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05.03.2007 Opinion

Your child and sexuality

'Now listen very carefully ok,'' my sister began looking at my alarmed 7-year old cousin intently. “If anybody, I mean any body should try to touch your penis or anus…” I burst out laughing while watching the grimace on my little cousin's face… “come and report it to me; understood?”

I sighed and asked “was that really necessary?”
“Of course it is very necessary! Pedophiles are becoming too common in the system and besides, these kids are becoming aware of sex in any form more than you may think!” my sister responded.

I laughed in amazement at the way the boy was reacted so I blurted out “sweetie, do you have a girlfriend?”
“Esenam! Are you out of your mind? Are you asking this 7-year old if he has a girlfriend? Incredible…” she stopped as the little boy grinned and said “no, .no, me I don't have any girlfriend.”
I said asked my sister if she was the same person who said children are becoming sexually aware, so what's her problem with my question.

Strange eh!! Sorry to burst your bubble but I am not going to dive into the issue of rape and molestation this week. I believe I have said a lot on that topic and with the passage of the 'domestic violence bill' and all…

For now, I really want to concentrate on young people this week. I like stressing on the issue of the youth because they will eventually take up the leadership of this nation and what more, as they grow, they will develop habits, principles and ideologies that will streamline their behaviors. Since the majority's behavior is a determinant factor in the social progress of a nation, it will be proper to train, educate and guide young people in their formative years.

Like the saying goes “a tree that grows crooked can never be straightened.”

Will you be surprised if I told you that sexuality, sex, relationships etc. are the hottest topics among young people as they are among adults? Of course you will not be surprised because you were once a child. The fact that every adult was once a child is the root cause of the issue of young people and dealing properly with their sexuality.

This is because we forget the conflicts, insecurity and general fear that we struggled with when it comes to sexual matters in our teen years. Or did you think that children of today are any different from your days? The answer is 'no' and in fact, these days, because of technology, globalization, the media and intense individualism, young people are becoming very knowledgeable and aware of a lot of things including SEX.

Sexuality is the total attitudes, activities and sexual feelings experienced by one. Shying away from discussing the topic with our children may actually be putting them in danger because when kids are shy to ask their parents certain questions, they go to their friends and can you imagine the kind of information they pick up from their peers who know very little themselves?

This reminds me of the play entitled 'VAGINA MONOLOGUES.' From the day I watched this brilliant production, I noticed that I could actually say the word 'vagina' without hushing my voice. For you to understand me better, it is a play about different kinds of 'vaginas' speaking to each other and describing their experiences in very vivid diction.

Not only is it an educative and interactive piece of art but it also serves as an eye-opener to the audience in terms self-discovery and the sexuality of the woman. I watched it at the Efua Sutherlands theatre in the University of Ghana twice and I highly recommend both parents and young people to see it. Then I asked myself why it was such a taboo for African parents to explore the issue of sex with their children even when five-year old children are dating.

Another vivid example is the popular game that kids play imitating their parents. More often than not you will find out that the boy and the girl playing the roles of mum and dad do attempt to make sexual contact. This should tell you that kids are as aware of sex as you may think. The only difference is that they have very little knowledge about it.

What you should know about the growing child
Body awareness: it is perfectly normal for kids to be curious about the body and its various parts. From the age of three, kids turn to start asking questions like “daddy, why do I have a penis and Ama doesn't have?” this is normal and the right thing to do is tell the children the truth. For instance if a child should ask you how he was born, you should explain to them. The biggest mistake of your life is to lie to them because they may get all sorts of answers from their friends.
Let your children grow up loving their own bodies and believing that they have wonderful bodies. This way, they develop the right self confidence and good body image. The ultimate result will be that they will not be vulnerable to any member of the opposite sex who may want to take advantage of them. This applies to both sexes.

The fact that we are in Africa does not mean that we should continue forbidding our children from talking about sex with the mere explanation that it is wrong. Technology, globalization and modernity are bringing information closer to your kids. The internet for instance contains both good and junk information.

So you really do not have a choice than telling them the truth. It is critical to teach your children the facts of life before they're in a position to create some of their own. Good topics to cover in: proper names for body parts, dating, safe dating, sex, safe sex, the human body structure and basic functions, birth control, the differences between males and females, love, commitment, responsibility, family values, morals, communication, babies, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, relationships, sexual orientation, abstinence and masturbation.

A child who has the opportunity of good sex education from his or her mother is more likely to abstain from sex longer than the child who did not. Knowledge we say is power and as such because more and younger people are getting into the practice, it is better to be open on the subject. Teenagers are most vulnerable when it comes to dealing with a growing sexuality. You have to let them know that it is a normal body function and then teach them how to deal with it.

Dealing with the television and media
As much as television and radio are good, the headache of exposure to immorality will always confront parents. You cannot keep a 24-hour vigil on your kids to keep them from watching x-rated movies, musicals and the rest.

One way or the other, they will have access to them without your knowledge.
The best you can do apart from PG rated movies, is to use any sexual scene as a point of reference to discuss the topic.

Most importantly, remember that a knowledgeable child less likely to be taken advantage off and developing the right sexual attitude has a lot to with high self-esteem and confidence.

Esenam Dumenu
Esenam Dumenu, © 2007

This author has authored 18 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: EsenamDumenu

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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