Gender education in schools
Transition from childhood to adulthood is not simple. Adolescence is a period of change. The physical aspect, cognitive development as well as intellectual, emotional and social facets; every child moves through a bumpy roller coaster ride. Nobody likes change; children too are unprepared for it and may face hardships in dealing with their own life situation. It is each parent and caregiver’s responsibility to ensure evolution of children to mature adults.
Gender awareness and education has always been an appalling concern for parents who have had to have ‘the talk’ with their soon to be adolescents. There are obvious reasons why mothers take up the task of ‘educating’ their daughters and fathers, their sons. Both men and women were designed differently; in their anatomy, physiology, psychology. Coming to accept each of these in a personal and environmental perspective is the basis of identity development. Children need this to be premeditated at the appropriate moment so that the transition to adulthood is smooth and deliberate.
Changing trends: Men vs. Women
Manliness is often acknowledged to be about boisterousness, while womanhood ascribed to submission and compliance. The world has changed. People have changed, so have their environments. Children can often get confused about their identity roles and it may generate negative concept. Premature awareness of one’s bodily changes can arouse concern in children with precocious puberty while some who develop these changes later may be anxious of the delay. The matter of concern is the manner in which issues are dealt with.
Girls dream of growing into ‘attractive sensual’ women and boys into ‘striking macho’ men. Adolescents are granted their share of fun; meeting people, chuckling, teasing, blushing in girls; impressionistic and rebellious attitudes on boys; but above all, the incessant interest in the opposite gender, the need and want to befriend them and experiment with physical attraction. Commonly at age 10- 11 in girls and 11-12 in boys; these physical as well as emotional changes begin to appear. Nature takes its own course and children have to bear with transitions responsibly. But this changeover doesn’t have to be left to chance. There is a choice of being prepared. And that is the wiser choice we need to take for our children.
Information education communication
Informing children about biological changes of puberty: breast growth and menarche in girls, genital changes in both genders, voice alteration and awareness about erection in boys, for instance; is only the tip of the iceberg of awareness. Biological education can leave children ill-informed about socio-emotional changes they endure in adolescence. This amounts to ignorance of the concepts of sexual arousal and physical attraction which adds to anxiety and acting on these feelings. A little knowledge after all, is a dangerous thing.
Most schools offer sexual educative programs. This is an effortful initiative towards healthy identity development. Girls need to know about the male body, likewise boys also need responsiveness of the female form and persona besides their own bodily changes in order to interact with and accept girls in a fitting demeanor. At times school teachers themselves feel a little shy about the issue. To make children comfortable, we show them how relaxed we are at discussing it and how normal they should consider these talks with their peers too.
MINDFRAMES: Reframing teenage identity
We aim to reassure children regarding pubertal changes, elucidating that these are normal and expected. Children tend to feel apprehensive, as if they are the only ones experiencing the tumultuous turmoil of teenage. Often they get conscious of their appearance, weary of their ability to adjust and afraid of the life that lies ahead of them. When crisis becomes normative, it ceases to be appalling and becomes easy to accept. We also answer children’s questions in the interactive sessions and make the process full of fun; thereby facilitating open expression and collaborative learning. Children thus learn that although considered a taboo, these talks are a must have and can be viewed as familiar as any other conversation.