Culturally, aspects like puberty are considered taboo. It is considered to be a matter of grave shame to even mention it, let alone explain it to our growing children. Consequently, our ignorance and false beliefs inflict most damage to our children, who at their tender age of innocence and discovery find themselves in dark alleys. They don’t know whom to turn to for their questions and are left to their own devices to feed their curiosity. The most comfortable arrangement for parents is usually to keep a tight lid on such sensitive issues or pass the buck over to teachers, friends, and other sources to take ownership.
This is a vital educational process, and parents cannot sit back disconnected, assuming everything will turn out to be just fine! Here are a few tips to help parents who are contemplating a talk with their children approaching puberty. Even if your adolescent kids are past that stage but never had a chance to discuss it with you, this is the time to explore their thoughts and give them a clearer understanding regarding the subject.
It all begins with your own need as a parent to recognize that education on puberty and relevant issues is significant for your child’s biological, emotional, social, and moral well-being. Admit and understand that in absence of correct and complete information your kids may feel frightened, moody, confused, or at a low esteem, due to the sudden changes in their bodies.
Make no distinction between girls and boys when imparting education on intimate matters. The most difficult challenge arises when boys in the house start asking questions like why their sister is not praying, fasting, or reading Quran with them. Generally, they are told lies, or excuses are made to hush up the subject. Hence, it is necessary to educate boys as well as girls, to avoid story telling which is prohibited in Islam anyways. Besides, boys are no different from girls in terms of changes and feelings that they experience with puberty, so why should they be treated differently?
The most effective time to provide your children with any information is before signs of puberty begin to arise. This may vary in kids from nine years onwards. You may talk in general about Allah’s creations and the fact that He created things in pairs. After opening up a line of communication, be available for their questions and observations in future.
Read and prepare yourself. This will enhance their trust in your knowledge and will put you in a comfortable slot too. Just as you have taught them school academics, good manners etc. this will be just another educational experience for your kids rather than a melodrama. Following is a checklist to help you prepare:
- Anatomy (structure) and physiology (function) of the human body
- Emotional, moral and physical aspects of puberty
- The menstrual cycle
- The sexual act and guidelines in Islam
- The reproductive cycle
- Conception, development of the fetus and birth
- Islamic perspective on marriage and modesty
Take into consideration their level of understanding and maturity before answering their questions. However, do not push the subject too much nor dump heaps of information at once. Give them gradual bits of information as they begin to question. Also, avoid graphic descriptions that create anxiety and fear. Remember, that this is a learning opportunity for them and not a forum to create thrill and suspense.
Do not conceal information. They will eventually come to know through hand-me-down information tossed around by older siblings, friends, pornographic magazines, movies, or web sites. It is far better that they hear it from you.
You may explain gently to your kids that a subject like this is a private issue not to be discussed in public. Islam greatly advocates modesty and refuses to place anyone in an embarrassing position by making a talk show out of personal and intimate matters. Neither does it allow ridiculing anyone or embarrassing him or her. To be educated about puberty is one thing, but to create and spread perversion is absolutely forbidden.
Puberty is also a test from Allah to check which of His slaves are ready to observe the limits set by Him by safeguarding their chastity and satisfying their intimate desires within the legal capacity of marriage. Culturally, we expect chastity of girls; however, boys are granted leniency. Here, it needs to be reiterated, that boys are as much answerable and accountable for their actions as are girls.
The beauty of Allah’s blessings is such, that along every trial He has placed abundant mercy and satisfaction in everything granted to us. It is the case of puberty. Dr. Aisha Hamdan quotes: “Sexuality is a blessing given to us from Allah. It is obvious for the purpose of procreation, but is a mercy from Allah that there is also enjoyment and satisfaction that comes with it.” Teach your children to be thankful to Allah for it.
Sexuality and marriage go hand in hand in Islam. Maintaining illicit relations are prohibited. The Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “He who can afford to marry should marry, because it will help him to lower his gaze (from looking at forbidden things and other women) and save his private parts (from committing illegal sexual acts) and he who cannot afford to marry is advised to observe fast, as fasting will diminish his sexual power.” (Bukhari)
Allah will question our kids standing at the threshold of adolescence for their choices and actions. As capable parents, we must empower them to learn to guard themselves against the many trials surrounding them today.
If the subject makes you highly uncomfortable, ask a trusted friend or a relative to be available to talk to your child, but do not stifle his right to learn and apply correctly. Educate them truthfully, keep a vigilant eye, pray to Allah, and place your trust in your kids to enable them to pass the tests with flying colours (Insha’Allah)!