In a world where HIV/AIDS is one of the fastest growing diseases, in a country where the number of AIDS cases is increasing alarmingly and in a society where talking about such things has always been taboo, teaching our children the basics of sexual health and explaining the risks of life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS becomes hugely important. Most parents, though, face a tough task ahead of them as they try to talk to children – how much information to give them? What to tell them? How to start the conversation? How much do they already know? How far have they gone? These are all questions that bother parents of teenagers immensely.
According to Dr. S.P. Sharma, Life Coach and Counsellor, teenagers these days are very aware, and not just through the ubiquity of television and the internet. He also believes that it is very important for parents and teachers to talk to the kids about the dangers of contracting HIV/AIDS “Kids are very curious about their bodies and the changes in them. There is also a lot of peer pressure these days to get into physical relationships and many kids don't realise the dangers,” he says.
The first thing that teachers and parents need to do is learn the actual truths and facts about the disease. “There’s no point in spreading paranoia in your kids. Give them the truth and treat them with the respect that they deserve." adds Dr Sharma. It is important not to get all preachy or lecture them, because they will tune you out. You can start by finding some common ground with your kids, like something on TV or an advertisement, and start talking from there. It is important to remember that if you are uncomfortable talking about it, it is very likely that your child is too! Sharing your feelings with them can help bridge the gap and break the ice.
“Encourage them to talk about themselves, their experiences and their fears. Allow the conversation to be a discussion not a lecture or reprimand”, advises Dr. Sharma. You could also give them educational material or web sites where they can learn more in private. Remember, you must be their guide in this confusing age that they are going through. While you must not try to impose rules upon them, it is important to let them know about the risks that they face.
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