Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 9th 2016 Contents A24
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Parents are sometimes afraid of talking about
sexuality with their children for a variety of rea-
• They are uncomfortable talking about reproductive
body parts and functions. For many parents, the topic
of sex never came up when they were growing up.
• They wonder if talking about sexuality and repro-
duction will encourage their children to experiment.
The fact is young people whose parents discuss all
aspects of sexuality with them, actually tend to delay
becoming sexually active, compared to those parents
who do not discuss this topic.
• They are not sure what their children need to
know and at what age they need to know it. But as
parents, you are already teaching your children many
things about sexuality whether you realise this or
not, and have been since the day they were born.
Children learn indirectly about sexuality in many
ways: the way they are physically touched by others;
the way their bodies feel to them; what your family
believes is okay and not okay to do; the words that
family members use (and don t use) to refer to parts
of the body; watching the relationships around them;
and observing male/female roles.
Sex vs sexuality
So what is the difference between sex and sexuality?
Sex refers to the biological characteristics that define
humans as female or male. These characteristics gen-
erally differentiate humans as males or females. While
the term sex is often used to mean "sexual activity",
for the purposes of educating children, sex really just
refers to what gender you are.
Sexuality, on the other hand, is much more wide-
ranging. The World Health Organization defines sex-
uality as a central aspect of being human throughout
life, and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles,
sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and
reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed
in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes,
values, behaviour, practices, roles and relationships.
While sexuality can include all of these dimensions,
not all of them are always experienced or expressed.
Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological,
psychological, social, economic, political, cultural,
ethical, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.
As parents you can teach sexuality education, not
sex education. Parents have the chance to teach about
the broader concept of sexuality, not just about the
Sexuality has to do with:
• being female or male, and how females and males
are alike and different in the way they look and act;
• how we view our bodies and our relationships
with each other;
• how we grow and change over the years;
• who we are as women and men (girls and boys);
and• how we reproduce.
Sexuality (our feelings and behaviours) is an impor-
tant part of being human, and healthy sexuality is
an important part of a person s overall health and
What can parents do?
Parents have a chance to...
• answer questions honestly. Tell your children
what they want to know using words they can under-
• provide correct information. Studies show that
young people tend to obtain most of their information
(or misinformation) about sexuality from friends.
• start conversations. Some children never ask
• share their beliefs, concerns and values. Your
children need to know where you stand.
• help their children make good decisions and
stand by their decisions.
In other countries (not Trinidad and Tobago), there
are sexual health education classes in schools.
Evaluations of comprehensive sexual health edu-
cation programmes in Canada (which gives students
full information at the appropriate ages)
revealed that they result in postponement
of first sexual intercourse and increases in
condom use. Evaluations of abstinence-
only programmes in Canada indicated that
they are ineffective at delaying intercourse,
preventing pregnancy, and preventing sex-
ually transmitted infections.
What questions can children ask?
There are many, many questions children
may ask. Do not feel that you have to answer
every question, especially questions that
may be personal and private in nature.
Children, for instance, may ask about:
puberty, menstruation, human sexual
response, intercourse, pregnancy, sexually
transmitted infections, birth control, and
Answer questions at the time your child
asks, don t put them off. Listen very carefully
to the question, to make sure you understand
exactly what she/he is asking.
Use "teachable" moments to open dis-
cussion with a child who does not ask ques-
tions, eg, commenting on the pregnancy of
a friend or a relative may be a good intro-
duction to the topic of pregnancy and how
a baby grows in the uterus. Television pro-
grammes, newspaper articles or books are
other vehicles that can assist in initiating
Don t try to cover everything at once, but
also don t worry if you think you have said
"too much". Keep the language simple and
age appropriate, eg, a three-year-old may
be satisfied with "babies grow in a special
place inside the mother s body---called a
uterus". A six-year-old will likely have more
questions about how the baby grows, and
may want to know how it will come out.
When kids ask
they want to
know using words
Parenting for sexual health
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
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