While discussions on any related sex education issues can be quite complex and challenging to some ordinary people like me, I just couldn’t sit down and keep mum about it especially when it’s being widely debated by various sectors of society in third world and developing economies. Originating from a developing country and as part of my responsibility in the blogosphere, I felt I should share my thoughts on the subject with the end view of providing practical tips on how matured individuals, parents in particular, can discuss and educate the young ones about the “s” (short term for sex) word. Conversely, this blog will put aside, as much as possible, the more controversial issues affecting the subject such as political, moral, and emotional aspect of it as the same would require a comprehensive and empirical analysis to support any position taken.
Years ago, I have been involved in some community development on certain weekends, visiting areas where city’s informal dwellers stand, specifically teaching kids on various things in life. One time while we were discussing about guardian angels, an 11-year old girl asked me if I have a guardian angel and if so, what’s her name. Excited about her enthusiasm and the inquisitive faces of the other children, more or less of same age group, I gladly responded that I gave my guardian angel a name of “Maria Goretti”, which I got from one of my favorite saints, St. Maria Goretti. Since they don’t have any idea who the Saint was, I told them briefly about her story. I remember, one significant part of St. Maria Goretti’s life story is that she’s one of the martyrs and the youngest saints (12-yr old) in history, as she died from multiple stab wounds inflicted by the rapist after she refused him because of her strong faith in God. I didn’t expect any follow-up question after that because I made it as simple and direct as it should be. However, she asked me unknowingly, “what is a rapist or rape?”. At first, I was taken aback as I didn’t know how to define the said terms in its proper context taking into account their naivety on the subject, culture and beliefs and without mentioning as much as possible the “s” word . Nonetheless, I tried to compose myself and I thought I was able to explain it to them rightfully, but with the observation that at their young age and with innocent minds, they were already interested to know more on the subject.
Partly educated in a private school run by group of nuns, I recall our teacher on religion/theology (part of which is a curriculum tagged as responsible parenthood) didn’t really tackle much on this matter. I wouldn’t say it was taboo at that time but it was typically a non-subject similar to other schools. We were not aware of any policies but we could only surmise that probably teaching the subject especially in elementary, middle or high schools could have been within the realm of the parents’ role and responsibility. It was presumed that the parents were able to establish an open and honest relationship with their kids and discuss all the realities of life, including the “s” word. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the case. It wasn’t happening at all in almost all of the households. It could either be that parents were busy looking for food to eat on the table, so to speak, or the children were hesitant or ashamed to consult related matters with their parents or vise versa. Despite the lack or the absence of a systematic or methodical approach of such education, however, the parents have not been remiss of reminding their children about the do’s and don’ts, particularly on love, courtship and marriage. Parents then were very emphatic on the norms of responsible parenthood, i.e. that a sexual act can only be done by husbands and wives. Thus, it was seldom seen that an 11-year old or a teen ager had engaged or can freely engage in pre-marital sex. On the other hand, in the case of matured and adult children who under the law were considered as able to manage their own affairs, it was another story. Exploring or even to the extent of engaging in said affairs seemed to have been discretionary on their part. Parents would normally say: “You’re old enough, you know what’s right or wrong, you know what to do”!
The foregoing narrative, based on my experience and encounters with people from all walks of life, may imply that even without a comprehensive sex education in middle (primary) and high schools at that time, the student kids or children then have learned to normally adapt to the situation as they grow older, armed with their parents’ wisdom and conscience to boot.
Don’t get me wrong, I am neither timid, squeamish nor narrow minded. As a matter of fact, I can be pragmatic and liberal in many ways. I recognize the fact that nowadays, unfortunately the kids and teens throughout the world are presently being bombarded with all the “lures” and “pressures” either from peers, tri-media, internet, social networking, or in worst case a degree of some bad influence from family members, relatives and friends. As such, there are more and more young adults (in their 15’s, 18’s or in early 20’s) being tempted to do these things not being aware of the painful and lifelong consequences (e.g. ailments related to sex like HIV, AIDS., unwanted pregnancies, not being able to graduate high or college schools) they will have to face after the fact. This is not only true to young girls but to young boys as well and these would have adverse repercussion on their personal well being and family relationships. I also recognize the job of Governments and the United Nations for that matter “to respect and protect the rights of girls and boys to comprehensive information regarding their health and their bodies.” In fact, I consider their advocacies and policies worth noting as far as human rights are concerned. In the same manner, I recognize and understand the concerns of religious groups and the relevance of their teachings as they too have moral obligations to impart to their congregation/parishioners what is right and wrong based on certain laws, rules and regulations handed down from generation to generation.
