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Why it’s important to talk to teens about sex

A teenage mother and her baby. The prevalence of teen pregnancy in Kenya has stagnated at 18 per cent for the past 11 years

What you need to know:

  • The school experience gives the youngsters space to meet each other in a controlled environment with already established boundaries.
  • In school, they are also involved in a lot of activities, which divert their libido.
  • When they are busy with books and extra-curricular activities, all their energies are consumed and they hardly have time for sexual activities, explains Mwaura.

A friend of mine shared an e-book on female ejaculation in his different Whatsapp groups and was shocked at the responses. Most of the participants in the groups pretended not to have seen the content while in another group, he was ‘lefted’. “I think we are very hypocritical as a people,” he lamented. “If we as grown-ups are not comfortable discussing about our sexuality, how can we even talk to our teens and young adults about sex?” he wondered.

The birds and the bees.

A random spot-check revealed that a good number of parents and guardians are too shy to discuss about the birds and the bees with their children. Raymond Mwaura, a family and trauma therapist explains that, most grown-ups are not able to openly discuss sexuality with their kids because of socialisation and how their first sexual encounter turned out. “For a large number of people, their first experience was traumatising thus, they do not have the courage to talk about sex,” explains Mwaura. He advises parents and guardians to address their stigma first so as to be comfortable talking about sex both to their children and among their peers.

Sexually active

Of concern is that we have seen a growing number of teens reportedly engaging in sexual activities, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic. Are parents aware that their children are sexually active? One wonders. “Parents are aware that children are having sex but since they can’t handle it, they keep hoping that someone else will salvage the situation. Most of them hope that one bold person, probably a school counsellor or religious leader, will talk to the kids about sex,” says Mwaura.

”The children were engaging in sexual activities even before the pandemic but now since schools are closed, sex is readily available. Before, the children who are in boarding schools, would probably have to wait until schools closed but now that they are at home, it makes it almost effortless,” explains Mwaura.

Uncontrolled internet spaces

Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, learning was suspended indefinitely. Families were forced to re-adjust to the new normal. The school experience gives the youngsters space to meet each other in a controlled environment with already established boundaries. In school, they are also involved in a lot of activities, which divert their libido. When they are busy with books and extra-curricular activities, all their energies are consumed and they hardly have time for sexual activities, explains Mwaura.

”Uncontrolled internet spaces like Zoom have exposed our children to skewed interpretations of sex and sexuality,” he says. Mwaura explains that as a result, the children have learnt to stimulate their bodies, not to mention the opportunities are now readily available to experiment with their young neighbours. “The children are at home and the parents cannot keep monitoring them as they too might be overwhelmed trying to put food on the table. Other parents either do not care or are just paranoid. Due to the pandemic, other kids were even taken to the village to stay with their grandparents who at most cases might not be able to follow up on the teens.”

Sex dynamics

The question that begs is, how have we prepared our teens for this eventuality?

“Based on the rising cases of teen pregnancies, it is safe to admit that our teens are sexually active and there is need to come up with a social structure that is workable in the face of the new normal,” explains Mwaura. “While at it, let’s address the impact of teen sex. Will we take the girls back to school after delivery?  When should a parent or guardian introduce the topic home?” ponders Mwaura as he cites some of the questions grown-ups should ask themselves.

Teen sex is shrouded in uncertainty and most of them do not understand the various sex dynamics. A good number engage in unprotected sex, which increases the risk of STIs and HIV. Sadly, some teens have been infected and have unknowingly infected their peers while some have reportedly been known to spread the disease out of bitterness, he notes.

Life skills

The family therapist advises care-givers to teach children life skills on how to relate with the opposite sex.  There is need to be innovative, he says. We should not abandon our rites of passage as these provide a suitable platform for our teens to be impacted with life skills. In line with WHO guidelines, we should work with manageable grouping of about five, so as not to expose the children to Covid-19.

