How should we inform our children about sexuality?
Submitted by on Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:32
Dear Brother / Sister,
MAN AND WOMAN...
Both have sexual characteristics peculiar to them. Sexual needs that peak during the age of puberty, sexual problems, marriage and family, rules to be followed in order to have a satisfactory sexual life in marriage, pregnancy and birth, the bodily and spiritual health of the child, obscenity and obscene publications, man-woman relationship in the society...
Those are the main headings of the sexual life in humans.
We live in an age in which sexual issues are exploited incredibly.
On the one hand, sexual life is regarded as a taboo covered with shameful deeds... On the other hand, there exists a trend of exhibitionism that challenges the limits of privacy... The result of this contradictory situation is the prevalence of complete anarchy in sexual life. Then, the need for a sexual education based on religious resources and contemporary sciences is too urgent to ignore.
What is the place of sexual issues in human life? What are the things that we should know about sexual life? How can we be protected from the negative bombardment of the media? What things are right? What things are wrong? How can the concepts of thawab (reward), shame, sin are to be understood truly
Sexuality is a part of our life. Is the following not stated in our exalted book? We created you from a single (pair) of “a male and a female”. In many verses, the biological and psychological relationships of the spouses are pointed out.
There are some very important basic needs inherent in our nature: Eating and drinking, accommodation, sleep, sexuality, etc...
The sexual desire (libido, sexual pleasure) which is also called “lust” is one of the biological foundations of the need created in men and women to be together.
Let us listen to verse 21 of the chapter ar-Rum: “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.”
The Owner of the Palace of the Body, who meets all of the needs of every cell in microcosmic level including the electrons through a fine plan, has met all of the needs of man based on certain orders. This order, which is based on two basic criteria (halal and haram) that our religion has given us, provides us with the conditions that make man peaceful in all aspects.
Since religious needs and desires are present in the nature of man, and since men tend to women and women tend to men, it is a healthy and indispensable thing to meet those feelings legitimately in a family environment.
Our religion gives great importance to marriage; most of the orders and prohibitions that regulate sexual life are determined based on this basic criterion.
The prohibition of things like fornication, homosexuality, giving up sex in marriage, castration, looking at others with lust, etc are some of the principles that aim satisfying sexual feelings through marriage legitimately.
Legitimate sexual intercourse is regarded as worshipping because meeting sexual needs in a consciousness of servitude to Allah and in accordance with the principles imposed by Him is one of the most of important conditions of happiness.
AIDS is a good example regarding the kinds of dangers that deviations in sexual life can cause.
Is sexual education necessary?
Is it not fard to learn the orders and prohibitions of Islam for every sane Muslim beginning from the age of puberty? Doubtlessly, the precision of some kinds of worshipping depends on having knowledge about them and practicing them. Can the life of worshipping be sound without knowing when it is necessary to make ghusl? Then, sexual information must be learned from true resources.
Children start to sense sexual differences beginning from the age of two or three. The sexual consciousness starts to settle with the age of puberty.
In fact, sexual education needs to start at birth. Boys and girls need to be educated differently in terms of many issues, from clothes to attitudes and from games to toys. The Prophet changed the yellow garment that Hazrat Hasan was wrapped in when he was born with a white one, attracting attention to the differentiation of color.
Sexual education follows a course that intensifies in accordance with the growth and development of children. It is more appropriate for the girls to be educated by their mothers and for the boys by their fathers.
The aim of the education is to make the child gain the attitudes that are peculiar to their gender in a normal and healthy way. The normal course of development of the child needs to be observed carefully; their questions need to be answered satisfactorily instead of vague replies and wrong comments. Reprimanding the child is as harmful as giving vague answers.
The sexual information regarding worshipping need to be given on time. Sexual information can be given to children when they are taught about the principles of performing prayers and fasting. The age of 6-7 is suitable. The beds and rooms of the children need to be separated at the age of 7, or at the age of 10 at the latest.
