Sex Education: How Soon Is Too Soon?

27/02/2015 8:14 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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'Where do you use Stayfree, mamma?' asked my five-year-old as I hurriedly dressed her that morning. We were at Gir and had to shortly leave for Gandhinagar. In the rush of packing and unpacking, the packet must have been left unattended and she had probably seen it.

'I am not sure, I don't use it.' I lied and changed the topic. The rush and the confusion that precedes a journey, especially with two young children, ensured she forgot about it soon. But for how long? Thanks to brand wars, free media and marketing strategies, it is impossible to keep kids away from things that they may be a little too young to understand.

I remember that even as a three-year-old, the first thing she would pick up at the supermarket would be sanitary pads, 'badal do' as she would call it, referring to the tag line of a famous brand (full marks to the advertising guys!). Her brand awareness and her curiosity had made me so paranoid that I would rush to change the channel the moment there was such an ad. I know I sound old-fashioned and foolish, but the fact is that given the nature of our society and social conditioning, such reactions are almost a part of our being. Remember our parents doing the same when we were young?

Soon there was another set of ads that I had to protect her against: Condoms. I mean, what business does a little kid have knowing the flavours and the variety, or to watch Sunny Leone pose seductively in different parts of the house. Although in my heart I know that she probably won't even get the context of the conversation, but I really do not want to take a chance. That I am quite a prude could be one reason, and that I do not know what or how to tell her could be the other.

But being a person whose first ever article to be published in the newspapers 15 years ago was on sex education, I should know better than to be embarrassed or sheepish about it. As a mother, I should be prepared to share with my daughter what was never shared with me and most children of my generation. In my experience, the sooner children know about things like periods, childbirth and maybe even sex, the more comfortable they will be with them.

I had, in fact, told her how babies were made when my second daughter was due. And when children much older than her would say that their parents had bought the baby from a hospital, she would correct them and point at a big belly to announce that babies are made inside mummy's tummy.

This is when she was just three. She is soon going to be six and looking at how fast children grow these days -- both physically and mentally -- I know I need to sit her down and explain her body to her. Although I am yet to figure out what to tell her and how, I am sure I will have to do it sooner than later, lest she comes up to me and tells me about it.

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