Alternatively, we can organise for Zoom meetings where relevant content is disseminated. We should also encourage our kids to engage in Zoom religious studies as opposed to thriving on the blame game. As parents, we need to admit we have failed them. It is important to understand from them what information they have on sex so that, we can help them separate the facts from myths and misinformation.

Source: Nation Kenya

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Lifestyle

Next time you’re angry at your lover, do these things

What you need to know:

  • The key is managing your emotions, especially anger.
  • That doesn’t mean keeping quiet about your feelings.

Many relationship problems are actually caused by our own personal difficulties. Anxiety or insecurity, for example. But instead of seeing how our own personal issues are stressing the relationship, we blame the relationship for our issues.

So we get angry at our partner, or try to get even, and resentments start to grow. You might still be a couple, but you’re no longer a team.

The key is managing your emotions, especially anger. That doesn’t mean keeping quiet about your feelings. It’s natural to be angry when you’ve been offended. And if you don’t speak up about your issues they won’t ever be solved.

So you must talk about your feelings with your partner. Except for the anger. Because expressing anger pushes people away rather than solving problems.

But how can you control anger? The key is being aware of your irritation, rather than being swept along by it. Because actively observing your resentments changes the way your brain processes them. It damps down the emotional parts of your brain, and boosts the areas which control your rational behaviour.

Visualising being in control will also help you stay calm, even when there’s lots happening. Rehearsing coolheaded approaches to conflict also helps. For example, seeing your partner’s outburst as a cry for help, rather than shouting ‘Don’t talk to me like that!’

So the next time something awful is happening, resist going on the attack. Instead, think about why you’re angry, including trying to see the incident from your partner’s point of view.

Do things differently 

Or do something a bit different, like smiling or touching them, instead of getting riled up. Or separate yourselves for a few moments – maybe just go to the bathroom.

All these approaches will help you stand back from your feelings. After which you can start to tell your partner what’s going on for you. Talking about the issue without anger will bring you closer, and help you start a constructive conversation rather than an argument.

What if it’s your partner who’s angry? Or grumpy, unreasonable, you name it. It’s tempting to respond with more of the same. But instead, make it a rule that only one of you can be crazy at a time. And try to be patient, caring and kind.

So instead of yelling, try saying, ‘I am sorry you’re upset — how can I help?’ There’s nothing to fight about if you’re being helpful.

Try to express your needs positively. For example, if your partner is forever coming home late, it is tempting to shout about how they never make time for you. And the stage is set for a row.

Instead, tell them what you’d like to happen. Something like ‘Can we figure out a way to spend more time together?’ Try to avoid including contempt or criticism: ‘You’re such a jerk.’ Or focussing on the past: ‘You’re always late…’ Focus on moving forward, avoid expressing anger, and you’ll soon start recognising how you can both fix your individual issues without affecting your relationship.

Source : Nationews Kenya

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How to let go of your ex without guilt

How to let go of your ex without guilt. PHOTO| POOL

What you need to know:

  • All too often, many women return and get stuck in bad relationships out of sympathy, pity and guilt
  • You need to have a fresh policy of communicating with your ex

Naomi Auma had thought about quitting her relationship for one month. She was dissatisfied. She felt stuck in a relationship that had no future. “I had dated Joe, a former Member of the County Assembly (MCA) for eighteen months.

Out of these, he had been jobless for nearly twelve months and didn’t seem bothered. “He was too proud and lazy to look for another job. I was forced to pay his rent twice,” says Naomi, who is an anesthetist in Nakuru County.

Joe claimed the jobs available were below his class and that she was shaming him. “All he did was laze around waiting for a miracle that would resuscitate his political career,” says Naomi who is 33. 

In May 2018, she broke up with Joe. Naomi recalls that after unsuccessfully begging her not to leave, Joe spent the rest of the afternoon spamming her with messages. “He sent in multiple texts saying I was leaving him because he no longer had the money and influence he enjoyed as an MCA.”