The most sensitive period: the age of puberty:
Due to the differentiation in their bodies and the changes in their world of feelings, it is necessary for parents to talk to them seriously and to guide them. They need to be told that they are no longer children, that they are young men or women and that their bodily and spiritual development burdens them with responsibilities. They need to be taught to control their relations with the opposite sex, to be careful about some issues and to avoid breaking the prohibitions. It is unnecessary to enter into details. However, it is necessary to prevent finding out the legitimate information about marriage life from harmful and obscene “sexual education” publications consisting of deviant, wrong, groundless and evil-minded information.
Sexual life within legitimate criteria is a way of worshipping Allah. A person who lives in accordance with the Sunnah will not get into trouble regarding sexual issues like every other issue.
Why should it be something to be ashamed of for a mother to present her daughter and for a father to present his son with correct information sincerely in a family environment? Allah does not order us to feel ashamed when we learn the truth.
A balanced and steady sexual life is a way of peace and happiness.
We are not too late to understand what is true and what is wrong in an atmosphere where an understanding of life freed from the feeling of sense of shame and where sexual energy is tried to be deviated from its course. If we understand it, peace and happy family environment that will transform the world into Paradise will make us be happy and smile.
SEXUAL EDUCATION: When and how?
One of the issues that challenge parents the most in child education is sexual education. It has two reasons. The first one is approaching the issue through the eyes of an adult. The second one is thinking that sexual education consists of the information on reproduction. Those two wrong approaches make things difficult for parents.
In fact, sexual education is not an issue as difficult as it is thought. We will solve the first wrong approach through a hadith. The Prophet (pbuh) says, “A person who has children should behave like a child when playing with them. What is meant by behaving like a child is to approach the events through the eyes of children; that is, empathizing with them as it is named in psychology. As a matter of fact, the way to understand people is through empathy. The easiest way to understand a person who talks to us or who discusses with us is to empathize with them.
The questions of children until they are seven years old regarding creation, reproduction, differences of gender and birth are innocent questions that are free from sexual curiosity and that aim to learn. There is no difference between the questions,” How did I come to the world?” and “How does the plane stay in the air and not fall down?” from the child’s point of view.
As we have mentioned above, sexual education does not consist of information regarding reproduction only. Information regarding reproduction is only a subheading of sexual education. However, in our community, sexual education is thought to consist of sexual intercourse and information regarding reproduction; therefore, people think it is necessary to give a person information regarding sexuality when he/she get married. And when that time comes, the information is given in a very ugly, coarse and inconvenient way. However, children and young people who have not been able to get reasonable and appropriate answers to their questions when they ask try to find answers through various other ways. In the end, the child who can have been relaxed if he has received an answer that does not upset his spiritual health is deformed both materially and spiritually when he hears many wrong things from his friends or is exposed to obscene publications.
When I used to work at a private school where most of the students were from religious families, I saw so obscene writings and strong language on the toilet doors and walls that I was surprised. There was only one explanation for it: These children were not given sufficient and healthy sexual education by their parents. You cannot get rid of the responsibility of something by ignoring it. If this issue is related to spiritual health, and if children are exploited and trapped by some groups, which is the case now, our responsibilities as parents and educators increase more and more.
Sexual Education Starts at Birth
The question that I am frequently asked by parents during my conferences, radio and television programs is this: When should we start to give our children sexual education? My answer: Beginning from the birth. The answer naturally astonishes those who ask the question. Yes, I am repeating it: Sexual education starts at birth.
When a mother shows discontent or grimace while cleaning the baby’s diaper, it gives the baby the message that the private parts are something disgusting. The baby touches its feet, head, ears and also genital organs in order to know its body. There is nothing strange about it. If the mother hits the hand of the baby or holds the baby’s hand and drives it away from the genital organs when the baby touches them, the baby will assume negative thoughts about it. You probably saw many times mothers and fathers react severely when they see their children playing with their genital organs and shout at them, “Move your hand away from there! What a shame!” It is something that the child does not deserve. Instead of prohibiting this act, the parents should try to think about what causes that act. Why does a child touch his/her genital organs? The genital organs might have been covered with tinea due to insufficient cleaning. It may cause itching and the child puts his hand there. When children play games, they may forget about the call of nature because playing games is their most serious need. They will not stop playing games in order to go to toilet; they will put their hands on their genital organs and delay going to toilet.
