ADOLESCENCE – a confusing phase of life and topic to discuss. Being a mother of a teen boy everyday is a rollercoaster ride. The shower of queries poured on me regularly and satisfying my big boy with convincing replies has been a herculean task. And most of us have to face this now and then in routine life. One such incident which happened recently forced me to pen down my thoughts as a mother and a doctor.
My son in the second semester of 8th standard was reading a topic on adolescence and reproduction in his Biology textbook. As any child with inquisitiveness he too had long list of queries on this issue. Since I am doctor myself and since he has been given enough freedom to talk to me anything like a peer. As such he started opening his Pandora’s box of queries. His list included many sensitive issues like how does sperm reach ovum when are they produced in men and women . These are basic logical doubts which all of us had when we were of that age. But we never spoke about it as we were silenced at all places – home and school. We took so long to actually understand these issues and moreover it was all self learning.
To add to this incident was the movie titled “Janhit mein jaari” which focussed on utility of condoms and importance of sex education. These two incidents made me think deeply about the importance of sex education and where it has to start. When and where should our kids be enlightened about this sensitive yet an vital issue. Is there really a need to address this and if so how do we do it?
Home is the first school for any kid and parents play the role of first teachers in every kids life. So the answer is very clear that educating the kid about his body and of the opposite gender has to start at home. The parents should play a bold role and instead of considering it as a taboo to speak on such topics should let children freely express themselves. We should give our adolescent kids time and warmth and hear them out. Parents should be compassionate and create an environment where children feel safe to talk everything under the sun, whether good or bad. Their doubts have to be approached and addressed in a dignified, scientific and tactful way.
Boys and girls entering puberty have to be prepared for the physical, mental and emotional changes they come across during that period. They should be enlightened about opposite sex, to respect their counterparts,to respect their body as well as others, menstruation and masturbation. Adolescents should be made known about the importance of sexual organs for continuation of species. Hence, parents play a pivotal role in sex education.
The next place where a child spends most of his time is the school which is the temple of learning. Many topics concerned to sex education is included in today’s text books to equip children with knowledge about this important issue. But most often the teachers fail to deal with these issues scientifically and these topics go unstressed. If the teachers are trained to deal with sensitive topics in a more appropriate manner then is the purpose education served. Special classes from experts or NGO s can be arranged in school to deal on these vital topics in a scientific way.
The more the things are unspoken and hidden, more is the inquisitiveness which may lead wrong doings. Hence, being vocal about it enlightens the children and they start respecting the opposite gender and consider the body as a temple where the soul resides. When the attitude of an adolescent towards the body of opposite sex changes then many bigger wrongs in the society like sexual assault, molestation and rape reduces. Thus, it is the principal duty of the parents and the teachers to adopt sex education at different levels as the child grows.
(Dr Arundhathi Shashikala is Associate Professor of Pathology, AllMS, Mangalagiri , Andhra Pradesh. The views and opinion expressed in this article are those of the author)