When no more calls or texts came in from Joe, Naomi thought that he had given up on her. “I thought he had figured it out,” she says. Unknown to her, Joe had gone out with his friends on a drinking spree. On their way back home, they had been involved in a road accident along the Nakuru–Nyahururu highway. Naomi was flooded with feelings of guilt when she learned about the accident.

When she visited him at the hospital, Naomi promised that she would never leave him again. “His legs were wrapped up in plaster. He kept begging me not to leave him,” she says. It is now two years since they got back together. Things have not improved. In fact, they have only gotten worse. Joe has never found a real job. Violence has become part of their relationship. Whenever she tries to leave, she is accosted with beatings and threats that Joe will harm himself or them both. “He once cut off the gas tube and threatened to light the house,” says Naomi.

Pity and guilt

All too often, many women like Naomi return and get stuck in bad relationships out of sympathy, pity and guilt. There are women who start new relationships but still see their exes on the side out of pity. There are others who are stuck in bad relationships and marriages out of fear of what their partners might do, for instance, where a partner threatens to commit suicide if you leave.

But these are just sympathy cards. Once you decide to leave a relationship, often the other person will respond by making attempts at drawing you back into the relationship. This could be through phone calls, text messages, online chats, or even delegations. Efforts to win you back can be accelerated in an event where your ex is involved in something that draws out your sympathy. This might include a personal loss such as death of a close relative, an accident or even sudden ailment.

Be very clear

The sympathy card is often played when an ex suspects that you’re not ready to break up or committed to carry through with the break up. Own your decision. Dr. Robert Taibbi, the author of Doing Couple Therapy says that you must be proactive and considerate in your response. “You need to have a fresh policy of communicating with him. For example, you may say no to text messages or decide that if he calls, you’ll only pick up during the day,” he says. “But don’t be insensitive. Be aware of the injury your partner will sustain once you leave.”

The narcissist who won’t let you go

If you were dating a narcissist, chances that he may try to manipulate you back. Dr. Chris Hart, a psychologist and the author of Single & Searching, says that relationships that involve narcissists are some of the most difficult to walk away from. This is because while in an ordinary relationship you’d break up, adjust and move on, narcissists don’t get over it. After deciding that leaving is your best option, you must end the relationship without remorse or second thoughts. “Since a narcissist has no empathy, you must leave them cold turkey and endure the pain of your broken relationship!” says Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist and author of The Empath’s Survival Guide. In most cases, the after-math of your break up will be characterised with unwanted contacts and manipulations. “They will try to contact you not because they really want you, but because you’ve cut off their narcissistic supply and they want it back! Block their numbers or even negotiators. Have their email messages go directly to your junk folder,” says Stephanie Sarkis, the author Making the Grade with ADD.

Feelings of guilt

Guilt is often inevitable especially if your ex or yourself lays blame on you. But Dr. Jennice Vilhauer, the author of Think Forward to Thrive says that there is no shame in quitting a relationship that has zero or very little benefits to you. “Leaving might be painful, but staying should not be substituted with your self-respect, dignity, physical, emotional and mental well-being,” she says.

Source: Nation Kenya

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Lifestyle

My Story: I was born with no vagina or womb and needed surgery to allow intimacy

Julian Peter; 29, suffers from a condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH). The syndrome is a rare congenital disorder that affects the female reproductive system. Women with MRKH are born without a womb or upper two-thirds of the birth canal. PHOTO| POOL  

What you need to know:

  • Julian Peter suffers from a rare condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH)
  • The syndrome is a rare congenital disorder that affects the female reproductive system
  • Women with MRKH are born without a womb or upper two-thirds of the birth canal
  • The condition affects one in every 5,000 women across the globe and renders the woman unable to carry children.
  • In 2018, she had a constructive surgery in Tanzania to create a vaginal canal

“At the age of 17, I visited the doctor for a checkup. I had aching feet. The doctor started with normal questions during the consultation. ‘When was your last period?’ My answer was, “I haven’t had my periods yet.” That marked the beginning of a long journey to living with this ghost for life.