Mothers make the greatest mistake in sexual education when they try to teach them to go to toilet. They force their children to go to toilet because they want to get rid of changing diapers and cleaning the babies. Mothers try to condemn, threaten, frighten and punish their children to reach their aims. Those methods that they resort to are contradictory to the nature and honor of the child; so things get more difficult. Normally a child starts to hold his urine at the age of 2-3 during the day and at the age of 4-5 at night. The use of force before those ages will leave him in a difficult situation. Blaming and despising sentences like, "have you peed your pants again, you dirty boy?”, “If you pee your pants again, I will burn your weenie!” will cause the child to hate his genital and excretory organs, to have an inferiority complex and feel ashamed of his body. It may cause various sexual deviations in the future.
Mistakes Made During Sexual Education
There is no door that love cannot open. Love is the magic key of education. Allah stores love and compassion in the mother even in animals as soon as the baby is in the uterus. I cannot think of a mother who does not love her baby. However, some mothers cannot express their love to their babies due to lack of education, family problems and financial difficulties. If a child is not sure that he is loved and valued, he will continue to break the rules and conflict you until he becomes sure.
The attitudes of parents toward each other are also important in the sexual education of parents. When we made an interview with a girl who reached the age of puberty but never gave consent to marriage, we found out that the model of a mother who was always despised, cursed and beaten by her husband made the girl have negative feelings against marriage.
Do not Let Your Child Sleep in Your Bed
It is definitely a wrong act for parents to let their child sleep in their bed and make it a common practice. The feeling of dependence continues in the babies that are used to sleeping in the same bed with their parents and the development of their personality is delayed. There is also a sexual private aspect of the issue. The child may not be sleeping at all times. His eyes may be closed but he may not be sleeping. He may hear the private talks of his parents and see their intercourse. Or, he may wake up suddenly. In both cases, sexual privacy is harmed; the child can assume wrong ideas about sexual intercourse; and the mental health of the child may be harmed.
We advise parents not to let their children sleep with them and place them in a different room after the age of four. If you share the same room with your children, you must separate the room of the child that reaches puberty (the age of 13-14). The importance of privacy is great in the development of the personality. The room of a teenager is private just like your room. You must not enter his room without knocking on the door; you must not search in their bags, drawers, pockets, wallets and diaries.
It is not Difficult to Answer the Questions of the Child
One of the difficulties of sexual education for parents is not to know how to answer the questions of their children. The reason for it is to see the issue through the eyes of an adult. A child does not like long explanations and details. When you start to explain something in detail and scientifically, the child will get bored and start to deal with something else; he may even forget his question. Your answers must be in accordance with the level of the child, short and easy to understand.
When your child asks a question about sexuality, it is no use getting into a flap, blushing and trying to change the topic. If you do so, the child will not ask you any more questions about sexuality and try to meet this need through other ways.
Children sometimes close the door of their room when they play and they do not want others to see what they do and to hear what they say. When they close the door, they probably play at families or narrate the things that they have seen-heard. If you encounter such a situation, do not panic and do not rush into their room. If you do so, you will show them that you do not trust them. There is no need to fear if you educate them healthily and correctly.
We said that it was not difficult to answer the questions of the children regarding sexuality. What matters here is the attitude that you assume while answering their questions. If you speak with a soft tone and behave calmly, the child will feel at ease. Let us explain it with an example. Suppose that my child asked me,” Dad, where did I come from?” My answer would be something like this: “A mother and a father are necessary for a child to emerge. There is no child without a mother and father. When a mother and a father want to have a child, they pray together and say, “O Allah! Give us a baby!” If Allah accepts their prayer, He puts a tiny baby in the abdomen of the mother. The baby starts to grow there and when it becomes big enough to suck the mother’s milk, it moves and informs the mother. The father takes the mother to the hospital and the mother gives birth to the baby with the help of the doctor and mid-wife. If he wondered about the duty of the hospital, doctor and midwife, I would explain it in short. If he asked, "Where does the baby come out?”, there would be no problem in telling him that Allah created women like that and that He made the abdomens of women enlarge during birth and that they gave birth to children like that. What we tell them must be simple and true information.