In developed and industrialized countries such as the United States, majority of US students (from Grade 7 or earlier to high school) receive formal sex education in schools from a more comprehensive (which includes safe sex practices) to abstinence only. There are cases where “s” education is an option and parents can excuse their children from the subject class taking into account the student’s family’s heritage and beliefs. It has been observed however that even if armed with this kind of education, studies indicate that more young students still fail to protect themselves from predators or yet still found themselves being victims of sexual related activities. Why is this so? Why is sex education been found to be ineffective in some parts of the world? There are schools of thoughts but I don’t have any concrete response to this. Perhaps, this is an area where scholars could try looking at considering all the aspects (e.g. values and morals, religious, political, economic, emotional , etc.) of it. There may be an impact study already undertaken on this matter and it would be good if the same can be brought into the doors of the proper authorities or any Governments contemplating to implement for the first time said education program, so it could potentially serve as basis for policy formulation
PRACTICAL HELPFUL TIPS
Thus, in my own little way, here are some common and practical tips on how parents can talk to their kids about the subject, regardless of whether or not their kids are receiving sex education in school:
1. Mold kids early. Explain and instill values (modesty, decency, good manners, etc.), morals and religious doctrines in children by the time they reach the age of reason, i.e. 7 years old, or thereabouts. Explain also the wisdom and importance behind it and why said values are being held and followed, but never present it in such a way that their lives are based on a bunch of stringent rules. There’s no need to go through graphic details as young minds can not grasp the ramifications of any sexual behavior. It could be told to them in an indirect fashion. This is where parents are needed because sometimes in schools, the teachers though they are technically well-equipped, they may not be able to provide these aspects.
2. Establish close bonding with kids. As mentioned earlier, it is the parents’ primary responsibility to rear and nurture their kids so they’ll become good individuals. This can be done by creating a friendly and open environment at home through love, respect and affection between the parents and children. With this kind of family relationship, it would be easier for parents to talk about private issues (including the “s” word) with their kids or vise versa. In fact, parents can emphasize or tell their children that they can actually discuss with them about their crushes, infatuations and the like.
3. Act as role model. Set an example to your kids. There’s an old saying: “Like Mother, like daughter” or “like father, like son”. There are so many aspects in life that kids see you as their perfect example or a hero to them. Thus, parents should always be on guard on their actions, even how minute it could be.
4. Be visible/Get involved in school related activities. Participating in school related activities like the PTA would provide more or less parents some feedback from the teachers on how kids are doing in school and at the same time parents would have an idea on school’s policies, including sex education.
5. Seek assistance from experts – If parents are facing difficulty in educating their children about the subject, it is always better to consult the more knowledgeable and the right people. In terms of religious related matters, you can always seek the advice of a spiritual director or if it is more on the terminologies regarding the subject, a weekend school teacher may be good to see, or may be an aunt or an uncle whom the kids highly regard can be approached to help too.
However, we can’t deny the fact that there are parents all over the world who have not attained secondary or higher education or have not ever gone through a formal education at all, particularly those in the rural areas, and this could be the dilemma. Therefore, I would say that instead of educating the children in schools, why not educate the parents themselves (e.g. right words to use, etc.)? Matured individuals as they are, the wisdom behind said education could be shared properly with their kids in the confinements of their homes. I think this is more prudent and logical thing to do. Just sharing my thoughts!
Having said all of the foregoing, I trust said tips would be able to help you in child formation/education. Please share with me your ideas, experiences on the subject and if you have any comments or objections, alert me ….don’t worry I won’t argue with you! Exercise your right of free speech!