Child Sexual Health Education – Nigeria

Keywords: Child sexual health education, parents, child molestation, Nigeria.


Child Sexual Health Education – Nigeria.  What does sexual health education mean?  Do Nigerian parents teach sexual health education to their children? At what age should parents start sexual health education? How can parents educate their children on sexual health? Are their advantages of teaching sexual health education to children?

With the world becoming a global village, adolescents are becoming sexually aware much earlier via internet services. And with improved nutrition, puberty among girls is occurring much earlier in life. All these combined with urbanization and transformation of the rural areas which brings more people together increases sexual activities. Nigerians are not left out in all these new developments. And there is a rapid increase in sexual activities in Nigerian adolescents.  During this period of information technology, it will be a great blunder for parents to take sex education for granted. Thus the need for Child Sexual Health Education (CSE) – Nigeria by parents in the family set up.

What does child sexual health education mean?

World Health Organization defines sex education as the learning about the cognitive, emotional, social, interactive and physical aspects of sexuality. Planned Parenthood explains it further. Sex education helps people gain information and skills they need to make decisions for themselves about sex and relationships. It explores the values and beliefs about sex. And helps people gain the skills that they need to navigate relationships with self, partners, and community. It also helps manage one’s sexual health.

Child Sexual Health  Education (CSE) is all about talking to the child about sexual health matters. And it is not a one off discussion, but involves ongoing talks as the child gets older.

Do Nigerian parents teach sexual health education to their children?

The fact is that in Africa, Nigeria inclusive, young people, i.e. the adolescents rely on their peer for information concerning CSE. Unfortunately, these peers are equally as ignorant.

African parents, Nigerians inclusive, have maintained the culture of silence when it comes to discussing sex matters publicly. These parents see the word sex as a taboo, because the culture presents it that way. Parents shy away from this discussion with their children because they want to protect the children from canal knowledge. Actually, these parents lack what to say to their children, because their parents did not educate them. So they lack confidence. Many hide under the umbrella of religion to not give their children the sexual health education that they need.

Which parent is more involved in CSE?

In one study done in Nigeria, only 39% of the participants had discussions on CSE. Majority of CSE talks are actually given by mothers. And the talks are directed to the girls, because of the risks girls face as they grow up. Unfortunately, talks are not directed to the boys because the culture believes that boys are adventurous and risk takers. And mothers actually do not know what to say to the boys on this matter. Only very few fathers believe that the boys should have the education.

When do Nigerian parents begin CSE?

Nigerian parents start very late with educating their children on sex matters. The CSE starts when the child has attained puberty. The parents believe that this is the right time to impart the knowledge because doing it earlier would disrupt the child’s innocence. They also believe that at puberty the child is matured enough to listen and understand.

But for some parents, the CSE is started when the girl child starts applying makeup, or the male and female gender are seen in each other’s company. Many a times, the sex talk only begins when the parents begin to receive negative reports from neighbours and teachers concerning the child’s behavior.

How do Nigerian parents impart the CSE?

In Nigeria, parents initiate the talk on sex matters. The parents believe that if a child starts the discussion concerning sexual matters, the child is already wayward. And when the parents engage in the discussions with their children they make use of big and ambiguous words. So the parents end up determining what they want their children to hear.

Among the Igbo people, they make use of descriptions instead of naming the sexual or private part. For example, the vagina has no Igbo word, rather the area is described. The vagina is called a woman’s thing (ihe nwanyi), a woman’s body (ahu nwanyi), etc. There is no word for menstruation. It is called a woman’s thing (ihe nwanyi), staying outside (ino na ilo or ezi), or discharging blood (iru obara). But the penis has a name which is amu, although some refer to it as a man’s body (ahu nwoke) because the word may seem embarrassing. .

Intercourse is referred to as doing something between man and woman (mmekolita nwoke na nwanyi). It is also called immoral or irresponsible act (ihe iberibe).

