"How and where?" He asked Marta, six years ago, his arms crossed in front of his chest. Faced with her mother's confused expression, she added difficulty to the question: "How, where and when are babies made?"
It was not the "how" that plagued Teresa, a kindergarten teacher, and mother, and more than used to these issues, but the "where" and the "when". "I felt I couldn't tell her a specific place, not an hour, it was as if I was opening the door to adult intimacy, which didn't seem to make sense to me." She chose to return the question to her, and her daughter concluded, as if taking an asset from her sleeve: "I think it's when parents go on vacation to a hotel." They settled down.
Pediatrician Mário Cordeiro confirms: "Even if the parent / child relationship is not full of taboos and misunderstandings or obscurantism (as it sometimes is), it is essential to preserve distances, the hierarchy of the parent-child triangle and the intimacy of each level. Children cannot in any way enter into the sexual intimacy of their parents. " Border that parents are also required to respect in relation to their children. "The development of child and adolescent sexuality cannot be the‘ opening of the newscast at home! ", Says Mário Cordeiro.
By the way, he recalls, if for the questions there must be "a true, judicious and correct scientific answer, you don't have to go get a 'sexology manual' just because a child wants to know 'where I was before I was born.' 'inside the mother's belly' will suffice, remaining a healthy mystery. It's always keeping something more to know, something more to unravel … "
But keeping mystery is not easy at a time when children live much longer in the adult world and are exposed to all kinds of information. They may ask questions earlier, confirms Mario Cordeiro, but recalls that sex is a subject for children, since they are born. To forget this, remember, is to "whistle to the side."
"Lesbian or lesbian?"
Much more informed, but not necessarily better informed, says Margarida Gaspar de Matos, psychologist and coordinator of the HBSC study, which assesses the health behaviors of Portuguese adolescents and adolescents. The data indicate that they talk about sex, at school with teachers, with parents and, of course, with each other. With the Internet armed, they run a double risk: "Not only is information of varying quality, but consultation does not protect it from confrontation with obscenities and even pornography." In other words, no matter how many times the world goes, reference adults are not needed to clarify these issues.
So says Joana, surprised at breakfast by a "Mother, do you call yourself lesbian or lesbian?", Shot by eight-year-old Catarina. He answered quite naturally, but wanted to know for what purpose the doubt came. "It's because of a conversation we had in the playground."
But if for Joana the subject was peaceful, Manuel, Thomas's father, the same age, confesses that when his son asked him questions about homosexuality, he was choked. "I am not a troglodyte, I respect people and their choices, but I would prefer the subject to be later …", she confesses.
Mário Cordeiro repeats the caution: "One answers with the truth, but only with the necessary truth. It can be said that she is a woman who loves another woman and add that the essential thing is that people love each other when they are united. little child, no need to go further. " And it leaves a rule that can help: Parents need to be able to explain what this or that is, based on factually and scientifically correct information, clearly distinguishing between personal opinion and ethics and knowledge. Also, if this is your commitment, they will be careful to keep up with the search for credible information, which will not only clarify the explanation but will also base their judgment on the subject.
Margarida Gaspar de Matos goes further, remembering that only then will something really change. Because the truth is that the politically correct speech we are hearing has not prevented, for example, children or adolescents from continuing to be "tortured" by others when they seem to move away from the stereotype associated with what a boy or girl should be. . Nor does the researcher say that young people who assumed homosexuality during college did not have a real terror of taking over their homeland, fearing problems with their parents and neighbors.
He explains: "The point is that people have personal, social, religious or political prejudices that they dare not show off directly, but that undermine all discourse and attitudes. Prejudice is also 'caught up' by social modeling and becoming parents. to children especially before, in adolescence, young people themselves build their frames of reference that allow them to 'oppose' their parents. "
More informed, more postponed
Many parents fear that such information, particularly from school, will incite their children to an early sexual activity or a "promiscuous" life. Mário Cordeiro is outraged: "It is the deepest lie. All studies are unanimous: informed young people are young people who have sex later and with more preventive measures." Margarida Gaspar de Matos corroborates and adds that the most informed are also those who positively value sexual relations, stating that they resulted not only from her will but from a decision made with her partner, as opposed to the less informed, who declare to feel if forced to have relationships, they describe them as unpleasant and less often used condoms.
But be warned, experts say: imagining that children and adolescents "already know everything" can lead to imposing on them a reality for which they are objectively unprepared, hurting their sensitivity. If Mário Cordeiro feels that parents sometimes react hypocritically without even bothering to ask their children what they know about it, then there is no doubt that "an education in sexuality must be responsible and knowledgeable, but of course with common sense, count, weight and measure and no generalizations. It is one thing to mention disease prevention and unwanted pregnancies, another is to grab courgettes and condoms and give demonstrations in the classroom. "
For Margarida Gaspar de Matos this is not a theme that comes down to a powerpoint and a knowledge test. He says: "The key to quality training in sexuality is to be mindful, treating the issue seriously, soberly and naturally, as a biological but also a socio-cultural and emotional phenomenon, and now embedded in human rights." And leave a final note: "If parents accept that their children respond badly, treating them as 'euros with legs', 'washers' and 'boring service', they are not helping young people to want to grow up and grow. one day to manage their relationships healthily. " Yeah, sex education is much more than repeating the reproductive apparatus without stuttering.
What's in your child's head and body
(Don't forget that each child is unique and listening to them is the best way to understand what they want to know.)
3 to 5 years
Mastery of language allows them to ask more and more questions. Always start with the simplest answer. "Where do babies come from?" "The father's seed, the mother's egg meet and the baby grows in the mother's belly." If you are satisfied, hang around, if you keep asking, keep answering. Help her develop her emotions and respect for others.
6 to 10 years
It is an ideal age to talk about these topics because the subject still does not embarrass them and are not hostage to hormones. Do not forget that puberty happens earlier, so talk about changes that occur in the body, particularly menstruation. If your child doesn't ask questions, confirm that silence doesn't result from feeling that talking about sex is taboo? the messages we give them need not be verbal.
11 to 13 years
It's a pivotal moment because, on the one hand, it embarrasses them to talk about sex with their parents (also a result of jumping hormones), but on the other they are convinced that they already know everything. Confirm that you have clear ideas on key issues such as the correlation between sex and pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and contraception, but don't forget respect for each other, dating violence, etc. Tell them about your convictions (because you argue that sexual relations should not be early, if any), argue for their convictions, but especially help them to think for themselves, including the consequences of their actions.
13 to 18 years
The vast majority of Portuguese adolescents talk to their parents, especially their mothers, but their monosyllables can discourage them. Don't give up, they listen! Recap on information (condom use has fallen dangerously low!), But talk about emotions (love and betrayal, surprise and disappointment). Take them seriously, but don't forget the humor; respect them, but be demanding; be generous but always holding them accountable.
By Isabel Stilwell
* Text originally published in the April 2017 issue of Máxima (# 343)
. (tagsToTranslate) Sex (t) Children (t) Sexuality (t) Chat (t) Family (t) Children (t) Relations (t) How to Talk about Sex with Children