Talking The Talk: dating, intimacy, genital hygiene, looks and … with 13 to 15-year-olds

While we wonder if they have started engaging in sexual intercourse, Jewkes, Sikweyiya, Morrell, and Dunkle found that back in 2009, 16,4% of boys of group ages 10 to 14 years old, do not just know how to have penetrated sex, they have raped a female.

Is this a horrible opening to an article of this nature? Not at all

Not if you read last week’s article, which drew our attention to the fact that children 12 years and under are not only having sexual feelings, they are indeed having sex, contracting sexually transmissible diseases, falling pregnant, committing abortions and giving birth.

Most of them are not doing so voluntarily. They are either coerced, raped, drugged or under tremendous pressure to have sex both for the pleasure and for the purported ‘benefits’.

Researchers and governments around the world are now producing intervention programmes that target preadolescents, because by waiting until adolescence, some of the target population would have been involved in negative irreversible sexual risk-taking behaviours.

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Throughout time, traditions and religions pervaded sexuality with silence and shame

This contributed to sex and sexuality communication being stigmatised. Yes, parents and caregivers, even teachers and people of God that I coach have often expressed fear, embarrassment and discomfort in discussing sexual issues with children of all ages.

They experience embarrassment and they fear that their children will think that talking sex is equal to giving them permission to start having sexual intercourse. They also fear being misconstrued by children that the adult wants to engage in sexual activity with them.

Added to what I personally experience in delivering my expertise, some academics like Friedman (1993), proved that some adults believed that young people are by nature sexually promiscuous and that if they are provided with sexual knowledge, they will become sexually active at a younger age.

I tell you that children nowadays need us adults to talk and listen

Parents cope better if they have good communication skills. They should talk less, listen more, be less directive, ask more questions, behave in non-judgmental fashions, tell stories of their past, and be more in dialogues than one-way engagements. Great communication skills are not warnings, threats, instructions, physical discipline, showing lack of trust, gossips, judgement and negativity towards children’s sexuality.

Sexual communication messages are verbal or nonverbal, intentional or unintentional, sign-based or symbol-based, real or imagined, human or non-human, successful or unsuccessful.

Remember that about 70% of communication is nonverbal. Actually, there is no opposite to communication, or a moment to not communicate, because with the way you dress up, let them dress up or react to someone’s outfit, you have communicated sexuality.

Forget about the popular practice of “sex talk” where parents engage in one-time talks

…or give adolescents sex education materials or some birds and bees speech. One-time conversation about sex is unlikely to be as effective as repeated conversations about sex-related topics. This sets you up to be resented by your child.

Engage in frequent bonded short conversations on the topic in a variety of ways like; where you talk more or you listen more, where you talk about you or you listen to them talk about them, where you talk about a TV character or your friends when you were their ages or you ask them what their friends say, where you talk during a drive/walk or you do so while cooking/eating, etc.

Make it unpredictable, fun and leave each talk a suspense, so that you are able to continue at any time with or without prompts.

My clients, friends and families have reported that talking about sex-related topics often elicit a wide range of responses and emotions from both them and adolescents. Those who listen to my Involved Parenting Conversations have agreed that despite the fears, the more they discuss sex, pregnancy, birth control, and sexually transmitted infections with adolescents, particularly if they discuss these issues early, the more likely their adolescents are delaying their sexual debut and less likely do they engage in risky sexual behaviours.

Sex education: Having THE TALK with 10-12 year-olds

By this age, verbal conversations should focus on explicit details because this age group is developmentally ready to receive and evaluate sexual knowledge

The below sample shows how the conversation should go:

Looks: The body changes in adolescence are massive and unpredictably disturbing for many. Work on it and build your child’s self-esteem so that they are comfortable with how they look.

Genital care: Change of undies? Yes. Washing? Yes. Of genitals also? Yes … especially girls. But how often and with what? I focus on natural methods. Wash genitals with pure water at least twice a day, depending on activities. Shaving? Yes. Even before attaining this stage, my children have asked for shaving gels and fancy blades. They know that they have to shave. But teach them again.

Intimacy: Kissing, petting, caressing and many appropriate and inappropriate acts are conducted during this time. Teach them decency.

Character and dating: Would you allow this? Please do everything to know and indeed befriend the people they would want to date, especially if you permit them to go out on dates. Teach your child how to behave on a date and how to protect themselves from being lured into sex.

Substance use and abuse: What are they using to stay sane? What addictions do they have? I gathered from my adolescent clients that some of them are more stressed than their parents because of bullies, sects, gangs, peer pressure, media exposure, curriculum, siblings, parents, wants, needs, etc. Use of substance and drugs also lead to risky sex.

Sex and sexuality: You are not talking about the act of having sex or knowing your sexuality at this stage. Focus on the consequences of sex and how their sexuality influences life-long sexual decisions.

Motives for sexual intercourse: Adolescents’ motivations to engage in sex are varied and include; wanting to have fun or experiment, to appear mature, to experience physical pleasure, to cope or distract from a negative state, to overcome boredom, to improve social relationships either with partner or peers, to avoid negative social issues such as rejection, to obtain money, or because substance use was involved. Kill their ignorance by talking to them about all this.

STIs and protection: Teach them about disease contracted during sex and how to protect themselves.

Contraceptives: Whether you encourage the use of contraceptives like condoms or not, educate your adolescents on how to use them, doses, how they work, advantages and the disadvantages.

Pregnancy: By these ages, children are having consensual, persuaded, tricked, forced, raped or variety of sexual behaviours within and outside of dating relationships. What if they fall pregnant? Share your fears and plans.

“My experience in talking sex and sexuality with adolescents shows that children whose parents discussed details about sexual safety and/or sexual consequences are often better prepared when faced with sexual decision-making”

Abortion: When pregnancy occurs, there are only two solutions. Birth or abortion. What is your stance?

Earning and spending money: What money do you give your child or do they earn? How are they using it? Who is giving them or spending with them? Are they earning from, or paying for sex, drugs, crime? Wise up.

Suicide: More adolescents are committing or attempting suicide than ever before. Most depressed parents who visit me blame this on bullying, peer violence, family poverty, educational pressures, parent-child relationship difficulties, personality and behavioural vulnerabilities, exposure to, and associations with, deviant peers.

The support they need: Educate them on pornography, cyber safety, crime, sexual orientation … See last week’s article.

When children trust their parents, they crave information and advice from them. Read the past articles on talking to children ages; 0-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12.

My experience in talking sex and sexuality with adolescents shows that children whose parents discussed details about sexual safety and/or sexual consequences are often better prepared when faced with sexual decision-makings than are those of parents who provide no, vague or indifferent information.

As your family’s most qualified communicator and psychologist, take time and have comprehensive conversations that will better align your adolescents’ beliefs, perceptions and decision-making pathways about sex and their sexuality.

References:

Jewkes, R., Sikweyiya Y., Morrell, R., and Dunkle K. (2009). Understanding Men’s Health and Use of Violence: Interface of Rape and HIV in South Africa. Gender and Health Research Unit,

Medical Research Council. Accessed in June 2020 from file:///C:/Users/Victorine/Documents/Dr%20Duh/UFS/Understanding_mens_health_and_use_of_violence_int.pdf.