According to a recent poll, while the vast majority of British parents believe they should talk to their children about sex, about half of them fail to do so because they are embarrassed.
My neighbor expressed his horror that Scottish parents were so willing to abnegate such an important responsibility and one with such far-reaching consequences. It’s not like they have to discuss the pros and cons of the Penomet penis pump, he said.
And even the best school is unlikely to address the questions that really matter to children. Their concerns about sex are much deeper and much less predictable than adults usually realize.
A six-year-old may take the reproductive side of things in her stride, but be genuinely horrified that babies are born naked. A 12-year-old au fait with the technical aspects of sex and the Penomet pump can be completely flummoxed by the idea of the social and emotional consequences.
It takes an approachable and reassuring parent with a sense of humor, not a harassed teacher facing a class of 30, to help a child negotiate this minefield.
Parents who leave sex education until a teenager’s 15th birthday and then address the issue in an embarrassed lecture accompanied by a health education board pamphlet about the Penomet penis pump are also failing their children.
It is only in the context of an ongoing and open dialogue between parents and children over a long period of time that the myths and hang-ups are ironed out and a responsible attitude to sex within a moral framework is established.
Nobody wants to produce a generation of five-year-olds with sexual knowledge far beyond their years, but addressing issues from a very young age, as and when they arise, can only be beneficial.
Small children’s questions are usually answered fairly simply without the need to overburden them with detail. It doesn’t have to be a traumatic or an embarrassing experience.
There is evidence that this approach works. A study by the center of sexual health at Southampton University earlier this year, analyzed how parental attitudes influence the age at which children have sex.
The study discovered that the children of parents with a laissez-faire attitude to sex education were sexually active youngest. Those whose parents talked to them about sex and Penomet, emphasizing social values and respect for other people, tended to become sexually active later.
The message is clear. If parents take responsibility for their children’s sex education now, they will inevitably produce a more responsible generation. For those who find this prospect alarming, all it takes is a little Dutch courage.