The Igbo person believes that indirect words are better used in order not to corrupt the child.

The use of fear:

Most parents make use of fear to teach their children about sex. Some tell their girl child that if a man to merely touch any of her private part, that she will become pregnant. And the mother constantly reminds the girl about the community punishment that awaits such a girl. Some mothers tell their girls that the girl sighting the man’s penis, will get them pregnant. The fear setting is done to make the girls avoid men so as to remain a virgin. For the fathers that do sex education, they also use the act of fear on their sons. Men tell their sons that engaging in premarital sex can deplete sperms causing later infertility.

The effects of the Nigerian version of CSE:

Unfortunately the parents’ out dated methods and late commencement of CSE reduces its effectiveness. The children feel shy as they listen, knowing that their parents are giving them misinformation. The children of this generation have access to both truthful and other misinformation via the internet and their peers. And for the parents who make use of authoritarian parenting, the children do not do adequate obedience. Authoritative parenting is highly practiced in Nigeria where the parents are harsh and do not have good communicative channels with the children.  Such parents produce delinquent children who are not ready to accept any teachings, including sex education  from the parents.

The late commencement of the CSE reduces it effectiveness.

At what age does child sexual health education by Nigerian Parents start ?       

Child sex education should start as early as possible. It should even start as soon as the child can make his or her first words. But in essence CSE should begin at the toddler age that is by age 2 years.

The earlier it begins the better for the child. Starting early makes conversation easier.  Obedience is better due to trust in the parents because of good communication between the child and parents.

It is better that the parents wades in before the child goes out to get peer and internet information. This is because there is lots of misinformation on the matter out there.

How should parents educate their children on sexual matters?

Child Sexual Health Education is giving information to the child on sex matters. It is not a one off talk or discussion, but an ongoing process. Unfortunately the Nigerian parents who want to give sex education to their children don’t know how to go about it. Many don’t know even how to start the talk.

First of all, the rules includes that both father and mother should be involved. The mother should concentrate on the females, but also take part in the male education. The father should concentrate on the boy child. But he should be knowledgeable and be prepared to answer some questions from the girl child. This means that both parents must be well equipped at all time. There is need to read about these issues ahead of time. But this does not mean that they should be a walking encyclopedia on these matters. If the child asks question that the answers are not off head, the parents should let the child know. Let the child know that the parent cannot provide the answers at that moment. But there should be a firm promise from the parent to get back to the child with the correct answer soonest.

Make use of communication, ensure trust and use available opportunities:

There is need to establish good communication channels between the parents and the child from the start. There is also the need to be not only a parent but also a friend to the child. These will enable the child trust the parents and believe in the information he or she receives.

There is no need to set out specific timing to give the talks. Opportunities are abound so take advantage of them. These opportunities can arise while bathing, dressing, watching television, driving past advert billboards, etc. Parents can also make use of question times from the children. Give short factual information at each given time.

Below are suggested ways to go about child sexual health education by age:

Age 0 – 2 years:

Teach the child about the anatomy of the body, including the private parts. These private parts include the lips, breast, vulva, vagina, ovaries, penis, scrotum, testis, buttocks and anus. The teaching about the body parts can be put into musical rhymes.

Please teach the child the proper names of these body parts. Do not use slangs like bum-bum. This is important for use in case of abuse.

At age 2 – 3 years:

Teach the child the different functions of these body parts. For example, you can say to the child that the penis is used for urination for the boys and the girls use the vulva to urinate. The vagina is used to make babies. You can also start at the age of 3 years to teach them how to say “No” when someone tries to touch them at any of their private parts. No one should kiss her on the lips

Age 4 – 5 years:

Boys at the age of 0 – 4 years may be touching their penis. This is absolutely normal. Shouting at the child for doing this will shock the child and make him feel guilty. This can impact negatively in future sex life. Rather ignore the child, or let him know that since that area is private, he should not do so in public.

