The importance of talking to your child about the birds and the bees

Mother and daughter talking/ iStock

“If we as parents are not prepared to have these conversations, we are playing right into the hands of the perpetrators” – RADA’s CEO John-Paul Nobrega.

Talking to your children about sex is one of the most difficult and awkward conversations you will ever have with them. However, putting the conversation off can result in them being misinformed by their peers or learning about it from the media – and we know they are not the best teachers.

Children who do not have thorough knowledge about sex can end up engaging in sexual activities without understanding the consequences of their actions. They might not even know how to protect their bodies or even become prey to sexual violence.

With the high rate of unwanted pregnancies among the youth and sexual abuse that is so rife in our country, it is imperative that parents talk to their children about sex.

RADA’s CEO John-Paul Nobrega says parents can no longer rely on others to do the talk for them.

“Given today’s harsh realities, we can no longer hope that a child will learn these matters from friends, school etc. We cannot afford to avoid discussing these topics,” says Nobrega.

“We should banish the concept that ‘sex is taboo and that we should not discuss certain matters’. It’s these myths and false practices that perpetuate a very serious reality. It is our responsibility as parents to empower and educate our children on matters beyond the classroom.”

What is the appropriate age to talk to your child about sex?

Nobrega says the conversation should begin from as early as when your child is two-years-old.

“We need to build basic concepts with children from a very young age. It should be a completely natural process that is enhanced as a child gets older. In general, parents need to establish guidelines on a number of very important topics (including, for example, child safety; sex; respect for one’s self; respect for others) from a very young age with their children. Many of these conversations between parents and children should start from when children are between the age of 2 and 3,” says Nobrega.

He warns that failure to discuss such topics can result in children being victims of sexual abuse.
“Perpetrators pray on the concept of a child who is not informed. They understand that many parents won’t want to have these conversations because they find them difficult. The reality however, is that if we as parents are not prepared to have these conversations we are playing right into the hands of the perpetrators,” says Nobrega.

“As adults, we tend to shy away from many of these topics because we think children are too young to understand them. These guidelines should never be to scare children, but rather to empower them from a young age,” he adds.

How to begin the conversation

Nobrega says parents should use age-appropriate terminology to discuss sex.

“We should use age-appropriate terminology, which should be reinforced and enhanced as children get older. We should say to children “we are telling you these things not to scare you but to make you smarter/cleverer/ street-smart” (using the appropriate word depending on the age of the child).”

Nobrega also advise the use of books that talk about sex

“We can start to read books on these topics together. There are many good books readily available.”
Books that can help parents discuss sex with their children include, ‘Boys, Girls & Body Science: a First Book about Facts of Life’ and ‘Beyond Birds & Bees: Bringing Home a New Message to our Kids about Sex, Love, and Equality’.

Nobrega says parents should encourage their children to ask questions and talk openly about sex.
“We should encourage dialogue on these matters. It is far better for your child to feel comfortable in asking you these questions than finding out an incomplete and often inaccurate answer from the grapevines at school,” concludes Nobrega.

ALSO READ: Expert advice on how to ensure your child is safe in public

RADA (an acronym for rape, alcohol, drug and abuse) is a non-profit company committed to the eradication of society’s gravest and most pressing social ills. RADA adopts a holistic approach to address these issues, with a pro-active side through training and a reactive side through healing. To get involved or become a RADA angel, visit www.rada.co.za

Image courtesy of iStock/ Liderina