Dear Maya Apa,
My son is now 16 and I can understand that he is quite curious about girls and the topic of sex. I do not want him to get wrong information from various outlets. How can I talk to him about this sensitive topic?
- Confused Parent
Dear Confused Parent,
The topic of sex education is of immense importance in a country like Bangladesh where more than one third of its population is under 14 and a further 21 percent between the age of 10-19. With such a large youth population, sexual reproductive health information and education should be at the top of the priority list for government, educators, health service providers, and most of all, families/parents.
Our social norms and taboos prevent us from talking to young people openly about sex, sexuality, sexual health, fearing that if we talk to them about these topics, we will encourage them further. Unfortunately, reality is that without access to medically-sound and factually correct information about all things sex, young people will find other avenues, such as porn sites, explicit books/novels, and other unverified sources that will give them incorrect information, throwing them more at harm's way.
While the topic is sensitive and difficult to address for parents, sex education and cautiousness starts from home. We are glad that as a parent you have taken the first step on having the willingness to talk to your son. Remember that it is equally difficult for your son to talk about sex and that too with either of his parents.
Firstly, make him feel comfortable. Either at your own home or take him out some place where you can have a heart-to-heart to chat. Do not start directly on "sex" but ease into the conversation - such as do you like anyone, if yes, who is the girl, if not, why is that so, etc. Then explain to your son that it is very normal at his age to be curious about his own body and certain changes and sensations that he has started to feel. That it is only normal for him to be curious about girls and that he will feel attracted to some.
Normalise "sex" for him, explain to him that it is a biological act with the main intention of procreation. Because of this, it is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed by as if it were not for sex, none of us would be here.
It is important to listen to your child. Give him the time and respect to express his thoughts about sex. Try to ensure that you understand their point of view by saying "I can see where you are coming from…." or "I also felt like that at your age…"
It is quite possible that your son will not want to talk about it all and will brush the topic aside. Do not force him into the conversation but try again sometime later. The more you give him space and the more you practice going back to the conversation, your child will get more comfortable talking about it.
It is important to find out what your son already knows about sex. Listen to him. Even if he has some wrong ideas, do not interrupt him. Teenagers are exposed to all types of information from various sources so it is important to ensure that he has the correct knowledge when it comes to sex.
He may have some questions that you do not know how to answer. For this you can access many parenting sites regarding how to talk to teenagers about sex.
Sex should not be viewed as a scary shameful topic by your son but he should be aware that sex is not only a physical matter but also a mental one.
Sex is a big responsibility and one that you have to be physically and mentally ready for. It is an act that should be shared between two people who have mutual love and respect for each other. It is not something that can be or should be forced upon someone else.
It is essential to encourage safe sex. Unsafe sex can spread diseases and affect people's lives forever so it is imperative that your child is aware of how important condoms are.
By the end of your conversation, I would hope that your son feels that he understands sex and when he does choose to take that step he can do it safely.
Addressing sensitive topics like sex with your child ensures that in the long run, your bond will become closer and your child can feel he can come to you with any more delicate queries and decisions.
If you want further information on basic sex education, please visit the Maya website: www.maya.com.bd or you can always ask one of our specialists.