What do you do when your child accidentally watches a love scene on TV? How do you react when your child comes from school and asks you about pregnancy and how women get pregnant? What would be your answer when your child asks you about her/his private parts?
Of course, our reactions and answers differ but we as parents tend to be worried and sometimes perplexed when our children surprise us with these curious questions related to sex.
In some societies, formal schools do not offer sex education at any stage! Moreover, some parents consider the word “sex” a taboo. They avoid discussing sex related issues with their kids, thinking that such topic is too much for their age and that they will learn by themselves as they grow.
In this case, parents are doing harm more than benefit by leaving their children vulnerable to misunderstanding and misinformation. Adding to this is the fact that children are greatly exposed to such discussions anyway, as they mingle with their peers and relatives, and thus get as much information as they need away from homes.
In this age of internet and modern technology, parents can’t control information reaching to their children. If the child does not get the information inside the house, he will simply find an alternative, which may be a bad option. Thus, it is the kid’s right to get the right information and proper answers for his /her controversial questions.
Sex education is a 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 can make informed choices about their behavior, and feel confident and competent about acting on these choices.
Sex education includes many things other than the simple sexual relationship between two married spouses. What children need to learn about sex in the early stages of their lives differs from what they need to learn when they are older. Young children are extremely curious, and they like to explore when they do not get plausible answers from their parents. They look for other alternatives.
It is important for sex education to begin at a young age. Giving young people basic information from an early age provides the foundation on which more complex knowledge is built up over time. For example, when they are very young, children can be informed about how people grow and change over time, and how babies become children and then adults; and this provides the basis on which they understand more detailed background about puberty provided in the pre-teenage years.
The precise age at which information should be provided depends on the physical, emotional and intellectual development of the young people as well as their level of understanding. This type of education should be carefully introduced to young kids with full consideration to the religious context.
The skills young people develop as part of sex education are linked to more general life-skills. Being able to communicate, listen, negotiate with others, ask for and identify sources of help and advice, are useful life-skills, which can be applied to sexual relationships.
Effective sex education develops young people’s skills in negotiation, decision-making, assertion and listening. Other important skills include being able to recognize pressures from other people and to resist them, dealing with and challenging prejudice and being able to seek help from adults – including parents, community and health and welfare services.
Muslim Experts view
Asking some of our counselors and Muftis at Aboutislam about sex education, we got the following answer:
“Sex education can be taught in a way that informs young people about sexuality in scientific and moral terms. In countries with very diverse populations, such as the United States, the main limitation in developing sex education curricula, particularly in public schools, is the inability to select a universally acceptable moral position.
Therefore, young people are given facts and information, and advised that if they choose to engage in sexual relationships, they should take measures to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The moral and religious aspects of sexuality can be incorporated either in schools of a particular religious denomination or in adjunctive coursework offered by religious institutions. Regardless of the challenges of each society, young people must be adequately informed.”
Thus, it is clear that Islam does not prohibit sex education as some people think. On the contrary, it is acceptable and even encouraged to seek knowledge in every field of life.
It is the right for our children to educate them and answer their questions with logic and patience. We should make them feel free to ask about anything.
Gestures and smiles are not enough answers to their difficult question. We should give them answers that suit their level of understanding and fulfill their curiosity.
First published: April 2013