From age 4, the child may start asking questions. Do not laugh at any question, no matter how you see it or the way it was asked. Give short, to the point and factual information.

The child may ask where babies come from. Find out first what the child knows. There is need to correct any misconceptions. Then give straight to the point answer. You can say that babies grow in the mother’s womb or uterus. Then after growing, it will come out through the vagina. Do not say that it grows in the mother’s stomach. You will be surprised that this is all the child will want to hear concerning the topic at that age.

At age 6 – 8 years:

This is the time to talk about puberty and body changes. For the females talk to them about ovulation, menstruation and how to take care. If questions about reproduction comes up again, then there is need to go more in-dept.  The parent can start by saying that when two people who love each other, they may decide to get married. If they do get married, and want to have children, the husband will deposit his sperm that come from the testes through the penis into the wife’s vagina. The wife usually produces an egg from the ovaries each month. If the egg has been produced for that month the husband’s sperm will go and enter it. The fertilized ovum will travel down into the uterus, stays there and begins to grow into a baby. Then at nine months, the baby comes out through the vagina.

At this point it is important that the parents let the child know about the family values. Let the child know your expectations about morals. If you believe that having babies should only be for married couples, this is the time to let the child know.

Also continue to stress the issues about the child learning how to say ‘No’ when touched inappropriately. Tell the child that these parts are private to him and her only and no other person has any right to touch them. But you have to also tell the child that only those involved in giving him a bath and dressing him can touch those parts. Let the child know that the doctor and the nurse also can touch those parts. The child has the ability to understand these.

Age 8 and above:

Let the child know about secondary sexual characteristics like hairs at the armpit and pubic area. Let the girl child know about keeping clean during menstruation time. The boy should be told that as he gets older the voice will deepen and he will begin to grow hairs on his face.

The male child may ask about erections that happen as he wakes from sleep. Tell him the truth, that this is absolutely normal. You should seize the opportunity to talk about wet dreams. Let the child know that this is absolutely normal.

Issues of unwanted pregnancy:

You may let the child know that it is possible for the girl child to get pregnant, even at first sexual intercourse. And even as a teenager, the boy can get a girl pregnant. Explain to the child that there are responsibilities attached to pregnancy and child birth. Let the child also know that it can affect his/her academic pursuit as well as the child’s future  dreams and goals. Also let the child know about the possibilities of sexually transmitted infections, etc. You should continue to stress about your values and your religious values.

Setting boundaries:

Discourage watching pornographic pictures and films and set boundaries, but allow the child to make contributions. Also limit the amount of time the child spends with peers. Discourage older friends for your teenager. Let your teenage child know that any man who demands for sex to prove love is an abuser.  Also tell the child that sex does not prevent losing a partner. Someone should not get pressured into having sex, because there are others ways to show love. The teenager should say “No” when pressured.

Make the child to understand that the feelings or emotions he/she has towards sex is normal. But the child should be told that these emotions are under his/her control.

More on child molestation:

There are more ways of preventing child molestation. It is important to let the child know that she/he should report any touch that is inappropriate. Let the child know that no amount of threat from the abuser should prevent her reporting. Reassure the child that you are available at all times to support him/her. Thus, never trivialize any report given by the child.

Advantages of Child Sexual Health Education – Nigerian Parents.      

It is important to know that sex education does not promote promiscuity in children. Research has proved that children who received sex education from their parents are more likely to delay their first sexual intercourse till much later. This will go a long way to reduce unwanted pregnancies, abortions, school drop outs, mental health issues, etc. among the young people. Child sex education also prevents sexually transmitted infections and other social problems. It also prevents child sexual abuse.

When parents do not have talks with their children concerning sex, it will not stop the children from having sex. It would rather make the children keep their sexual involvements a secret from their parents. Sex education also helps equip the child with information about the body changes and how to handle them. And also helps the child engage in healthy relationship in adult life.

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