Dear Dr. Ovlowska,
I have lived in Krakow for a number of years and my (now adolescent) children go to a Polish school. Generally the education is very good, but I am concerned about the lack of sex education. As a parent I am hesitant to broach the subject, but on the other hand I don’t want to leave the job to fashion magazines and Internet porno sites. What should I do?
Every 11-year-old should certainly understand the male and female reproductive systems and every teenager should know about birth control and have a clear idea about the most common sexually transmitted diseases.
What you are probably more concerned about is how to guide an impressionable young mind before ‘advanced’ or ‘sophisticated’ expressions of sexuality in all their commercial variations take over – and in ways that you might find unsavoury or brutal.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me,” sings popular rock star Rihanna as she gyrates in skimpy latex costumes and metal studded, high-heeled boots. A seemingly innocent Google search can lead your kids into an Aladdin’s cave of free pornography, all provided by sporty amateurs who think it’s fun to share their most intimate exploits with the rest of the world.
You are right to take action now. Images like these are very strong, and combined with peer pressure – the fear of not being ‘cool’ – can add up to an extremely intimidating cocktail for sensitive, inexperienced souls.
Allow me to make a controversial suggestion: if you take care of your own sex education, the rest will follow. In the old days the most common parental trick was to ‘accidentally’ leave suitable books as a way of allowing kids to educate themselves.
This still makes sense, but much has happened in the last 10 to 20 years and the messages you want to send out to your children will, of course, depend on where you stand.
Take the time to educate yourself first. If your Polish is good, tune into TOK FM for their programme ‘Kochaj Długo i Zdrowo’ on Thursday evenings at 11 pm, or read the latest books by Nancy Friday, Betty Dodson, Ian Kerner or David Deida. You can only become wiser.
And the most important advice: stay calm. Make it clear that, no matter what happens, you are always there for your children.
I wish you much fun with your studies and a good, honest, open and healthy relationship with your children.