In Sri Lanka, sex is considered taboo. Mainly because our definition of sex is narrow and limited to sexual intercourse. I remember a friend asking our Christianity teacher (who was explaining the ten commandments) the meaning of the sixth commandment: “Thou shall not commit adultery.” She managed to slip away with a vague answer, but we realized she was not comfortable answering the question because she blushed!
Later on, we asked the same question from the Catholic Priest that came to teach us Christianity and his answer was not any less vague than what the lady teacher told us. The science teacher skipped that entire lesson. If there was anyone who gave us a satisfactory answer that was my father. When my little sister asked the meaning of the commandment “Thou shall not commit adultery” my father said lovingly and affectionately, “my dear, you will learn its meaning as you grow up.”
Sex education in Sri Lanka rests in a dysfunctional state. We live in a country where people believe legalizing prostitution can reduce child abuse, but sex education is counter-cultural. In the year 2019, the Educational Publications Department of Sri Lanka called back a sex education textbook that was issued to grade 7 students after it was opposed by several parties on the grounds it was inappropriate for twelve-year-old readers to discuss masturbation.
With the rise of child abuse, we are living at a time when sex education has become more important than ever. According to the National Child Protection Authority, their hotline ‘1929’ to report child abuse receives about 40 such complaints a day (source: The Morning). It’s the reason why I wrote this post. Today I want to share with you seven principles you can use for educating your child at home.
Understand Sex Education
When done right you are the best teacher to educate your children on sex education. Therefore, you must have a thorough understanding of the subject and the relevant issues when talking to your children about it. Unfortunately, nothing much is being done in our country to educate the parents in this area but The Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka can help you with it. They have several publications which you can obtain free of charge. There are many helpful websites also, but you must tailor the information to fit your needs.
Keep it Age-Appropriate
Age is an important factor in educating your children about sex. The right information at the wrong age can confuse and do more harm than good. If your 5-year-old asks, “Where did I come from?” you can say, “You emerged from your mother’s body.” If your 10-year-old asks the same question, you might respond with something like, “You emerged through your mother’s vagina, after growing inside her uterus for 9 months.” Never, ever lie to them. Ex: “A Stork delivered you to our doorstop” or “රෝස කැලෙන් ගෙනාවා”.
Befriend Your Children
Be as close as you can to your child as a good friend. Build as much trust in them as you can in keeping no secrets. If you are a mother being your daughter’s best friend and if you are a father being your son’s best friend helps communicate plain and simple. This approach will reassure your children that they are free to ask you questions or seek help from you without fear of being judged. If you are a single parent however it’s wise to consult a professional for guidance.
Talk about Sexual Organs
Talk to them, for example, that no one should touch the area between legs, buttocks, breasts, lips, or other sensitive areas. They will then realize that they have a component of their body called personal organs that they must not permit anyone else to touch inappropriately (unless they are being examined for medical reasons in the presence of their parents.) In our culture talking to our children about sexual organs can still be awkward and even overwhelming. However, there’s a solution.
Start while they are Young
It’s never too late for your kids about human sexuality. However, it’s best if you can start while they are much younger. See to it that you use the actual terms not pseudo terms. It will make later conversations less awkward and less complicated. Plan and prepare ahead of time so that you will not feel uncomfortable in the presence of your children. Also, don’t try to “catch up” all at once; it’ll be too much to handle. It’s preferable to have a series of small conversations over time.
Don’t Miss the Opportunity
Everyday life offers numerous opportunities to discuss sexuality and relationships. You must take advantage of these opportunities. Here are a few examples of educational moments to keep an eye out for:
- When your children witness a member of your family, a friend, or a neighbour telling you they’re expecting
- When they witness puberty, dating, LGBTQ concerns, love, or sex being discussed on TV, in a film, or in a song on the radio.
- When your children witness gender stereotypes being promoted in advertisements, games, television, literature, and movies.
- When your children witness unrealistic or overly sexualized depictions of bodies (i.e., photoshopped celebrities or models)
- When your children witness news stories that talk about sex, TV Commercials or advertisements for sanitary pads and tampons, birth control, or condoms.
When one of these topics arises, get in and start a discussion. Begin by asking an open-ended question, such as, “What do you know about pregnancy?” “How do you feel about the celebrity on the cover being photoshopped to seem different than they do in real life?” “How do you feel about this doll ad featuring mainly pink and girls?” “How would you react if someone you were dating started acting like that TV show’s character?” Listen carefully to what they have to say. When you hear misinformation, fill in the gaps and correct them.
Point to the Right Source
You must point your children to the right source because as a human being, you are limited, and you need professional assistance sometimes. The aforementioned Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka is known for conducting workshops and seminars regularly. Encourage them to attend these events under your supervision. The FPA website has several publications aimed at teenagers that you can download for free. Urge them to read these publications and later ask questions about what they learned.
Sexual education at home is crucial to your child’s emotional growth and sexual well-being. When they have a legitimate source of sex education chances are high, they will not seek answers from illegitimate sources (In the year 2012 Sri Lanka became the No. 1 nation in ‘sex’ searches on Google while India’s Bangalore topped among cities. source: Emirates 24/7) In addition it will give them the ability to regulate emotions, form healthy interpersonal relationships, and avoid many of the mental disorders associated with sexual dysfunction.
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