Next comes the dilemma
of how much to tell or will she understand what
you are trying to tell? The same thumb rule can
be applied here too be guided by your child. Give
her as much as she can handle at her age, with her
level of maturity. If one is still not able to decide,
then it will be safe to start with base level information
about any topic.
Use her questions as your lead to the next level
of information. If she does not ask any more questions,
then let the topic be for now and revisit it some
other time. It also depends on when one starts the
dialogue. If your daughter is still very young,
three or four years old, one can start with simple
facts, which are easily communicated, and gradually
build in more complex information as she grows older.
For instance, at that age, maybe when you are teaching
her about body parts, together with eyes, ears,
nose and toes, it is important to use appropriate
terms like 'vagina' and 'penis' in your talks. They
can also be informed about how people grow and change
over time, and how babies become children and then
adults. This can be the basis on which they understand
more detailed information about pubertal changes
provided in the pre-teenage years. In this way,
as your child grows, you can continue her education
by adding to her knowledge gradually, with information
relevant to that age, until she understands the
For instance, if your daughter is familiar with
all the body parts, it may not be very difficult
to explain to your daughter when she is four or
five, that males and females are built differently.
This can be further added to later on with facts
like - a woman is capable of reproducing because
she is made in a special way and that it is from
her womb, inside her tummy, that babies come from.
Then, when your daughter is older, perhaps six or
seven years you can explain how a sperm cell from
a man meets with an egg cell made in a woman's body
to form a baby. The baby then grows inside the mother
for nine months, and when the time is right, the
baby is born. You can also add, that like it happened
with herself, this usually happens when two people
(you, her parents, in this case) love and care for
The next level of information, maybe when your daughter
is nine or ten, will need to explain that when couples
love each other, they express it in a special way,
and that is what most people commonly refer to as
sex, short for sexual intercourse. Having sex may
make a baby, but not always. While nine or ten year
olds may or may not require or demand more explanation
about what exactly sexual intercourse is, your twelve
or thirteen year old certainly needs to know and
understand what is involved.
You could start by saying that sex or sexual intercourse
is sometimes called making love, having sex, or
some even say, 'doing it'. Sex is also called making
love, because it is one of the ways in which adults
can make someone they love, feel good and happy.
During sexual intercourse, a man's penis becomes
hard and goes inside a woman's vagina, which makes
them feel good. It is in this way that a man's sperm
enters a woman's body. Sometimes this can start
a baby, but many people have sex simply because
it feels nice and they love each other. So they
use contraceptives which prevent a baby. Usually,
people wait till they are adults before they begin
having sex, and as adults, people have sex with
someone they love and care for. Sex is not something
you do with anybody at all, but with someone very
special. However, no one should have sex if they
feel they are not comfortable about it, or if they
simply do not want to. No one can force, or should
force another person to have sex. While there is
nothing bad or dirty about sex, there are many slang
words for it which are not polite to use.
No doubt, sharing this information is going to be
one of the toughest experiences for any mother.
But if done in a straightforward, direct manner,
believe me, it is not impossible. However, one must
make an effort not to be furtive or embarrassed
while communicating these facts, because unwittingly
you will be conveying that sex is something dirty
or shameful, and children especially are very quick
to pick these signals. Most essential is to emphasize
on the pre-requisite of mutual trust, love and respect
between two people in a sexual relationship.
In this manner one can pace out the information,
share as much you think your daughter will be able
to understand. What this is also doing is helping
you gradually build a communication channel with
your daughter and keeping it active and open always.
The process described above is only one of the ways
in which you as a mother can approach the topic.
In fact, each one of us has individual styles we
are comfortable with, and so will our daughters
have varying levels of comprehension and maturity.
Therefore, both quantum and quality of information
provided will have to be customized to suit both
mother and daughter.
Having talked about the how and when, it may be
interesting to revisit the scope of sex education.
Therefore, in today's context, what is sex education?
Sometimes called sexuality education, it is the
process of acquiring information and forming attitudes
and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships
and intimacy. It is also about developing young
people's skills so that they make informed choices
about their behaviour, and feel confident and competent
about acting upon these choices.
- (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the