Monday, 29 May 2017

OUR CHILDREN, THEIR SEXUALITY AND THE SIEGE OF IGNORANCE: WHEN AND WHAT DO WE SAY?


It all started as we began the online discussion on "SAFE SEX AND VAGINAL DOUCHING". Dr Michael, the founder of the platform DOCTOR ON AIR had contacted me earlier in the week to facilitate at the weekly health talk which takes place every Saturday at 10:00am. I was to choose my topic, sexual health appealed to me. As I greeted the house and wrote the theme for the day's discussion,  a participant wrote, "for 18years and above only"... I couldn't disagree more.

As I mentally went through the session afterwards, I knew I had to say something, write something, create some form of awareness, bring this issue to the fore...

You see, we live in a society where exposure to sex both covertly and overtly is on the increase. This ranges from music videos to movies, the internet, magazines and street groupie discussions. In a bid to protect our children, we leave them ignorant and vulnerable to the perils of society. Advisors are readily available in every corner and advice, a dime to a dozen- the right, the wrong and the misguided.
As future leaders and the strength of our nation, it's our prerogative as parents, guardians and older siblings/ friends to lead our children/wards/younger friends aright in all matters.
But... If there's nothing positive to impact in them, please leave them alone with words unsaid. Hopefully, they ll meet with positive influence to guide them.

The teenager is particularly at risk as the teens years represent a period of self discovery and environmental awareness. Interest in sexual activities increase at this stage. (I remember quite vividly, my teen years).
Without the right formation and guidance, mistakes with far reaching consequences are bound to occur.
In this article, the scope is limited generally to children and sexual health, what to say and when.
Sadly, this is an area most parents are not too comfortable addressing. In addition to the embarrassment they may feel,  many wonder " WHAT DO I TELL THESE CHILDREN AND HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?". It's important to note that sexuality education goes a long way in raising the awareness of the risks involved.

I remember the first time we had THE TALK with my mother. My sister who was 10years at the time was entering an all girls college to board. Mum in her wisdom knew a wave of change was coming and she couldn't always be there to protect her.
THE TALK ranged from discussions on personal care/hygiene,  menstruation/menstrual care, boys and personal qualities to guide us such as contentment and focus amongst others.
I was nine years when I first heard of lesbianism then called SupĂ© by my mother. When I entered secondary school the next year, I wasn't too green indeed.
This discussion was to be repeated four years later when I was thirteen and my sister fourteen. This time, the scope was wider and as most children, I knew my mother wouldn't mislead us. Therefore, I stuck to what I had been taught by my patents. That's the power of a parent's influence and a child's unshakable faith.

A parent's role as an advisor in a child's life never ends.
The truth should be heard from the home. After all, the home is the fundamental point of a child's socialization. It's easier to deal with external forces when the ground has been prepared internally.
Most importantly, the role of God can never be overemphasized. We may not always be there but he will. Teach them to trust him in every situation even as we, parents/guardians trust him to protect and order their steps. Most times the bad things happen when we are wide awake, looking but not seeing.

In the course of writing this article, I had a chat with Dr Ezomike Chidiogo, a medical doctor with an interest in family medicine practice. She had this to say:

"At each stage of a child's development, there should be age appropriate education. For instance, the younger child should be taught not to allow anyone kiss his/her lips or touch their " bum bum"/ private parts and also to report such untoward gestures.
At puberty, the discussion should be more in depth. This ranges from discussions on menstruation and menstrual care for the females, wet dreams for the males, physiological changes to expect at puberty and general sex education.
Open and honest communication with our children, wards and younger siblings is encouraged".

"When a Lady starts menstruating" She continued "I believe it's time to be open about everything. Teach them that it's normal to be attracted to the opposite sex and also the place of control. For instance, in as much as one is hungry, it's not right to steal another's food. So also, in as much as they may feel like having sex at some point, it's not right to indulge, so far as they are unmarried. The role of morals should be emphasized.
The teaching should go beyond this to involve what should be done:
-To avoid being vulnerable
-In case they succumb and have sex
-In case of rape amongst others
In all, it's best we create an atmosphere of openness and honesty. Let these children be confident to approach us in case of challenges/failure "

Dr Ezomike couldn't have summarized the points better and I appreciate her wise counsel.
We may not always be there to protect our children but... We can leave them with wise counsel which will act as a lamp to their feet.
As my people say, Ekwughi ekwu mere onuanughi anu mere nti which literally means, let the ones who can talk, speak and the ones with ears listen...

Do Stay Safe, Live and Love Healthy With Dr IB...
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