Children are curious about the differences of sexuality regarding men and women. A girl may ask why she does not have the thing that her brother has. She may think that it is a deficiency and that she was punished by Allah. If we receive a question like that, we can make the answer easy by referring to the roles of the mother and father. If we have answered the question above previously, it will be easier. This answer will be enough: “You do not have the thing that your brother has because Allah creates girls differently from boys so that they can be mothers when they grow up.” We can answer the possible questions that she will ask when she sees a woman, for instance her mother, suckling her baby as follows: “The chests of mothers are different from fathers. Allah created mothers like that so that they will feed their babies. Babies cannot eat themselves because they are too young; they grow up by sucking their mothers’ milk.” Such an answer will be convincing for a child.
(You will appreciate that it is impossible to list and answer the questions that children can ask here. If you send you questions to my email address, I will try to answer them.)
The Foundations of a Healthy Youth are Laid in Childhood
The effect of the media and peer groups on the sexual identity cannot be denied. Young people who cannot establish a healthy communication with their parents are easily affected by the environment and peer groups. Youth and fashion magazines, televisions, cinema and the internet altogether separate your children from you. So many parents call us and complain, "My child has become a victim of bad friends; he comes home late; he does not obey us; he regards us as narrow-minded and repressive. Children from good families who receive a good education from their parents and who are valued do not usually choose bad friends because the education they have received from their families gives them a strong feeling of confidence. When he receives an offer that does not comply with the education and good manners that he has received from his family, he will be able to say no and if his friend insists, he will break off the relations with him.
There is no man without a mistake. Then, there is no child without a mistake. Your children will make mistakes, strengthen what you have taught them through trial and error and learn new things. For instance, you will teach him not to enter his parents’ room without knocking on the door and until hearing the permission, “Come in!”; however, if your child enters your room by mistake without knocking on the door while you are changing your clothes, what will you do? Instead of shouting at him and reprimanding him, cover your body and tell him softly that our Lord wants us to enter others’ rooms by knocking on the door and remind him that Allah will love us more if we do so.
If you do not want to be in conflict with your children who are at the age of puberty, show them with your words and attitudes that you trust in them, you value them and that you love them despite their habits. There is nothing more oppressive for a teenager than sentences that start with, "When we were at your age,...". When I talk to teenagers and ask them what they dislike most about their parents, the most frequent answer is, "My parents do not trust me." The other complaints are as follows: "They always regard me as a child; they do not accept that I have grown up; they do not like my friends; they do not value my ideas; they interfere with everything; they do not accept that they may make mistakes, too; they do not love me."
If you do not want to drive your children away from you, act tolerantly, softly, patiently and compassionately toward them. You should spare some time to them, listen to them, and make them feel that you will always be with them when they have difficulties. They are your children with their good and bad deeds.
Questions on Islam
- What are children's rights over their parents?
- Will you give information about bringing up a child? What should pregnant women do so that the birth and puerperium would be healthy and the baby in her womb be educated?
- Can you give information about adoption? Does the child who is adopted become a stranger to the adoptive mother when he grows up? And what is the religious decree to remove that state?
- How should a child be trained and religiously educated? How should we teach Allah to children?
- I am afraid of having children in this age. Is it appropriate not to think of having children due to the things happening at the end of time?
- Are children supposed to be looked after by their father or by their mother after their parents have divorced? If mother is supposed to look after them, does father have to pay compensation money for children until they reach puberty?
- What are the basic factors in family institution?
- What is an illegitimate child? What does the religion of Islam say about this term?
- How shall we tell our children about Allah?
- Why does Allah want us to pray for our parents?