When is the right time to talk about sex?

Every parent lives with the hope that their children will transition into adulthood without unplanned pregnancies or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

They also pray against any form of violence or sexual abuse. However, with all the sex talk on television, radios, internet, schools and among peers, does a parent still have a role to play in enlightening their children about sexuality?

Children need sex talk before reaching pubety
Children need sex talk before reaching pubety

Several women, believing that sexuality talk is necessary, pulled in their views on a social media debate recently. Blantyre-based Violet Chibambo Mhango thinks it is best to have that talk as early as possible.

“For girls, I would suggest the age of nine, but it needs not be too detailed-just for her to know the difference between boys and girls.

As she grows and asks questions, be honest in your answers because she probably knows the answers already and just wants to know if she can trust you.

“Once that trust is built, she will always come to you for answers. If you lie, her friends will then become her advisers and the results will be catastrophic,” she says.

Another contributor, a mother of fraternal twins believes that any age is alright for that talk, but emphasises the need to change details as they get older.

She said she began telling her twins about the difference between boys and girls when they were two years old “because they were constantly wondering why their private parts are different.”

But Chibambo-Mhango argues that things are different now than before, saying when she was younger, she bathed with her brothers until the age of five, but asked no questions.

Josephine Bwanali-Mchungula says parents can start the sexuality talk at different stages of their growth. “Things have changed so it is best to start talking to children as early as possible.

A friend of mine, whose child is seven, was called into school because the teacher found a bunch of them on Google, searching on how to kiss.

“When asked, they claimed a certain boy told them about kissing and it aroused their curiousity,” she says.

Chancellor College sociologist Charles Chilimampunga argues that different children develop at different rates and so it would be wrong to give a specific age.

“The ideal time is before puberty- before they start having sexual feelings towards the opposite sex.

When taught after reaching this phase of their life, they are deprived of accurate and adequate information.

“They end up experimenting with sex, engage in premarital and unsafe sex which may result in unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections (STIs),” says Chilimampunga.

He adds that parents must take the leading role because they are more authoritative than the media, friends and schools. The sociologist observes that children that age enjoy close ties with their parents, but notes many parents lack information and are shy to talk about sex and sexuality.

He says friends can be very influential on particular behaviours, but often lack accurate information on sexual and reproductive health issues.

“Teachers have accurate information and enjoy respect from learners because they are authoritative.

If teachers do not work in collaboration with parents, there may be a conflict through contradictory information.

“I think that parents/teachers associations (PTAs) are one of the foras teachers and parents can discuss what to be taught in the classrooms and what parents can teach their children at home,” he says.

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