One subject for a potentially long family discussion that many parents dread is the age-old question of how babies are born.
Or does it not need to be a family discussion after all?
Some months ago, I got caught up in a heated Facebook dispute over the possible introduction of sexual education in Russian primary schools. The proposed programme consisted of 3 to 4 lessons per year directed at 8- and 9-year olds, and there were also some pictures of the actual book that was going to be used for those lessons. The book featured what seemed to me like a very sterile and innocent picture of a heterosexual couple under the sheets in a cuddly embrace, and it contained a very slim paragraph saying that intimacy brings pleasure to the beloved.
After that post went viral, all hell broke loose. A good half of the parents went literally hysterical over how we’re living in the age of total depravity, and that the first thing a typical 8-year old would do is to have a go at trying to reproduce what he saw in the book.
The second camp of parents were asking what their last slave had died of in disbelief, and reminded them that in the 21st century, a typical 8-year old might have access to information a hundred times more corruptive.
I brought the discussion over to another forum and was surprised to hear a mother, who is a doctor by profession, with three children aged 5 to 13, say that she has always avoided the subject and that her kids get the necessary information from friends and schools and elsewhere outside the family home. Rather a convenient release from any responsibility for her in this regard, isn’t it?
A hundred opinions may certainly exist about this topic, but I personally hope the relationship with my daughter will be close and trustful enough that when she one day wants to ask these questions, she’ll seek my assistance above that of her peers.
It goes without saying that the information we feed our kids about sexual education should be totally age appropriate, and that a 5-year old does not need to know the differences between particular sexual activities. However, should this 5-year old have a clear interest and understanding of the matter, perhaps there’s nothing wrong in dropping the stork and cabbage fables and passing on an old school book with very basic pictures and a simplified explanation about fertilisation and embryo development.
Isolating and trying to safeguard your child from this vital information might not be the best choice for many, as a lack of knowledge is more likely to bring about more curiosity. For example, let’s take a look at early pregnancy statistics in developed European countries versus the countries where there’s a lack of sexual education during puberty. It’s only logical that more informed teenagers are more cautious about adult relationships and early unwanted pregnancy and STDs than the more naïve ones, who can be more easily persuaded into sexual activities. Moreover, sexual education is not limited purely to the subject of sex, but should contain various role models, gender relationships and, at some point, an explanation about the diversity of human interactions in this modern world.
Here’s to relationships between parents and children in which trust and mutual respect wins over fears and taboos, and where natural childhood curiosities can be satisfied in a proper and educational manner.