By Rahila Ovais
Talking about ‘birds ‘n’ bees’ is an issue that can easily leave most parents scrambling for words and most kids into finding an escape route. Or even vice versa! While it’s not a fun conversation to look forward to for either parents or kids, it’s a topic that needs to be discussed amongst families and in this day and age, the sooner the better.
How soon is too soon?
While you can take daily opportunities as a teaching moment (watching television with your kid and suddenly there is an advertisement for sanitary napkins or watching Animal Planet), the appropriate age to talk to your kids in depth is when they are approaching adolescence. They should be prepared early for any changes in their body as part of growing up, this is especially important for girls. Just because you started your first period at age 15 doesn’t inevitably mean your daughter’s will too. Due to diet and environmental factors, more and more often, girls are starting their periods earlier (as early as nine years old). So it’s vital to have a brief discussion around that age on what to expect. This way they will know they can come to you once they actually get their first period instead of freaking out. Prepare an ‘emergency supply kit’ for her with some pads she can discreetly carry in her school bag or for her sleepovers. Once your daughter gets her first period, now is also the time to teach her about personal hygiene.
If you find having this discussion awkward with your own kids, trust another family member that your child is close to. Your sister or best friend might be more than happy to take the task or an older cousin who your child can easily relate to. Although, once you start talking to your child and you may notice they already had some idea through school, friends and media, it’s still personally beneficial for you to have an open discussion with your child as their parent.
Find right resources
Once you have decided to cover this topic with your child, it’s also equally important to tactfully pick the right time and the right tools. You may find it easier to build upon what your child has already learned at health classes at school or you can buy them an age-appropriate ‘guide’ book and read it together. Try to find a quiet undistracted space, even driving them to or from school could be an opportunity (you are not facing each other when you are driving and they are at the back seat and they have no opportunity to escape). It doesn’t need to be a long discussion, you are basically giving them awareness on the topic and you can keep it very scientific and simple in terms. Depending on your child’s maturity and curiosity, be prepared for questions that may arise. You may not be able to give them all the answers at once but you can save some of the questions for the future to discuss the topic further.
Not just for girls
While there are more noticeable changes in a girl’s body during puberty, boys also experience a number of changes. Hair growth, voice changes, wet dreams to name a few. You may find it best for the father or older brother to cover this topic with your young son.
Both your son and daughter should have some awareness on what the other experiences as part of growing up and how to respect their differences.
Religious aspect and family values
In this day and age, our kids are exposed to a variety of very open media about sex. It’s very important to openly discuss their responsibility and values as a Muslim and what Islam teaches about personal hygiene and respecting the opposite sex. Besides teaching them about their body changes as part of growing up, they also need to learn their family values and the religious aspects of growing up as a good Muslim.
About the Author:
Rahila Ovais is a Pharmacy Technician working at the Ontario College of Pharmacists. A mother to four, she’s called Jeddah, KSA, where she was born and Karachi, Pakistan, where she was brought up, her homes before moving to Toronto twenty years ago. She is also a very opinionated person who has a hard time keeping her thoughts to herself.