Talking about sex: spot the teachable moments
Not telling your children the truth could lead to sudden heart attacks
Rohan raced to the door before the bell had even stopped ringing. His mom laughed at his eagerness, but when she turned around after paying the delivery guy, she found her 7-year-old staring curiously at a packet wrapped in a newspaper. He wanted to know what and who this gift was for. “They’re just napkins,” she mumbled.
Rohan tore open the packaging. “They don’t look like napkins, Mom. Are they party tissues or something?” His embarrassed mother snatched it away, “Yes, yes, they are napkins for a special occasion,” she brusquely said, before hiding them in the bathroom cabinet.
A week later, as she entered the living room with a snack-laden tray, there was Rohan distributing these ‘special occasion napkins’ to the guests along with plates.
Statutory warning: Not telling your children the truth could lead to sudden heart attacks.
Today, the kids are exposed to a lot of age-inappropriate information from their environment. You can be a vigilant parent – keep them away from movies with adult content, put child locks on certain TV channels and install filters on their computers and phones, but can you do the same on their friends’ phones?
What’s the next best thing to minimise the impact of what they see or hear? The answer is simple — teachable moments via conversations.
How to use teachable moments to break taboos
Talk to your children about what is happening in their environment. Don’t wait for the questions, look for teachable moments and start conversations on sensitive topics. An ad for a sanitary napkin on TV is a way to initiate conversation on periods, so is the chemist delivering a sanitary napkin pack wrapped in newspaper. Explain what periods are, but also use this chance to talk to them about the undue shame associated with it and hence, the newspaper wrapping. A kissing scene on TV can be used to talk about love, physicality, boundaries, even consent, depending on the age of the child.
A chance meeting with a pregnant woman is another conversation opener. Ask your child whether they know why the lady has a big tummy and take the conversation forward from there. Almost all kids at a very early age ask the question – ‘But how does a baby get into the tummy?’ or something similar. Don’t brush the question aside or worry that you will now have to tell your child about the entire sexual act. You don’t. Telling a young child that the baby grows from a tiny cell in the mother’s body is enough to satisfy a young mind. If they’re slightly older, tell them that the mother has a tiny little cell known as ova or egg and the father has a tiny cell known as the sperm cell. When these two cells meet, a baby is created. Keep adding to that information as the child grows.
What stops us from broaching any sex-related topics is lack of confidence in our ability to answer any follow-up questions they may throw our way. The important thing to remember here is that typically, a child will be satisfied with a simple short answer—they are not looking for long-drawn explanations. Secondly, there is always an easy answer to a difficult question; you just have to be open to the idea of ‘no question being taboo’ and you will find a way to answer the question age appropriately.
“What is a strawberry flavoured condom, mom?” Here’s a practice question for you, go for it.
Anju Kish is a sex educator and the founder of Untaboo.
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