As parents we often ask ourselves: Are we giving them enough knowledge to make difficult decisions when it comes to sex? Apparently not.
The Department of Basic Education recently directed scathing criticism at parents, saying they are not doing enough when it comes to sex education. Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department had to get involved as the situation was getting out of hand with children in primary school becoming pregnant.
Sex education is a contentious issue but the onus is on parents to decide how best to educate their children.
Meg Hickling, author of The New Speaking of Sex: What Your Children Need to Know and When They Need to Know It, offers sensible and practical solutions in her book.
She suggests having an open dialogue with your children about sexual health as early as the age of two.
Kate Rowe, sex educator and founder of www.explorare.co.za, is an outspoken supporter of keeping communication open between parents and children.
“As adults who want the best for the children and teens in our lives, we have to stand up, find our courage to look deeper at ourselves and our stories around sex; and then to offer ourselves forward in vulnerability and commit to doing things differently,” notes Rowe.
“Sex education is neither about sex itself nor is it about how much we know about sex - it is how willing we are to have conversations about feelings, desires and experiences we may find uncomfortable sharing.”
What parents say
Single mom Janis Johannes has her work cut out for her when trying to answer questions about the “friends zone” from sons Lucas, 10, and Sasha, six. “I got a red letter from school after my six-year-old asked a girl in class about her penis,” said horrified Johannes.
“I realised that it was time to have the dreaded Talk. I kept it simple. I had to answer questions like: Why I don't have a penis, but a vagina; why women and men are different. But I also took the opportunity to teach them to respect their bodies.”
Alvin Cloete, dad to Dalin, 13, hasn't broached the subject yet. But he does admit that he isn't yet comfortable about the Talk. “I'm waiting for him to give me the cue, basically.”
We live in a society where HIV/Aids is a constant threat and teen pregnancy just a by-product of high school. It's time for us to be frank with our children because if we're not, someone else will do it.
4 steps to smooth the path to sex education:
Start early: Babies and children have a natural and innocent curiosity about their body parts. Using the correct names for body parts is an essential foundation for future conversations about their bodies and sex. Yes, it’s a penis, breasts, vulva or vagina.
A little, often: Don’t wait until “The Big Talk”. Provide small pieces of information often. Talk about body parts, sex and relationships as they naturally arise in conversation that is appropriate for your child.
Be clear in what you say: There is no right or wrong when it comes to sex education. You need to speak about it within the constructs and values of your family. You first need to know what you feel about sex. Then you’ll be able to translate this into what you want for your children in their relationships.
Emotionally safe relationships: For subjects like sex, which can be challenging to talk about, your ability and willingness to create emotionally safe spaces is more important than how much you know about sex.
* Visit http://www.explorare.co.za for more tips on parenting teens.