Begin sex ed at home: Experts

Begin sex ed at home: Experts

A survey shows Indians are reluctant to talk to their children about sex education. Here is how you can break the taboo.

We may have been planning a Mars mission but a survey reveals Indians lag in something as simple as having a frank conversation with their children.

Conducted to understand digital media and its behavioural impact on children, the study found that six out of 10 parents do not talk about sex education with their children.

A third of parents with older kids (15-17 years) said they did talk about sex education with their children, while only a third of the children surveyed had sex education as a subject at school.

How necessary is sex education for children today? Should we wait for schools to take the first step? How can parents go about it? Metrolife finds out for you.

Aabharna and her son.

Aabharna, assistant professor, Mount Carmel College, says, “I teach developmental psychology to second-year degree students and I find that their knowledge of sex education is low. Though there is so much porn and information on the Net, yet they don’t know about the physicalities or the emotional connection of sex.”

Her son is in the 10th standard but gets little information from his teachers, she says.

“The teachers just generally say things like ‘this is wrong’, ‘keep away’, ‘you are too young for this’ and so on. Even the biology chapter on reproduction, which they were waiting for, was just whizzed past,” she says.





Jaseena Backer is candid with daughter Mahek


Jaseena Backer, parenting consultant, says her daughter has a private counsellor and as a mother, she did not wait for the school to take the first step.

“Now, at the age of 11, she has so far been told about how there is a physical expression of love and that it is between two consenting adults. And I made sure she understands that by adult, we don’t mean someone who is above 18. An adult is someone who has the physical, emotional and even financial independence to make a choice of a partner to have sex with,” she explains.










Dr Teena Thomas



Dr Teena Thomas, gynaecologist with Apollo Cradle and Motherhood, agrees sex education should be initiated by parents. “It is better if we educate them about what is right and what is wrong, how to handle or avoid certain situations, what constitutes abuse and whom to approach in times of necessity. There are many children who are abused but they don’t know whom to tell this to,” she says.

Sex education is important and should start at a very young age, she says.

“I think many schools do have a provision. The children are shown videos and then encouraged to have a discussion,” says Dr Lekha George, associate professor, Mount Carmel College.


Are children hesitant to ask questions?

Says Aabharna, “My sons come and ask me. In the end, it has a lot to do with parents and parenting skills, more than teachers. When you teach a class of 30-40, especially in a mixed school, the teacher can have doubts over whether she is overstepping the limits, whether parents will be comfortable, and so on. It would have been so much easier if the government had set out a certain syllabus for this.”

She says what she is imparting is not sex education, but just education. “Don’t make such a big deal out of it. If you are having an open conversation with your children about other things, then this will just come in. We shouldn’t have to talk about it separately, make it more normal,” she says.




Shreya Chatterjee

What does a lack of sex education mean?

“It creates an obstruction when it comes to understanding and identifying sexual abuse, which means children become susceptible to it without their knowledge. When they realise this later in their lives, they cannot process this information. It becomes a suppressed memory and it comes out in different ways like violence in sexuality, lack of interest in sex, fear of sex and so on,” says Shreya Chatterjee, counselling psychologist. 


How can you initiate a conversation?

Shreya points out that parents fear that if they talk about sex, the children will try it. “They need to understand that children will be curious and will try it out anyway. Talking about it will give them some idea of the consequences; thus their chances of stopping such an act are higher,” she says.

She points out that parents can start when the child is four or five by differentiating between good touch and bad touch, what are their private parts, how people shouldn’t touch or hurt them there and so on.

“When children hit puberty, they must be encouraged to have open conversations — a boy can talk to his father while a girl can talk to her mother. Make them understand their body is changing and they will be sexually attracted to other genders and it is natural to feel these urges,” Shreya adds.

These should be addressed too. Shreya points out that discussions should not be focussed on just one topic and should include other sensitive subjects too.

She says, “Masturbation is one of the most taboo subjects. Even today I get patients who feel guilty after such an act. In fact, masturbation is one of the most natural forms of fulfilling one’s sexual urge. This should be talked about. Apart from this, safe sex, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted disorders are some other topics that should be talked about with children, irrespective of whether the school provides sex education or not.”

Jaseena adds, “You can talk about different body parts, what happens in sex and when it should happen, the legalities of it and the consequences. And we definitely need to give them an age limit to it. Even if they are physically mature, they may not be emotionally mature to make the right choice of partner. It is not something you should go into today and regret tomorrow.”


Keep in mind

“Sex education should be age specific. And at what age your child gets to know certain things shouldn’t be dependent on your generation; it should be based on the technical knowledge available to them. Most children have access to the internet and social media but no child is going to google for the scientific approach or similar topics. They are probably going to visit porn sites or look for stuff that will excite them.”

- Jaseena Backer, Parenting consultant


Don’t hide reality

“I have come to understand that in her hostel, children are already discussing explicit physical relations. And if a smooching or cuddling scene comes on TV, I don’t change the channel or cover her eyes. I want her to know that this is there in the world but it is not for you yet; it is for adults in a particular relationship,” says Jaseena.

“Most children have smartphones now and they are not of an age where they can define what is to be seen and what is not to be seen. Many websites have pop-ups of somewhat
questionable nature. Even if you try to block access to certain sites, children nowadays are smart enough to know how to unblock it,” says Dr Teena Thomas, gynaecologist.


Challenges you might face

“Finding the right resource people to talk to the children can be a challenge. They should be well-trained to handle the children so that they convey the message in a wise way.”
- Dr Lekha George

“As a doctor, it is very easy for me to talk to my patients about such topics. When a girl approaches me, she already has knowledge about basic things. But as a mother, it may not be easy because you don’t know if what you are telling is more or less for the child. However, the patient comes to me at a certain age. I have access to my child from day one and I can decide what to tell to her according to her age and requirement.”
- Dr Teena Thomas


Survey covered 2,200+

The survey was conducted on a sample size of 2,268, covering Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad, and Pune. It was conducted by market research and analysis company Velocity MR.