Rupa publications’ Parenting series is indeed a commendable effort. Every book in the series touches an important aspect of raising the children in today’s challenging times. With Parenting in the age of sex-posure the Dr. Vanita Dubey touches the sensitive topic of sex and sexuality in the lives of children.
In the first chapter the biological underpinnings she discusses what is puberty. She also tells us about the pubertal changes in girls and boys and reasons for delayed puberty. She advises us that as parents we should give factual information relating to puberty in as detailed manner I which the child wants. It gives the child a sense of comfort and confidence.
The second chapter touching genitals : What is normal and what is not?, is about masturbation in children. Yes children to masturbate, but its different from that in adolescents and children. The author states that children often ask parents why their genitals look different from that of the opposite sex. According to her the best answer is to tell that boys and girls are different, but neither sex is better than the other.
The chapter different expressions of gender and sexuality deals with how to accept the sexuality of your children and raise them. The author says that as parents first we must educate ourselves and eliminate our biases and then help our child to to develop and integrate his/ her sexual identity.
Chapter four is about the pitfalls and perils of the internet. The author states that monitor your child’s online activity, ask for his/her password and occasionally check their accounts. Restrict their usage of the internet.
Hypersexuality and body image concerns are addressed in the fifth chapter. This chapter states how media creates constant pressure on both boys and girls to fit in a particular body shape and size. This can lead several disorders amongst the children.
The chapter child sexual abuse tells us what constitutes sexual abuse. Even forcing extremely rigid rules on child’s dress, whether it be very revealing or very modest constitutes child abuse. It tells us that we should teach our children as to what is good touch and bad touch. Even when we are hugging or kissing our own children, we should ask their permission. This instills the thought in them that no one can touch them without their permission. When it comes to child abuse, even boys are abused and it has a long term negative impact on the children.
The last two chapters what parents can do and investing in a future free of sexual violence offer practical tips to safeguard our children from the potential harm.
What I liked about the book is that it doesn’t look at sex and sexuality from a limited perspective. It successfully touches all aspects of sex and sexuality. Thus she says that research has shown that just being exposed to sexualized media images on a consistent basis also contributes to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, low self-esteem, feeling depressed and physical health problems in high school girls.
She further says that parents should be encouraged to let the girls get dirty. Let them wear out the knees in their clothes and get dirt under their nails. Let them take apart their toys and find out how how they work. Don’t let your concern about their politeness or cleanliness get in the way of their delight in exploring the world around them. And don’t let your feal of seeing them fail stop them from finding their own solutions.
Discuss the stereotypes in fairy tale movies/books with your children. Why should the fair tale princess have to be so pretty or thin or fair? Or why should she need be rescued by a prince? Why can’t she solve her problems herself? Or why is a Barbie doll’s figure so thin? Are real people like her? And so on.
As parents we shape the sexuality of our children to a great extent. It is our responsibility to protect them and at the same time break all the gender stereotypes which the media is constantly bombarding. This book will be surely of great help in this endeavour.