Two weeks ago, I wrote an article entitled ‘I think my child is having sex’ whose main message was to encourage parents to talk early to their children about sex so that they understand the risks. Chimwemwe Nkata responded to that column with the following email:
In the article, you wrote—and I paraphrase: “The earlier you talk about sex to your children the better.”
Now, my question is: Don’t you think that the more you talk about sex the higher the chances someone is likely to indulge in it? For example, from the 1970s through to early 1990s, it was a taboo to mention such words as sex and condoms. As a result, there were fewer unplanned pregnancies.
But, nowadays, the words sex and condoms are everywhere—they are being discussed on almost every radio station everyday and almost every two hours. Sex and related issues are being discussed everywhere and almost every day, yet HIV prevalence is high just as are unplanned pregnancies. How do you answer that?
My response: Precisely because sex is everywhere—in the media, in songs, on television, posters around etc—is the more reason you should talk to your child about sex so that they can get the right information about the risks. But it is not just talking about it, it is how you talk about it that matters. Talking about it honestly and meaningfully will result in a better outcome, especially if you start early and continue to talk about this as the child develops.
How early is early? That depends on the maturity of your child. If parents do not teach their children about sex, they will learn about it from somewhere else. The more children are exposed to sexual images in the media, the more likely it is they will engage in sexual behaviours at a younger age. However, actual sex education does NOT lead to promiscuity. Children who receive sex education at home are actually less likely to engage in risky sexual activity. So, in my opinion, I would talk to my child about sex.