Friday, November 10, 2006

Are We Parents Ready for Sex Education?

“Sex education is a responsibility of the parents – not of the teachers.” Reading this statement by Vice-Mayor Ablong (Quotables, November 5, 2006) made me wonder: are we parents ready for sex education?

Assuming that we recognize the need for this, are we cool enough to talk the no-nonsense talk about sex with our teens?

We may be able to crack green jokes with our friends … but doing “the talk” with our kids? As far as one friend is concerned, it is an entirely different matter! I asked if she’s had this discussion with her grown daughter. Her look of utter horror was answer enough.

I know of another mother who freaked out when her first grader asked what the word “sex” meant. Although totally unprepared, she was at least quick enough to think of a suitable answer: it referred to male and female.

How about from the perspective of the teenagers? Would they be comfortable enough to listen and ask questions from a parent with full intention to learn? Try imagining yourself as the curious teenager in that situation: would you dare ask mom or dad as openly as you would probably ask another person?

Most Filipino parents are still uncomfortable discussing sex with their children. The mere suggestion can make even the most modern and/or educated parent cringe.

However, whether we like it or not, and whether we’d take an active role in their education or not, sooner or later, our children are bound to learn about sex. I personally believe that it would be best for my child to learn from me rather than from sources that leave much to be desired.

To illustrate, my friend’s 10-year old son recently announced that he would make love to a woman when he is 15 years old! Freaked reactions came gushing out at the thought of a 10-year old having these thoughts or having discussions of this sort with his classmates. One can only wonder at what grade four boys talk about nowadays!

Supposing then that we are able to overcome our anxieties and decide to bravely take on the job, shouldn’t we still ask ourselves: are we capable of handling our children’s sex education? Do we know enough?

A mere “been there, done that” in our resume will not, by any measure, make us qualified instructors. Sex education does not consist of the actual act alone. There are deeper and more important aspects to this subject.

Take for starters the process of conception. How many among us know exactly what goes on inside the body after the sexual act is culminated? Do we have a working knowledge on proper timing and the series of events that could lead to pregnancy?

If we parents have to handle our children’s sex education ourselves, we should at least have this information at hand. Knowing how today’s teenagers are, a mere warning that sex can lead to pregnancy is no longer enough. If we are to expect them to listen and heed our words of caution, we need to make them understand the hows and whys. And for this, each parent has to be prepared.

But how prepared are we?

It is my contention that we parents should get our sex education first before we even dare contemplate handling that of our children’s. What exactly do we know anyway? We have experience, sure. But how many among us actually took the time to pick up a book on this matter simply because we wanted to know or as preparation for “the talk”?

The sad reality is that parents, in general, no matter how educated they may be, are simply too unprepared for this job! Take me, for instance. I am fairly well educated in the sense that I have two degrees under my belt, but this did not in any way prepare me on this subject.

Until my late twenties, I didn’t have a clue about what goes on inside me. My menstruation came and went and that was it! The total extent of what I knew then was that I could get pregnant the moment I started having my period. Naturally, I assumed that I’d get right to having babies after I got married! I took an active interest only when I discovered my infertility problem.

And I’m not alone in this. People I know, most of whom are mothers, are clueless on such matters as fertile periods, ovulation, fertilization, etc. Most women take these for granted. Based on my own experience, only women with infertility problems and desperate to have babies make the effort to understand the reproductive process. Those who are not as unlucky take this miracle as a matter of course … it just happens, part of being alive, just like breathing.

Another aspect of sex education concerns sexually transmitted diseases. If we are to put the fear of God in their hearts, we should at least know what these are, how they could be contracted, and what exactly it could do to their bodies! Corollary to this comes the need to teach teens about protection. Do we know of any other method in addition to abstinence and condoms?

How about contraception? Do we know enough about this subject? Incidentally, are we willing to teach our daughters how to have sex safely and responsibly?

There are also moral, religious, spiritual, and social aspects that are equally, if not more important than basic knowledge of the birds and the bees. Can we carry on an informative discussion based merely on what we actually know?

How can we impress upon our sons and daughters the responsibility that comes along with sex? How do we warn them of the evils of unwanted pregnancy? Can we still instill the values of purity and abstinence amidst the sexual images that bombard them from all sides?

Shall we opt for the traditional “God-will-punish-you-if-you-have-sex” method? Realistically speaking, this strategy simply does not work anymore. Nor does it make sense to teens these days. In fact, many young adults simply cannot understand why they have to wait for marriage before engaging in sex. In this modern day setting, we’ll be hard put to find a virgin bride!

To the questions that I posed, the reader may answer: I can always learn. Indeed, if we believe that there is need for sex education, we can always scour the internet or devour every book on the subject.

But then, we cannot just assume that every parent out there is equipped with this capability. Lest we forget, there are more people, particularly in rural areas, who have had minimal education, and whose total knowledge can be summed up in these few words: doing it sometimes lead to pregnancy, sometimes not. Can we reasonably expect them to handle their own children’s sex education? Wouldn’t it result to one vicious cycle that goes on and on?

I believe that sex education should be introduced in the high school curriculum. I also believe that parents should become equally involved. There should be no more disagreement as to who should take this responsibility. After all, we are talking here of what is best for all of this country’s children – and this alone should be sufficient reason for everyone to start working together as one.

1 comment:

pau said...

hi olga!


this is some sticky situation. i remember the time when my little brother asked me where did he came from. heehee. i excused myself from him and run screaming for my parents and telling them about my bro's question and demanded that they be the ones to answer... i didn't know how they pull it! my bro that time was only 9.

i became aware of sex when i was 13? or 14? i read it from a pocketbook! you know... those romantic novels... and from there, everything just came to place. :-0

PS: i wish i can write sensible things like your topics! :-)
God bless you!!!