Sex education, the fun way

There is very limited research on teaching sexuality education to young children at home. Especially in Indonesia, debates about the merits of introducing sexuality education to children in schools are still rare.

The “International technical guide on sexuality education”, published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization a decade ago, states that equipping children and young people with sexuality education will help them learn about sexual abuse and exploitation. This would help prevention and recognize abuse and exploitation when they occur, as well as address them through access to sources of support.

Research by Tulodo that involved 409 households in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, aimed to identify issues, problems and needs of parents with children aged 5 to 9 years old, especially related to sexuality education at the family level.

The research found most parents felt and believed it was important to teach their children about reproductive health, gender differences and body functions, as well as self-protection. Yet, only around 40 percent had the confidence to discuss these issues with their own children.

Despite numerous causes behind this — social constructs, family traditions, norms as well as traditional and religious beliefs — parents also lack the tools that can create fun learning experiences about sexuality education in a family setting.

Tulodo Indonesia conducted research into and developed a family-based sexuality education teaching kit for children aged 5 to 9 years old known as Dolpin (Dolanan Pintar or Smart Game).

In developing Dolpin, we used empathy and aspiration, rational and emotional reasoning, to understand the real needs of families, especially the urban poor in Jakarta where the prototype testing took place. To test the usability, attractiveness, level of understanding and acceptability of the Dolpin prototype, four stages of testing were conducted involving 40 families in Central Jakarta.

When tested, the Dolpin background diorama caused a murmur among the children. One of the diorama backgrounds pictured a contemporary bathroom with a seated toilet.

However, in the urban poor neighborhood of Kemayoran, having a spacious bathroom with a seated toilet is a luxury and people usually share a modest squat toilet with neighbors.

A small variable such as an unfamiliar type of toilet or bed size apparently brought major confusion to children in the families where the prototype was tested. After adjustment to a more familiar house and community setting, the new diorama and storyline were more easily comprehended.

A particular highlight in the development of Dolpin was where parents introduce a boy’s and girl’s genitals using the anatomical terms of penis and vagina, instead of nicknames such as titit and burung or memji and dompet.

To introduce this in Dolpin’s trials, a prior discussion was conducted among parents where the Tulodo team explained why it was important to use the correct anatomical terms because while they may sound medical, children are more than capable of saying and using the proper names.

This was reinforced to parents by conducting parenting talks, as well as interactive discussions through a WhatsApp group between parents and the project’s child development expert.

More importantly, correct term usage has an important connection with sexual harassment prevention and responses. If a child is touched inappropriately, the child can accurately explain about it to a trusted adult. Nicknames for genitalia only create confusion where different people use different nicknames.

The words “penis” and “vagina” should be stated matter-of-factly. That way, children learn to use them in a direct manner and without embarrassment or ambiguity.

“I have always used nicknames to explain about genitals, burung [bird] for penis and dompet [purse] for vagina. When participating in the Dolpin prototype testing, I was encouraged to slowly change these habits. It is part of our anatomy anyway. Nothing to be ashamed about.” explained Siti, not her real name, one of Dolpin’s trial participants.

Teaching sexuality education to parents is urgent, as this is seen as crucial to optimizing the delivery of messages to children. Parents should be comfortable with their own sexuality knowledge before talking to and educating their children about these matters.

When Dolpin was first developed, the research and development team explored Indonesia’s 2013 Thematic Curriculum for Early Childhood Education (PAUD) to enhance learning outcomes, strengthen core and basic competencies and link them to sexuality and body safety knowledge. This aimed to create age-appropriate information for Dolpin’s target group of 5 to 9 year olds.

Therefore sex education is already embedded in the school curriculum, but teachers must possess the creativity and confidence to raise and emphasize this topic in teaching materials.

Ongoing debates also continue about the responsibilities for providing sexuality education and whether teachers, parents or other agencies are more effective. As scholars suggest, partnership between the school and home could achieve a greater impact.

Additionally, caregivers’ involvement such as with siblings, grandparents and nannies can have great influence as peer educators. Siblings especially are often forgotten peer educators in health education strategies and research suggests that an eldest child sometimes knows less than their peers who have older siblings.

After all, developing good and age-appropriate sexuality education shows that the whole community, not only parents and schools, should take responsibility for, and subsequently benefit from, this aspect of children’s growth and development.

We need not wait for a government regulation to create a special school subject to introduce and discuss sexuality and reproductive health to our children. Instead, it should begin from the smallest unit in society, the family.

Original article from Jakarta Post: link / Published:  Fri, May 31 2019   / 01:28 am

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Putu Monica Christy

Monica is Program Manager for Tulodo. She is passionate about entrepreneurship and behavior change in low-income communities. If she is not glued to her laptop, she enjoys solo-travelling and taking a nap at the park.

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