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ImageThough every parent's nightmare, it's none-the-less that one ultra important conversation that every parent just has to have with their children. What? The talk about sex, puberty and sexually related nitty-gritties. Ask any child expert and they will not be able to emphasise enough on how important it is for parents to talk to their children about sex, and at an early age itself. Why? So that the misconceptions they develop about the subject, especially from peer group conversations and information gained from the Internet and television, can indeed lead to wrong notions about sex and sexuality. Children are naturally curious about their own bodies and this curiosity is healthy and normal.

Unfortunately, talking to your tiny tots about sex is never an easy task. Moreover, it's not comfortable for any of the parties involved — parents are afraid of it and children, mortified by it. That's probably the reason why this talk is often delayed, swept under the carpet or totally ignored with many parents who instead depend on teachers to do the needful. Children are an inquisitive lot and when it comes to sex, the curiosity levels zooms up quite a few notches. Hence, one cannot turn a blind eye and hope someone else does the 'dirty work'. Parents need to be proactive in talking to their children about sex. However, if done wrongly, it can either scare your child completely or just increase their curiosity even more.

"When you're talking to your child about sex, it has to be a very clinical talk, very matter of fact. Don't use any words or phrases that may indicate that it is something dirty or a taboo act. Also, don't talk about a gender bias. Avoid sentences like 'women always do this...' or 'men always do...'," says child psychologist Bela Raja.
According to her, the kind of sex talk parents have with their children depends on the age group of the child as at each different age, different things are to be said to a child.

For a child between the age group of seven to 10 years, the sex talk should emphasise on the commitment and bonding angle. "Since this is his/her first exposure to sex, talk to your child about how sex is a natural process and a part of the body. Tell them about the beauty of relationships but don't bring up the violence or ra*e angle," Bela advices.

If your child is aged between 10 years to 13 years, it is the right age to describe the biological facts and of course, the emotional angle. "Link your sex talk to the biological changes that they are experiencing in their body," Bela says.

For a 15 year old, however, she says, the emphasis must be on explaining the actual act of intercourse. "More importantly, explain that sex is not something to be used for any kind of gain or as a sign of power," Bela adds.
"The most important thing when talking to your child about sex is to not make it sound like a bad thing or a taboo," says child expert, Dr Nirmala Rao. According to her, most parents feel shy about talking to their children about sex thus leading to wrong concepts. "One must remember, children are very imaginative. If the concept itself is wrong, they will either get scared about sex or extra imaginative about it. Hence, be normal and casual when talking about sex. Explain, as naturally as possible, about anatomy and the related changes," she explains.

As kids grow, so does their curiosity, especially about sex. "So when your talking to your six or seven year old about his or her private parts, don't say things like 'chee, it's dirty', 'don't touch it, it's a sin'. Instead, tell them about the functions of these parts and teach them how to keep it clean just as you would tell them to wash their hands of feet," she says.

According to her, young girls need to be told about puberty and the changes it will bring in the body. "Teach them how to differentiate between a good touch and a bad touch. But don't petrify them that every man is just out to get them. For boys, meanwhile, fathers should talk to them about sexual organs, their growth and things like night emissions. When it first happens, the child may get scared or start feeling guilty. Explain to them that it is a natural growth process," she explains.

Make the talk easier
Start early: You'll find it less awkward if you introduce the topic when your child is very young. More importantly, answer questions simply and naturally, don't beat around the bush and use complicated or cliched metaphors.

Use everyday situations to start conversations: TV programmes are often a good opportunity to initiate the talk about sex. You can also talk when you're doing an activity together like washing up, laundry, a jigsaw puzzle, etc. This makes your child feel that sex is a normal part of family life and not a taboo subject.

Use books or leaflets: Finding it too difficult to get into nitty-gritties? Get help. Book stores have plenty of material that tells you how. That apart, there are also books that you can get your child to read or that you can go through together.

Be prepared: There will be those difficult moments when your child will, in the oddest of places, demand for an explanation about something they see. Don't fumble. Instead, say something like 'That's a good question, but let's talk about it when we get home'. Also, make sure you do, don't lose out of a good opportunity.

Be truthful: Forget those old grandmother ways of talking about 'bees and birds', storks, etc. Stories like these will just confuse children.

Ask your child's opinion: Talk to your children and ask them what they think about certain sex related issues, especially if it's in the news. More than anything else, this tells give you a fair idea of how much they know and understand.

Don't shun the issue: Don't ignore it if your child asks you a sex related question. Moreover, don't get angry with them. This will give them an impression that it is not a topic to be spoken about.

Don't beat around the bush: If you don't know the answer, say so and tell them you'll find out and let them know. This is a far better option to bluffing them, they are bound to find out the truth sooner or later.

By Rachel Fernandes

Image Source: Thinkstock photos/Getty Images
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