Nearly more than a decade ago, working with a national daily, while interviewing a NGO member associated with AIDS awareness, I had come across some disturbing disclosures cum queries from a general survey, that they had conducted in a prominent convent girl’s school in Shimla.
An apprehensive question like “What do I do about the physical complications that I have developed, post a hook up with my boyfriend”?, from a rather fretful and confused 14 year old, was an eye-opener indeed.
For that matter, have you ever felt terribly shy in the company of your children (and they, too experience it) in the midst of a passionate love making scene in a movie or a serial, a contraceptive or a sanitary napkins’ ad? Or when they ask you, “what is a ‘suhaagraat’ “? I have to admit; I too, have been through them on many occasions.
And now, when I look back, and ponder over the significance and the urgency of educating children regarding their physicality, puberty onset, sexual urges, levels of intimacy, relationship woes and the behavioural changes originating from such bodily transformations; I strongly feel such ‘questions’ are all around us, silently screaming for answers , and such ‘apprehensions’ waiting to get distinct.
Notwithstanding the need for it, we still become ‘embarrassed dumb heads’. We still shun such queries and wish to evade their appropriate replies. Don’t we?
We Are Escapists
Well ! you know what; actually such questions and conversations are embarrassing, uncomfortable and inapt. And predominantly, not a part of our culture and sensible upbringing. We are inhabitants of a conservative set up, and a suitable distance is mandatory. Sex and sex related questions are labelled inappropriate, usually not discussed and elaborated.
We primarily believe in action. Quite commendable for a nation, scaling high peaks of population growth, child sex abuse, sex crimes, and a merit holder for a country, with maximum porn viewership.
So What Have We Actually Done?
- In the absence of a progressive and supportive mindset for education and information on sex related issues, we have successfully powered a generation with perverted perspective towards women, who find it absolutely normal to justify a ‘rejection’ in the form of any severe sexual harassment. In addition to that we have‘disillusioned’ adolescents and teenagers who experiment with their sexuality in a bid to prove that they have grown up, sometimes, ignorant of the potentially negative outcomes.
- And for that matter, why not? We have spoon fed technology to them and that now, information explosion is a substantial part of their growing up, our children too, have full access. Fingers on Facebook, a constant eye on you tube, and of, course the generous amount of porn easily available today, the resources are plenty for them, to explore, comprehend and indulge in such activities. Although, often, unreliable and misleading.
Did We Encourage A Healthy Communication?
Have a look at the two situations below, one from my school days and the other from my daughter’s class.
- As I recollect a biology class in progress, (nearly 20 years ago) apparently, each one of us had a peculiar awkwardness on our faces, while the chapter on ‘reproduction’ was being taught. We were not the only ones who felt a bit hesitant, even our female teacher was visibly uneasy and shy.
- On the other hand, my ten year old daughter came up to me with a comprehensive narrative of how they were introduced to the approaching physical changes in their bodies, in a puberty orientation programme called ‘Growing up’. Initially, separate sessions for boys & girls.
I am sure each one of us has faced an awkwardness of that sort at some point in life, simply, because the doors were always closed, hence, no one to guide. And a notice reading “Do not even think of asking such questions”, hanged permanently.
I am sorry to say, but we as a society and nation are still ‘blockhead’ and evasive. Over the years, we have remained indifferent when it comes to giving the requisite knowledge and adequate counselling to our own children in this regard.
New Age Parenting
The effort begins at home.
We can be more contributing towards common sexual misinterpretations and pertinent queries faced by children at this age .
As a parent myself, I at least attempt, not to evade these questions. I know easier said than done, I do try to deal it with patience, than tag it nuisance. At times, the mere explanation poses a challenge. However, all I ask for is some amount of time. Then in a simplified manner & in a language suited to their sensibilities, satisfy their curiosity and strangeness towards it. And yes, I make it sure they do not feel ashamed of it. For instance, I said it was natural and just a process of growing up when she asked me about pubic hair. The outcome being, she seldom hides or keeps such awkwardness inside.
We can certainly help raise more ‘gender sensitised’ adolescents.
I know ‘we’ are yet not ready. Our age old values and upbringing pose a stiff resistance but we can at least try and strike a balance between our morals and their inquisitiveness.
The Schools Need To Step Forward
So as the opening paragraph of my write up fairly clarifies as to what the absence of sex education can lead to, the role of educational institutions becomes all the more significant.
WHO clearly states that 34 % of the HIV infected persons are in the age group of 12 to 19. Therefore, it advocates imparting of sex education for children who are 12 years and above.
- Helps them being less inquisitive about the other gender.
- Relieves them of the usual curiosity relating to their changes in body.
- Helps in preventing child abuse, unwanted pregnancies, and educates about unprotected sex and it’s after effects.
- A better way to deal with sexual issues in adulthood.
- It may not be the only resort to prevent sex crimes, but is vital in shaping their mind sets.
Thankfully, a few private and government schools have taken up the cudgels for making our children less vulnerable to changing times, a lot of them still do not think of it as a necessity. They fail to view it as a learning process that can be parallel to the conventional teaching methods.
As some students are reluctant to open up and ask, a few teachers are equally wary of getting into that ‘forbidden zone’.The way some parents think sex education shouldn’t be part of the school curriculum, some teachers, too, believe it is not their job to teach it. Perhaps, all of them are not equipped to counsel. Most of them lack the expertise & carry a vague idea about sexual health themselves.
A guide to the ‘good touch bad touch’ and the growing up sessions may just be the beginning. But what if every child could confidently open up before its teacher, since most of the times, home is not the ideal place to talk about it.
Why Not Be The Change?
Let’s just accept the fact that a clear scientifically inclined emphasis on sexual needs, its complexities and its possible consequences, will help cultivate the adolescent’s minds towards a more ‘responsible sexual behaviour’.
The benefits can be rewarding.
Let’s just shed our inhibitions and be ‘friends’ to them. Help them decide what they should know and when they should know.
Let’s open the doors. Let the curiosities unfold, and let them be more sorted out.
Let them question!