CHILDREN in their teens can become preoccupied with sexual issues if they are not given clear information and guidance, preferably from parents. There is nothing strange or phenomenal about an interest in sex during this stage of development; it is hormonal. A part of the brain stimulates hormonal change; it will happen once you live and have normal brain function. Do your pre-adolescent children have normal brain function? Then prepare yourself for the changes in their body and behaviour and work out how you will handle them before adolescence occurs.
Decide what you will tell your child and when. It need not be dramatic or formal, such as a sit-down session, but it must be age-appropriate. For example, when you leave young children with a neighbour or friend, teach them rules to stay safe. Never follow company. Never let anyone touch you inappropriately (your private parts). If anyone behaves rude or bullies you, tell an adult and let me know. If you are asked to do anything wrong, don’t do it, tell an adult and let me know. If something said or done makes you uncomfortable, tell an adult and let me know.
Children should feel protected even when you’re not with them. Let them know their safety is important to you. Let them tell you how they spent their time when you collect them. Listen to what your child has to say and stay connected. Being astute and not half-hearted in your approach will give your child confidence and help develop the relationship needed to guide the child through adolescence.
When adults overlook parental duties, children are left to their own devices. Without guidance, they can end up confused and bewildered about their sexuality. A mother didn’t give a second thought about leaving her eleven-year-old son with her next-door neighbour, whose daughters had played with him for many years. The two girls were slightly older than her son, but the children got along fine together like brother and sisters.
When the girls hit puberty, the games they played with the boy next door changed. As far as the parents were concerned, the children were fine. They hadn’t noticed that some of the games were secretive, played out of adult sight. In short, the sisters introduced the boy to sexual encounters during his many ‘stays’, of which the parents were unaware. The adults trusted the children to occupy themselves in the usual way but failed to supervise them or ask how they spent their time. It never occurred to them that the children would embark on sexual experimentation.
The ‘baby party’ came to a head when the boy, now aged 13, attempted to molest a younger female cousin. When he proposed his learnt sexual behaviour to the girl, she was disgusted to the point where she complained to her aunt and asked to go home. By now, his family were living far away from the sisters in another village. But the boy, fascinated by his sexual initiation with them, had developed warped ideas, views and understanding of the sexual world. When his mother recovered from her disappointment and anger over the entire incident, she sought help for her son and herself through counselling.
Adults cannot monitor children 24/7, but they can teach them moral conduct and how to behave and react when faced with awkward situations. They can ask questions and check up on activities that their child should have completed or attended, to show an interest and ensure the child stays on track. Parents should always be their child’s first port of call. Children should have no reason to be secretive, embarrassed or afraid to discuss anything with their parents, within reason.
Addressing issues of puberty and helping young people to navigate their adolescent jungle is a job for parents. It is a time when they should stay connected to their children more than ever. Parents can talk about body changes, personal hygiene, acceptable behaviour, sex, contraceptives, unwanted pregnancies, STD’s and abstinence over time. Children’s hormones start changing at least one year before there are visible signs of puberty (between the ages of 8 and 14 years), marking the end of childhood and the beginning of adolescence. Adolescence ends during their early twenties so there is plenty of time for discussion, questions and fine-tuning.
Even though times are evolving and information is at our fingertips, some parents still do not understand their role in the minds and lives of their developing children. With the onset of adolescence, guidance from adults is necessary more than ever, but some mothers cuss their daughters and throw them onto the street, calling them derogatory names and failing to connect with their girls appropriately. Teenage boys also have their fair share of neglect, where parents fail to monitor their conduct; give them a sense of direction or keep track of their whereabouts.
When parents lack vision, so do their children. The actions and deeds of an adolescent girl or boy are reflective of those who raised them and the type of childhood they experienced. Parents should anticipate the stages of development and prepare their children’s minds accordingly. But if they are not connected with their growing child, who, regardless of size, is still a child, how will they guide them beneficially and adequately to adulthood?
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY,
MINISTRY OF HUMAN SERVICES AND SOCIAL SECURITY