- Sex-focused conversations are important between parents and their children.
- Most adolescents lack needed knowledge for responsible decision-making.
- Parents, teachers and the church have a responsibility in this conversation.
According to research by United Nations Population Fund, every young person will one day have life-changing decisions to make about their sexual and reproductive health.
Most adolescents lack the knowledge required to make those decisions responsibly, leaving them vulnerable to coercion, sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancy.
Just mentioning the word “sex” makes one be considered unethical, uncultured and uncensored.
While the word lives with us and is passed from generations X, Y, Z and the youngest Alpha generation.
If there is a continuous perception of sex as an abomination or taboo, we will nurture sex-illiterate people who learn from their own mistakes.
By the time one is aware of themselves the science and reality of sex, they have slipped and carried the shame.
This kills the conversations. The ignominy is passed down in the family unit, where a mother cannot educate her daughters on matters of sex, from understanding their body parts to explaining to them why they are considered private.
However, in the modern world, where the internet is easily accessible to everyone, including young children, parents are encouraged to take a stand.
Effacing the shame
Fight the indignity in them to foster well-informed young men and women.
On Wednesday, April 26, 2023, Stawi Camp for Wellbeing, hosted by Dr. Carol Chakua on their Candid Conversations program, held a safe space on Parenting in a Hypersexualized World.
The space was graced by Emily Ochieng, the Program Manager for the Teen Table Talk.
Her mission has been to empower sex-positive homes in Africa by making the conversations easier for parents, preteens, teens and young adults.
She is also a Family Sex Educator.
Present were doctors, career men and women, parents and young adults who were willing to share their experiences and ideas and also learn from the speaker.
“Hypersexualization is a situation where you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think about is sex, take breakfast-sex, have lunch-sex, a state of being bombarded by sex,” Ms. Ochieng explains.
She adds that we live in a world where everything has been sexualized, from billboards to radio shows, music and even cartoons.
“Sex appeal is the most commonly used marketing strategy; content revolves around relationships, love and intimacy. While the content has a specific target audience, no one regulates who consumes it,” she explains.
The sex educator says it is the parents’ work to control what programs children watch and listen to.
According to her, this has become a challenge due to the busy life parents are leading today, especially chasing money and leaving kids in the care of house managers.
“The family is the basic unit for sex education. This is where kids are supposed to learn from their parents, without structure or a formal way but in an open and friendly environment.
Here they are free to ask questions and be answered honestly and fairly. From there, the children and young adults can make decisions based on knowledge received,” Ms. Ochieng educates.
The failure to educate today’s kids, especially the Alpha and Z generations, is on the basis that they still have access to information from the internet, social media platforms, friends and spaces they hang around.
The question is, are they getting credible, helpful, or biased information from these sources?
“Innocence is about choice, not ignorance,” Wambua Mueni comments.
Kendi Ashitiva underlined the need to give holistic, accurate and honest information to empower children.
Tackling the menace
Unlearning the shame of sex for the millennials and older generations is the way to go.
If we are going to have sex education in the family unit:
First of all, the parent must acknowledge that sex education is needed.
Second is acknowledging that he/she might not have had the privilege of receiving an education from their parents.
Third, accepting they made mistakes in their sex life, but that doesn’t define them.
Finally, teaching kids about sex does not mean telling them about your sexual experiences.
No, it’s simply educating them about their body, how they develop and how to respond to certain urges, giving them a safe space to ask questions and answer them honestly.
Ending blame games is also essential. Whose responsibility is it to give sex education? The church, schools, or parents?
Everyone has a role in the education cycle; the church gives biblical teachings, the schools give biological studies, and parents connect the dots to give a touch of the real world.
Ms. Ochieng also delves into the giants and dwarfs in the sex education cycle.
The children are the giants, while the parents are the dwarfs in the sex education cycle.
“Children have challenging questions and a strong urge for answers about sex, but the parents are ashamed to talk about it and end up shying away.
Some use force to fight sex conversations, sending the kids on wonderland to look for answers,” she says.
Diving into the conversations
Daniel Macharia, one of the participants, notes, “We need courage and the language to begin these candid conversations. We need to know what’s relevant for different age groups.”
The participants agreed that overcoming the shame and feeling of inadequacy would be a beginning spot.
“How do you start such conversations? Do you make it a formal sit down and pick a topic to discuss?” Hafsa Said asked.
“What if I already told them what to do and even quoted religion? How now do I go back and begin the discussion afresh?” Samuels Wanjiro enquired.
“The family unit is not like an institution where everything is programmed; we have the liberty to do things without following a certain timetable. Raise the conversations from the programs you watch, the music you listen to, or even have informal discussions from funny stories with deep teachings on sex education,” Ms. Ochieng explained.
She says such informal discussions can be done while taking a walk, cooking, or just resting.
She adds that there is no right age for the conversations. From the children’s stories and questions, you can figure out how to start step by step.
“It goes down to having a connection with your child. Start building on the connections you never had or lost due to do’s and don’ts. Be their safe space for honest and credible information,” Ms. Ochieng explains.
She further elaborates that when parents tell a child not to get pregnant, the child will go to whatever extent not to get pregnant.
This means using emergency pills regularly without minding the adverse effects of weakening the uterine wall.
She will be exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, abortions and engage in other ways of being sexually active, like oral and anal sex.
Regarding sex education, it’s a wide field; boys need to understand why they are having wet dreams and how to deal with it.
“Love, dignity and rest are the key principles in sex education. A parent should start by learning to say the sexualized body parts loudly and in the mother tongue, which makes it more awkward,” Ms. Ochieng advised.
“We need to stay optimistic even when we may be tempted to see doom all around us, thus being quick to judge, complain and condemn. Our attitudes as parents toward matters like sex will encourage youngsters to open up to us or be open to being helped or guided.
We also need to know what we can control (influence) and what is beyond us. In which circle do we spend our time on? What is shame? Where does it come from, and is it always a bad thing?” David Kimani gave his input.
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Would you be seeking nuggets on educating your children on sex education and you don’t know how to? Freely connect with Ms. Ochieng on LinkedIn @Akinyi Emily Ochieng or visit their Facebook at TeenTalk Table.
Also, follow @Stawi Camp for Wellbeing on LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube for more Candid Conversations.