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Ate Anna 

  It's never too late

Last issue, a Pilipino Express reader named Karina had a big question. She wanted to know how parents can talk to children about sex and sexuality.

Dear Karina,

Many parents find it very difficult to “open their mouths” and talk to their children about sex and sexuality because they feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. Also, many don’t know how to start this conversation with their children. Most parents have no role model – their parents never talked to them about sex and sexuality when they were growing up!

Karina, if you are like most of us, your mother or parents did not openly talk to you about this sensitive subject. Parents cannot avoid noticing the changes of puberty and they may have given you some basic “sex education.” Some parents can only talk in a discreet and indirect way with warnings like “Don’t let boys kiss you.” or “Don’t let boys come close to you.”

Even though parents don’t talk to their children about sex and sexuality, it is everywhere – TV, music videos, movies, Internet, advertising, and magazines. Every day, children are bombarded by sexual messages. How often on TV or in the movies do we see two people ending up in bed soon after they have met? It seems they may not even know each other’s names! Ate Anna thinks the entertainment industry gives us many irresponsible messages about sexuality such as “sex is not a big deal”; “everybody’s doing it”; and perhaps the most harmful message “sex has no consequences.” Many parents were not happy to see a young celebrity getting all kinds of media attention and coverage because she was pregnant. What message is being sent to our children?

Many parents do not agree with the sexual values portrayed by the media industry and they do not want their children to follow those examples. Karina, if this is you, what are the consequences if you just keep silent? If you don’t talk about it, your children might think that casual sexual relationships or teenage pregnancy are okay with you.

In this sexualized environment that is around us, parents can no longer take the “ostrich” approach and bury their heads in the sand. Parents can no longer pretend that children don’t have issues related to sexuality just because they don’t come and ask questions.

During puberty, children may have many questions about their changing bodies. As they get older, they will also have questions about dating, love, marriage, sexual behaviour, setting limits, and resisting peer pressure. They also need information about preventing sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy. Teens tell us that they want to talk to their parents. They want to be able to ask questions about these issues. They also need guidance from parents or other trusted adults. This can help them sort out their own values and make better choices around sexuality.

Unfortunately, many children hesitate to approach their parents. Perhaps this is because parents often believe their children are too young for this information. Or the parents may jump to the conclusion that they are planning to have sex. Friends and media then become the main source of sex education. The children, however, may not be getting accurate information. Also, as mentioned earlier, the sexual values they are receiving from these sources can conflict with the parents’ moral or religious values.

Some parents believe that school is doing a good job with sex education. Even though children receive sex education at school, it cannot address family values around sexuality. It is still parents’ responsibility to share these values and provide guidance to their children.

Karina, Ate Anna hopes that you realize the importance of talking to your children about sex and sexuality. Your teenagers may be 13, 15 or even 19 years old. If you have not started talking to them, you may think that it’s too late. No. It’s never too late! But don’t wait for your children to come and say, “I want to talk to you about sexual relationships.” It will never happen. You have to take the initiative and begin talking to your children.

Next issue, Ate Anna will provide some communication tips on how to approach children and talk to them about sexuality.

Take care,

Ate Anna

Ate Anna welcomes your questions and comments. Please write to: Ate Anna, 2nd floor, 555 Broadway, Winnipeg, MB. R3C OW4 or email: annal@serc.mb.ca

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