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How To Talk To Your Child About The Birds, Bees, And The Whole Jungle

Posted: December 2, 2014

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Recent cases of children being curious about sexuality and accessing inappropriate content only reinforce the need to talk to your child about sex – calmly and truthfully.

‘Mum, what is moisture-bating?’

‘Moisture what? Give me some context, dude.’

‘There is this boy in our class. He ran out of the washroom crying. I saw a group of boys sniggering after him. They said they had caught him moisture-bating.’ The fact that I am mostly driving when these conversations happen, and yet manage to reach home without a scratch makes me an expert driver.

‘You mean masturbating.’ ‘The boys said mositure…anyway what is masturbating then?’

And hence began yet another conversation on sex education on another level. The boy who had ‘educated’ the older one had also given him some pointers regarding ‘moisturebating’ resulting in increased confidence and decreased stamina.

In addition to being a calm driver I am also capable of controlling emotional displays. So, while the insides were falling apart laughing (and I did endlessly giggle about it in the evening with one of my friends), the face was deadpan serious. Hence, we launched into a discussion of the whole thing, the myths attached and the fact that those boys were downright nasty in making fun of him.

I realised another disturbing fact. We, as parents, are gradually opening up to the whole idea of sex education but we educate (or hope that the school will) with blinkers on

Later that evening, during a conversation with a fellow mum, I realised another disturbing fact. We, as parents, are gradually opening up to the whole idea of sex education but we educate (or hope that the school will) with blinkers on – talk to them about birds and the bees and stop at that. The birds and the bees are of the opposite gender of course. Rarely, have I come across people who openly talk about intersex people, sexual orientation, and well, moisture-bating.

What all should be talked about then? And more importantly when?

1. The stork or God had no role to play in getting the child at your doorstep

The first step to raising an aware child is to tell him the truth. I remember the younger one at the age of three asking where he came from. The older one muttered something about him being found in a drain but I told him he was in my tummy.

‘So I came out of the belly button?’ His eyes were wide with fascination.

‘Nope. The doctor made an incision and took you out.’ Perks of a C-Section.

Caesarean or not, find your words and say them. Do not let them believe that God sent them over with an angel or a stork.

I remember the younger one at the age of three asking where he came from. The older one muttered something about him being found in a drain but I told him he was in my tummy.

2. The proverbial birds and the bees

Before anything, the child needs to understand how he or she is physically different from the other gender. At this stage, depending on the child’s comfort level, tell him how babies are born. There are plenty of books out there to help you with this.

3. Observe and decide on your own timeline

Each child is different. Some are not interested in knowing for a long time, some simply shy. Stop thinking of your child as a diaper clad bag of innocence. In fact stop associating innocence with sex. Keep the dialogue open. Our job is not done once we have handed over the Birds and the Bees Beginner’s Course Certificate to them. Learning is a continuous process and we are the best people to teach them.

4. There is more to sex education than safe sex

So you have done it. Phew. You have taught them what sex is, what the good touch-bad touch is, and you have taught them the importance of safe sex. Then you go back to putting to your head in the sand, and pretending that the child is sufficiently grossed out to abstain for a long time. Yeah, that won’t happen. They are as curious as they were, albeit a bit more informed now. Your job has just started. From online safety to pornography, there is a lot that needs to be tackled. So pull those socks up.

5. Never let there be any guilt or ridicule

You have to give it to me. I didn’t laugh my head off and let the car swerve. A straight face, a matter of fact discussion and a non-condescending voice goes a long way. Thoughts of sex, masturbation, and curiosity about pornography – all are capable of invoking a strong sense of guilt that ultimately leads to lowered self-esteem, and a nagging feeling of being a moral failure. Steer clear of your own outrage.

6. Talk. Talk. Talk

When my younger one accidently stumbled on to a pornographic site, we talked – about what it was, why it was there and what harm it could to a person. When the older one told me about his classmates jeering at another boy for being different and calling him gay, we talked. When they saw news articles on molestation and rape, we talked. Again, present facts. Our job is to help them cope with the truth, and not distract them from it with lies.

7. Books always work. Always.

Recently, I read a book (Talking of Muskaan) that spoke about homosexuality, the difficulty that the protagonist faces in coming out, the bullying, and inherent danger of adolescent emotional turmoil – suicide. Sometimes, the best of non-fiction books, and the most understanding parents are not able to help a child come to terms with themselves or the world around them. Fiction helps there. Talking of Muskaan became a starting point for me to talk to the older one. We discussed the book and correlated it with the real world. It was an eye-opener. there are many such books out there. Explore.

8. Stay calm

It is just sex. Let us not make it a matter of life and death or worse, honour. Masturbation is a fairly common practice with self-stimulation occurring in kids as young as 5-6 years. The idea is to ensure a middle ground – both extremes, of ruthless guilt as well as a persistent all -consuming habit, are unhealthy. They are teenagers; there will be instances that would leave you stumped. Gather yourself and redefine morality. Moral behaviour includes being a good human being, being truthful, and being sensitive. None of that is possible if the child is buried under guilt, and has to lie his way through to avoid losing respect in your eyes.

These things are helping me, at least so far they have. Another book has been ordered, one that tackles the teen issues (including moisture-bating). The night-time reading continues. I don’t read stories to them anymore, though. We just finished reading Robie H Harris’ It’s so Amazing. The next in line is It’s Perfectly Normal from the same series.

I do get scared -fear of them experimenting with sex a little too early, fear of them being ridiculed somehow, fear of not being there to protect them. But I cannot let my fears interfere with their growth. So till now we have managed to joke about the first trace of moustache, hear the sore-throated older one croak, and assure him that his voice isn’t breaking yet, and yes, talk about moisture-bating.

Pic credit: Image of a mother and child via Shutterstock.

Dr. Tanu Shree Singh is a parent to two preteen boys, a lecturer in Psychology,

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