For most parents, one of the most difficult tasks of good parenting is talking to their children about sex or the S-word. Yet in these difficult days of HIV/Aids it is imperative that we should talk to our children about this serious subject matter well before they are damaged or injured as a result of ignorance. Most parents prefer to leave this to the primary school teachers and the Sunday school teachers.

This is unfortunate since it gives the impression to the children that sex is either evil or bad. God created sex for us to enjoy it within the marriage setting. Some children will eventually learn about sex from magazines, from television or from pornographic videos, or even from the Internet. It is frightful what a child can download from the Internet after keying in the word sex. It is a foolish parent who will think that children are always watching clean films via the Internet.

Traditionally, African cultures had a system of sex education which was provided through initiation ceremonies or through designated family members such as aunts and uncles. Sadly, these days it is not common to get the extended family to participate much in providing sex education to children. In most cases the relevant members of the family live far away from the children and have little contact with them.

It may be useful for young parents whose children are approaching puberty to join a group of similarly placed parents to discuss the various techniques of providing sex education to their children. If as parents we avoid talking to our children about sex, someone somewhere is going to do it in a way that we will have no control over.

How a young person first learns about sex will colour their attitudes for a long time. The child may begin to think about sex as dirty, secret and forbidden. It is our responsibility as parents to take an early opportunity to teach our children the correct facts and healthy perspectives on sex.

In the next few contributions to this column, we are going to discuss some of the critical aspects of sensible sexuality and how parents can communicate them to their children. We will, obviously, do this from a Christian perspective, which we strongly believe provides sound teaching on this subject. We wish to submit that sensible sexuality is not only telling children about the facts of life.

Rather, a much greater part has to do with values and attitudes about men and women, boys and girls as people; and about God our Creators plan in making us male and female. Sex education is a process and not an event. It begins when a child is born and continues through adolescence into adulthood. It involves everyday happenings in the home as parents relate to each other, to other men and women and to girls and boys.

It will require all our parenting and communication skills to enable our children to develop healthy attitudes to sexuality. This will mean listening as much as talking; making the effort to understand our children, their experiences, and what is happening in their world. There will be some right and wrong answers, as well as areas where different cultures, families and people will come to different conclusions.

Talking openly will provide a forum for forming and expressing opinions. Our children need our guidance when it comes to sensible sexuality. An informed child is more likely to make the right choices and decisions when faced with tricky situations pertaining to their sexuality. Let us be available to our children in this regard so that we avoid having to blame ourselves or condemn them when they make wrong decisions in their later life.

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