The Nigerian Parent’s Guide to Healthy Sex Talks
It is true that most parents dread the sex talk, however in a culture like ours, this fear is seldom faced as healthy sex talks barely happen due to the taboo of sex and sexuality. The parents avoid it at all costs while the children know not ask ‘such’ questions. In the rare case
where children hear about sex, it’s from the perspective of purity, waiting till marriage, or a warning against pregnancy, rape, or sexual abuse. As a Nigerian parent, it can be difficult to break this cycle, however, you owe it to yourself and to your children to be a source of healthy and appropriate information especially on really important topics like this.
Parents deeply influence their kids thoughts and feelings around sex. So before talking to your kids, you must do a self-search - you must first recognize your own issues and beliefs about sex and sexuality. Are these beliefs coming from a place of education, knowledge, and wisdom or are they coming from a place of control, fear, shame, and confusion? Are you a survivor of sexual abuse or violence? If yes, are you now able to give information in a positive and affirming way without passing on some deeply rooted issues you may have with sex? Were you raised to see sex as a taboo? Do you still believe it is? Reflecting and knowing the answers to these questions will help you come up with an intention and purpose for the talk you will have with your kids. This self-search will also encourage you to seek healing from past trauma, so that whatever information you pass onto your child will be devoid of pain.
Normalize sex education and 'talks' when your kids are still young
Don’t see talking to your child about sex as tainting their innocence. Normalize sex and sexuality in your home because it is normal. It isn’t dirty or ungodly, it is a natural part of life. Start by teaching your kids the correct names of their genitals, don’t call it ‘wee-wee’ or ‘pee-pee’, refer to it as you will refer to their ankles and toes, that way your children will not attach any shame or awkwardness to that part of their body. Teach about bodily functions, respect, consent, and privacy. Remember that you want to be the first person to talk to your child about it, not your pastor, not Sunday school, not your imam, a stranger, or pornography, you want to be the first. So, start early and talk often!
Become a Safe Haven
You want your child to trust you with their feelings and experiences. You want them to run to you if they learn something new or experience something distressing. For this to happen, you must become a safe place, you must be a non-judgmental, non-shaming, non-forceful, non-paranoid place of security for your child. Children wouldn’t comfortably talk to a parent who has classified sex as dirty, ungodly, or has made it clear that only ‘bad girls get touched,’ when they experience any sexual violence or abuse. If you visibly panic, scream, or shut down your child whenever they tell you something distressing or when they ask you a shocking question, they won’t tell you next time. So, stay calm and allow them to express themselves.
It’s not a monologue
Remember that sex talks aren’t just about you, they are mostly about your children. It’s a dialogue, so allow them to share their thoughts. Ask them questions, see if they understand, ask how they are feeling, and don’t lie to them about anything. If you don’t know something, tell them so and find out together. By doing this, you are letting your kids know that their thoughts and opinions matter, this also solidifies whatever conversation you had with them on consent, respect, and privacy.
It is time for us to stop using culture, tradition, and religion as an excuse to neglect Nigerian children. By communicating honestly, healthily, and respectfully with your children, you not only empower them to make good choices for themselves but also reiterate the importance of respect, and positive communication.
You can use Consent Haven's Handbook and Learning Cards to teach your children consent.
Written by Pearl Azu-Okeke
Founder, Consent Haven