Discussing Sex and Gender With Kids
It seems that with the monstrous expansion of the web world, it is no more necessary to introduce kids to sexuality. They are constantly being bombarded with images, suggestive innuendos, sexually explicit gaming discourse and a whole gamut of sensual experiences presented on screen, even when they run search engines and you tube channels. Some of the over-protective parents take steps like child-proofing their phones and laptops. However, somehow or the other, they find out that their measures do not add up to their expectations.
Why are kids so curious ?
1. Impulse: Human puberty sets on and about the age of twelve (sociologists believe that the age has come down to as low as ten now). However, psychological adolescence completes not before kids attain the age of at least fifteen. There is, therefore, a gap between their physical readiness and their mental maturity. Their curiosity is their instinctive reaction to bridge this gap.
2. Secrecy: The kids have a natural sense regarding what is forbidden to them. Have you ever tried to hide a box of cookies on the top-most shelf? No wonder your kids somehow manage to secure the contents. The prize won appears tastier when it is so secretively hidden away. The same goes with sex.
3. Curiosity: Thanks to the interrogative impulse of human beings, we have reached such milestones of civilization. 'Why does the sun disappear at night?', 'Is the moon afraid of him?', 'How many stars are there?', 'What is inside the doll’s tummy?'-- questions like these show that a child is human after all. Consequently, questions like “Why is Jane a girl and I a boy?”, “how was I born”, “Why don’t I have a chest like Mommy?”, “Where did Granny go after we buried her?” begin to pop off those lips.
Bottomline: Kids are not curious about just sex. They are curious about everything.
(for instance, right now, my ten year old daughter is asking me why my laptop screen is orange!)
Our Reaction and Consequences
We begin to panic but we keep a calm straight face. We invariably decide to postpone the conversation to some ideal future when we would do “The Talk” about life, death, sex and all sort of things.
We tend to forget that a growing brain makes new synaptic connections every second, imprinting on itself impressions, images and concepts from any source it gets access to. Once it forms the idea that parents are like solid blocks, they bounce back and start to get used to other sources as more credible ones.
A little Digression
My childhood idea about sex was simply a vague collage of ideas collected from cousins, seductive images printed on the cover of James Hadley Chase books (which my father read, not for the cover but for the detective thriller inside the cover of course), odd moments of movies where the characters would hide themselves in the bushes or obscure advertisements about some magic medicine that would chase all troubles away (The makers obviously believed that in countries like India, population control was possibly the one and only solution to every trouble), And without even being remotely prepared for anything, I had my periods.
My parents had given me an impression by then that they had sex only twice, (Because of which they had only two daughters.) They never actually said so of course, but by their mutual untouchability (for want of a better word), that is exactly the impression we sisters had formed. Anyways, I had reached puberty and menstruation was explained as “bad blood going out of the body to cleanse us”. So I felt extremely unclean and dared not go near the altar to pray or participate in any rituals. I never realized that it had anything to do with having babies!
My childhood and teenage stories could go on forever, and maybe I will someday write about it all. However, the point that I wish to make is that there is a gap, between the world of the child and the world that adults want them to have.
Whom did you, in your adolescence, confide in about questions you had regarding sexuality?
You can make a Difference
If you tell your kid that a stork dropped him on the doorstep, your kid will anyway know that you and your spouse had sex. But you will lose your credibility. You will lose it so much that your sixteen year daughter would not dream of confiding in you even after her abortion. Your sons will never bother buying condoms before getting laid. You had hoped they will know about safe sex and precautions from those very sources which you despise. You never thought YOU could be the source.
Parents do not always possess knowledge about sex, or at least the biological aspects of sex. Still, they could give a general idea about what intimacy is about. There are youtube videos that beautifully explain the subject of sexuality, puberty and reproduction using language that the children understand. Parents can watch these videos and even make their kids watch them. It is only fair that they are equipped with the right knowledge before they are secretively bombarded with perverse content from the web.
How are girls and boys different? You can simply draw stick figures and outline the parts or can be more elaborate if that suits your comfort level. Just remember, your kid is still comfortable with you and make sure you don’t pass your discomfort to him. It is also good if you could say that there are people who have both parts of a girl and a boy and some with neither. This way you can make them more acceptable of the third gender or transgenders as fellow human beings.
By the time the boys reach their sexually active age, even as early as 15 at times, they should be told about safe sex and how that is important not just for preventing pregnancy, but for preventing diseases.
Parents of male children often feel that they need not talk about menstruation and pregnancy with their kids. However, knowledge about both the sexes is important if we plan to raise a child with respect for the other sex. This is more important if your child does not attend a co-educational school (where both girls and boys study together). They would not at least treat the other gender as aliens.
A daughter so raised will always be able to understand “good touch” and “bad touch”. A son so raised will always be able to see girls as complementary human beings and not inferior birth-machines. At least that daughter would know that she has a father or mother at home whom she can tell about his sports teacher. At least that son will know that it is not wrong to feel hard down there when he thinks about someone special.
A very young child is always a trusting soul. There is no wall between the child and the parent in the beginning. The wall of secrecy is built over time. Without the wall parents can become potent guides and not just stubborn guards in their way to maturity. A boy will not masturbate less or more, but he will not have the feeling of sinfulness which often leads to future maladies. There is no fixed time for “The Talk”. If parents present intimacy and love as conditions of sexual relationship, by their own behaviour, the kids will grow up with a far superior personality. Sex for them would not be a perverse undesirable thing, but a natural expression of life, which demands as much respect as life itself. They will still have to deal with pornography, but they will be able to judge the content as worthy or worthless.
© 2017 Monami