NAIROBI STAR

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

LIFESTYLE 19

A PHOTOGRAPHIC TRIBUTE TO KENYA’S EARLY DAYS
CENTRE PAGES
starlife@nairobistar.com

KNOWING WHEN IT’S TIME FOR ‘THE TALK’
Being a parent is more than just bringing a child to this world, it is about being a compass for that child and always pointing them in the right direction
BY WACUI MAKORI he ‘pale pale’ radio sex talk debate continues as parents insist that the media be muzzled to spare their children from information overload. Admittedly, having ‘the talk’ with your child is one of the most dif cult things a parent will have to do along the course of their child’s life. Sitting your child down and having an open talk about sex is a nerve wracking experience for most parents and most will look for the easy way out. Others will either fumble and mumble their way through it, some will buy a book and give it their children to read and others still will look the other way and pretend their child is not interested in sex. Yet, without a doubt, sex is a basic human instinct and a child’s curiosity about it begins at a very young age. It is not uncommon to see children under ve innocently touching themselves and obviously deriving pleasure from the act much to the shock of their blushing parents. In most cases, sex education for these children begin at that moment because as mummy smacks their hands to get them to stop – immediately the children begin to think that whatever they were doing was wrong. Joseph Kiiru – a counselling psychologist at Maranatha College of Professional Counselling and Training reveals that the very rst step for a parent attempting to teach a child about sex is for them to examine their own attitude towards sex. As he says, “If we grow up believing that sex is an unnatural, dirty act, we will consciously or unconsciously pass the same message to our children. If we have stereotyped the roles the different genders should play during sex, we teach the same to our children.” Kiiru therefore advises

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parents to make peace with themselves, accept their mistakes and appreciate that even though they may have had a confused sexual experience, it doesn’t make the act wrong, neither does it mean that their child will experience the same. “Protecting your child from sex is foolhardy because they will nd a way of learning about it, whether or not you like it” he says. Another piece of advice he gives to parents is for them to have ‘the talk’ early because young children are very innocent and self-unaware at this time so teaching them about their anatomy is easier and less embarrassing for the parents. He however insists on giving accurate, age appropriate information to the child, “no need to ll your child’s minds with inappropriate imagery or words that are beyond their ability to grasp” he says. The next tip for parents according to Kiiru is - take the initiative. As he says, “Do not sit comfortably on your laurels assuming that since your child has not asked, they are not interested. If your child is over ve years old, look for an opportunity to bring up this topic because any normal child is curious about sex and they may be afraid or ashamed to ask any questions. By you taking the rst step, it helps

your child to know that they can talk to you about anything and this helps to keep communication lines open.” Kiiru notes that a very important aspect of this talk is that the parent does not only focus on the ‘act’ of sex. “You must include the emotional aspect of it” he says. “Let your child know that sex involves caring, concern and responsibility and that it should only be practised within this kind of a relationship.” He further reveals that this is an opportune time for the parent to communicate their values to the child and even though they may not always follow them, they will guide them in knowing how to behave and what to do. For your pre-teens, Kiiru suggests a talk that includes unwanted pregnancies, STD’s, rape, dating etc. “Give them practical ways to protect themselves, teach them how to say no and what to do if they are abused” he says. Life is about choices and parents have a choice; either get caught up in the foray blaming the media for igniting their children’s interest in sex yet do nothing about it or be a parent who embraces the changing world, takes a stand to equip their child in facing that world by being their trustworthy source of information.

THE BIRDS AND THE BEES: For many parents this can be the toughest talk ever

TIPS FOR TALKING WITH KIDS ABOUT TOUGH ISSUES
We live in an increasingly complex world that challenges us everyday with a wide range of disturbing issues that are difficult for children to understand and for adults to explain. It is however important to address issues like sex, HIV/AIDS, violence, drugs and alcohol etc. Here are some guidelines to aid you: Create an Open Environment Young children want their parents to discuss difficult subjects with them. However, our kids will look to us for answers only if they feel we will be open to their questions. It’s up to us to create the kind of atmosphere in which our children can ask any questions — on any subject — freely and without fear of consequence. Communicate your values As a parent, you have a wonderful opportunity to be the first person to talk with your child about tough issues like drugs and violence before anyone else can confuse him or her with “just-the-facts” explanations that lack the sense of values and moral principles you want to instil. Remember: research shows that children want and need moral guidance from their moms and dads, so don’t hesitate to make your beliefs clear. Listen to Your Child It’s important to find time to give kids our undivided attention. Listening carefully to our children builds self-esteem by letting our youngsters know that they’re important to us and can lead to valuable discussions about a wide variety of sensitive issues. Talk About it Again. And Again. Since most young children can only take in small bits of information at any one time, they won’t learn all they need to know about a particular topic from a single discussion. That’s why it’s important to let a little time pass, then ask the child to tell you what she remembers about your conversation. This will help you correct any misconceptions and fill in missing facts. Also, children often ask questions again and again over time — which can test any parent’s nerves. But such repetition is perfectly normal, so be prepared and tolerant.

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