Millennials are in the unique position where, even though they may not have had access to sex education when growing up, it's now imperative for them to be informed about this. It is necessary both, for themselves and for their future children as parents. The responsibility of discussing sex shouldn't be left to older cousins, friend groups and school teachers. It starts at home with one's parents. As parent-child dynamics rapidly evolve, today's parents double as peers, making them checkpoints for their wards in various aspects of life. This includes sex education. The subject isn't taboo anymore and isn't only for older children. Today, even young ones are accessing the internet and learning more than you'd imagine. In fact, sex education for younger children is an important tool to feel safe, understand bodily autonomy and establish personal boundaries. To communicate this effectively, both the parent and child must have space for honest and open conversations in their relationship. NDTV Swirlster spoke to Artika Singh, a sexual health educator at Allo Health for her expertise. She shares her sex-ed tips for millennial parents to create a safe space for their children at different ages.
For Children Below 10 Years Of Age
This is a formative stage of a child's life where the majority of learning happens entirely through the child's parents and family members in the house. As the child is not influenced by too many external factors in this phase, learning at this point can help set up a solid foundation of information and values.
In this stage, children should be familiarised with their own bodies and basic bodily processes. Topics like personal safety can be discussed in a preliminary way by introducing concepts of how to identify safe and unsafe touch. Children of this age are very curious so answering their questions delicately yet honestly can help set the tone for your relationship. In this tech savvy world, it may be worthwhile to monitor their online content consumption by using parent-friendly settings to bar age-inappropriate material.
For Early Adolescents And Teens
This stage is marked by rapid physical and emotional changes in your child, usually in the parent and child relationship. This is a great age to start phased conversations about topics like menstruation, sexuality, consent and other pubertal changes. Information could be as simple as knowing what the right menstrual product is to complex topics like experiencing early signs of sexuality. Since all this information changes with cultural and medical trends, parents should be on their toes to provide accurate information to their children. It is also the most effective age to get vaccinated for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
For Young Adults
As per a 2018 survey, most females will first have sex in the age group 15 to 19 years and males in the age group of 20 to 24 years. It can be difficult for parents to cope with this change in their child who, now an independent adult, may use this age to explore sexuality and relationships. This is a stage where the child is also capable of accessing and understanding sexual education on their own terms. In such a situation, creating an environment of open communication between parents and children becomes even more important. Parents switch the role of being primary care and information providers to adults who their children can safely share their choices and preferences with and expect reasonable support from.
A Quick Tip For Parents
Sex education taught by anyone, especially parents, must come from a place of love and mutual respect rather than shame or fear. Socialisation with parents and peers are a source of how an individual forms perspectives about themselves and their sexuality. Both positive and negative influence in this space can have a lifelong impact.
Artika Singh is a sexual health educator at Allo Health.