I grew up as a healthy child. I am a firstborn in a family of two. My dad passed on while I was young and my mother moved to Nairobi for work.

As a teen, it did not bother me much that I had not yet welcomed my periods. I was still young and naive and the fact that I had no pain, meant I had no alarm bells. While in class eight, my feet swelled but within a few days, I was okay. The swelling recurred while I was in form three and I visited Nazareth Hospital in Limuru for a check-up.

After informing the doctor that I had not got periods, he advised that I needed a checkup. They did a physical checkup only to find out that I didn’t have a vagina. The doctor then recommended a scan to see if my reproductive system was formed.

No Vagina

My first scan showed that my reproductive system was formed but my vagina was closed from the outside. Minor surgery to open it was recommended. During the 2008 surgery, the doctor realised that there was a bigger issue; I had no vagina at all. They had to stop the surgery.

After three days, I went for another scan which revealed that I had no vaginal opening, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes and that I had one kidney. In disbelief, the doctor ordered another scan that confirmed the results. It was too much for me to handle. How could I have all those parts missing? The doctor recommended for an MRI scan to be done and this confirmed that I had Mullerian Agenesis, also called MRKH.

Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome is a rare congenital disorder that affects the female reproductive system. Women with the condition are born without a womb or upper two-thirds of the birth canal. The condition affects one in every 5,000 women across the globe and renders the woman unable to carry children.

After my diagnosis, the doctor said there was nothing much that could be done to rectify it. I was in shock and disbelief. I cried myself to sleep for days. But life had to continue. I went back to school and continued my education. I still hoped it was just but a dream and it would soon dawn that I was a normal girl. I kept hope alive. I did not discuss this with anyone at school. All they knew was, I was treated for my swollen feet. I kept it all to myself. It was easy to forget since I had nothing that kept reminding me I was different. I had no pain and this condition didn’t affect my way of doing things.

In 2010, one year after my high school education, I found the MRI report in the house as I was doing the house cleaning. It hit me again that I had a condition. I had not discussed the issue with anyone for three years. We had not discussed it as a family since the doctor had assured us that nothing could be done. I still had not got my periods.

Acceptance

I did research online to understand what Murelian Agenesis was and that’s when I found the name MRKH. I started learning about my condition and the acceptance journey started. During this time, I thought I was all alone in the world.

Fortunately, in 2015, I watched Joaneva Wanjiru, a Kenyan lady with MRKH, talking about the condition at an interview in K24. I knew I wasn’t alone. She shared her contacts which I noted down and looked for her. She connected me to other ladies with MRKH.

When I met my MRKH sisters, I was able to share without any judgment. They understood me and what I was going through. They shared their love with me. Through MRKH Africa, we were connected to a doctor in Tanzania. Women with MRKH cannot get pregnant, they won’t menstruate and will likely need to undergo special treatment in order to have sex.

In 2018, I went for a constructive surgery in Tanzania to create a vaginal canal. I had prepared myself both physically and emotionally since that process can be draining. The main purpose of going through vaginal canal creation surgery is to enable the lady to have and enjoy penetrative sex.

Having MRKH has taught me to appreciate the smallest of things in life. I have been able to accept that I will never carry my own baby. In most cases, women with MRKH will have normal female chromosomes and ovaries with eggs, meaning they may be able to procreate with the help of IVF and a surrogate. My case is different since I don’t have the ovaries, thus IVF may not work for me. I may consider child adoption when I get enough grace to do it. One step at a time.

I have met men who ran away after hearing about my condition. I am not shy about it.

My greatest joy is to make people understand that there is such a condition and we shouldn’t be treated differently. We should have access to medical care without feeling humiliated. We shouldn’t feel less of women just because we can’t have children.

To me, we only live once, so we should make ourselves happy. And never give up.”

Source:Nation Kenya

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