Durban - As children reach puberty and go through physical changes, their curiousity about sexual activity increases.
The role of the parent is to provide them with information and guide them, but for many parents, these discussions don’t happen. Some feel a disconnect between children and their parents.
Christy Herselman is a Life Orientation teacher at Northwood School and also the founder of The Chat, a platform that gives a space for people to communicate about issues within the youth.
Herselman said this project started in 2015 after a discussion with a fellow parent.
“When my daughter was seven, I was at her friend’s birthday party, and while chatting to the other moms, one of the ladies whispered, ‘Have you spoken to your daughters about sex? I heard eight is too late!’ In the conversation that followed I realised that none of the moms had a positive outlook on this important conversation. Some were indifferent, some were terrified, but none felt excited or empowered.”
Inspired by this conversation, she began to research ways to have sex talks with children and narrow that gap between parent and children. She said that a few weeks after that party, she held a talk with 10 moms and The Chat was born.
“When The Chat started, I spoke only about healthy sexual instruction in the home. Now the topics I cover include sexuality, social media, digital health, identity, gender, belonging and connection (to name a few). This changes and grows as I become aware of new challenges facing our youth,” she said.
Herselman said they recently introduced discussing the impact of pornography on children and mentioned how it could affect mental health as well as sexual health. She said the impact was already visible: an increase in teen sexual violence, an ignoring of consent, an increase in objectification, an inability to start and sustain relationships, a decrease in sexual activity in young adults and an increase in erectile dysfunction.
She said the end goal of all her chats was to build connection and promote healthy dialogue in the home and, by doing this, help bridge the gap between parents and children. Through such discussions, Herselman said parents became aware of their children’s challenges.
She said she averaged between two and 10 talks every week in various schools nationwide and had received positive feedback throughout.
“Through educating young people in these areas, we not only protect and prepare our children but enable young people to build strength in their families by sharing what they learn at home and helping establish a healthy digital culture at home,” she said.
The Independent on Saturday