Not Just Birds and Bees: Why Sex Education for Adolescents is a Must

Sex may permeate our popular culture, but conversations about it are still associated with stigma and shame in Indian households. As a result, most individuals dealing with sexual health issues or trying to find information about sex often resort to unverified online sources or follow the unscientific advice of their friends.

To address the widespread misinformation about sex, is running this weekly sex column, titled ‘Let’s Talk Sex’, every Friday. We hope to initiate conversations about sex through this column and address sexual health issues with scientific insight and nuance.

The column is being written by Sexologist Prof (Dr) Saransh Jain. In today’s column, Dr Jain focuses on sex education for adolescents.

Sex education is one subject that even today attracts a few disapproving glances from grown-ups. There is a perception that sex education means only talking about sexual intercourse between two people. But that is not the case.

Sex education makes adolescents aware of the changes taking place in their bodies (puberty) and also teaches them how to make safe, healthy choices as they grow up because healthy relationships and a healthy sexual life are the key to a happy adult life.

This would also help them manage sexual advances, encourage them to speak up if they are abused sexually and make them aware about the right age to have kids and the importance of using protection while having sexual intercourse.

The Need for Sexual Education

Most adolescents in India are inadequately informed about their own sexuality and physical wellbeing, the major source of information being social media and porn websites. Whatever knowledge they acquire is incomplete and often leaves them confused. Ignorance can lead to unwanted pregnancy among young girls, illegal abortion, and in some cases, can even cause death.

Further, access to knowledge also depends on gender and where one stays. For instance, uneducated rural girls have least information about sexual wellbeing. Interviews with boys and girls have revealed an inherent bias in relationships, with the scale heavily tilting in the favour of boys. In our society, ‘good’ girls are not supposed to know about sex, thereby forbidding them from seeking information.

Adolescents need access to information and counseling that will help them establish healthy relationships and protect them from unwanted pregnancy and STDs.

Try to Understand Your Child

Adolescence can be best compared to a roller-coaster ride. Children at this age undergo many changes, both physically and emotionally, and they have no idea how to deal with them.

As a parent, you need to understand your child’s feelings and comfort them. Don’t lecture them on how talking about these things is bad and uncultured. This way you will only discourage them from having open conversations with you and they will be forced to look for answers from unreliable sources. Encourage them to come to you without hesitation and share their concerns. This way you can guide them better.

Speaking to Your Teenager about Sex

Many parents feel that sex education is just a one-time discussion which they can get done with quickly, by just telling the children how the sexual act takes place and what is puberty. But the right approach is to see it as an ongoing process and use every day events to discuss the different aspects of sex education.

The knowledge about good touch and bad touch can help your child differentiate between what is wrong and right and in some cases it can even prevent them from getting sexually abused. Every child needs to understand consent and exploitation, in order to stay safe.

More importantly, these conversations will help your child know that you have their back and they can depend on you. It allows them to get comfortable with you and share things with you.

Understand Your Child’s Perspective on Sex

Sex education is not just about explaining children how babies are born and what periods are. It is meant to instill the right attitude in children regarding sexual intimacy. I encourage parents to ask their adolescent kids how they feel about sex and having intimate relationships with people.

One of the key objectives of sex education is to help children become sensitive and broad-minded, with respect for everyone. Therefore, parents should deal with subjects like homosexuality and sexual abuse with care. Also, avoid giving negative responses to your child’s queries because that might reinforce the idea that they aren’t supposed to discuss these things or that these things are bad.

Sex education may still be a taboo subject in India but its importance cannot be undermined. Sexual knowledge not only empowers young minds but also ensures they make the right choices in life.

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