the message seldom gets through the first time. Children like repetition. They never get tired of their favourite story. Keep sex education interesting by using appropriate drawings, pictures or cartoons. You will notice that they don't get tired listening to the fascinating process.

  • Remember to put sex in your own moral context. It helps to explain the emotional meaning of sex. You can tell them that sex keeps a couple together and that it is shared with someone you love and are committed to. But too many moral lectures can bore children and should be avoided. Teach them about sex, give them sexual boundaries and communicate what you expect from them. Validate each sexual rule or boundary by giving a logical explanation. A young child doesn't need much convincing. Mention that you can get infected by sexually transmitted diseases when sex or sexual games are practiced outside appropriate boundaries. Educate your child on sex, body privacy, sexual boundaries and the social norms of your society.

  • It is important to sex educate your children even if they don't ask questions. The reason why your child is not asking is because of your attitude on the subject. Parents who want to delay sex education argue that their children are not ready for it. But it is the parent who is not ready to talk about sex. Children, regardless of their age, are ready to be taught the basics of sex.

  • The basic rule of sex education is that it is a continuing process. You start by introducing the basics and take it further depending on the questions or the age of the child. Many parents ask when should they teach their children about homosexuality or anal sex. My advice is to follow the development of the conversation. When a child notices a homosexual couple on television or in public, they might ask whether the couple are in love and if it is possible for them to have sex and children. Answer these questions accurately.

It is true that many children are shy when their parents introduce sex education to them. These children have already been sex educated by peers.Children get the idea from their peers that sex is a taboo subject.They get the feeling that it is a secret of grown ups.

Children learn dirty words from peers and start sharing dirty jokes about sex. This contributes to their feeling of shyness and embarrassment when parents talk to them about sex. Even when you introduce sex education late, don't despair. Start now and keep going.- (Joan Campbell, Private Social Worker)

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