As we watch our children grow, we want to ensure that they will learn to make rational decisions. A major part of being responsible as an adult or even a teenager, is to practice safe sex. Engaging in sex too early and not being safe enough can be attributed to them not being guided by the people closest to them. Sometimes, these lessons come when it’s already too late. There is no good reason why parents should shy away from having that discussion with their young children.
So when is the right time to start talking to my child about sex? – you might ask. At the National Family Planning Board (NFPB), we recommend starting that talk from as early as age two. Obviously at this age, toddlers would not need to know the details of sexual activity, but they will need to know about their own bodies. At this age, children need to know the right names for their body parts and should not be afraid of saying the word ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’, after all, those are the medically correct names for the body parts. Once this comfort in appreciating body parts is established, parents can add new topics for discussion as the children grow older.
By the time a child turns five, they should understand that babies are not dropped off by storks and that birds and bees do not actually mate. It is our duty as parents to dispel all myths. We cannot place all responsibility on the school system to tackle this. If we want the best for our children, we have to play an active roll in teaching them about these very important issues.
By the age of ten, a child should be knowledgeable about sex and the reproductive system. Some may think it is too early, but at this age, a child should also be aware of sexually transmitted infections, how they are transmitted and how they can be prevented. Parents should also discuss with their child the possible consequences of having sex too early and the issues that arise from adolescent pregnancy, as many young girls can begin menstruating and young boys can begin to produce sperm around this time, making it possible for girls to get pregnant. This stage in a child’s life is their most curious stage, and they need their questions answered, and answered honestly by you.
Many parents who had their children during their teenage years usually wish that their children will not go down the same road. Be upfront and honest about the struggles you endured as an adolescent parent, steering your child away from following in your footsteps. This is a reality for many Jamaicans and it creates what we call ‘the cycle of poverty’ – when an adolescent parent suffers through poverty, the child is likely to suffer the same plight, and if that child does not make it out of pervert and also has an adolescent pregnancy, the cycle continues unabated.
There are life lessons that only we can teach our children. Let us not shy away from ‘that talk’ but instead, start the discussion from early – this makes it easier in the long run and may save your child from making irresponsible sexual decisions.
Written by: Renée Gauntlett
Communications & Public Relations Officer
National Family Planning Board