SEX EDUCATION TO ADOLESCENTS
( By Dr. Vithal Prabhu )

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Skills for Adoescents

Adolescents need to develop positive social behaviour, such as self discipline, responsibility, good judgement and ability to get along with other. Behaviour is learnt by observing others who are rewarded for the behaviour. Behaviour should be positively reinforced than through punishment. Not only the requisite skill but also a clear sense of self-efficacy is required to perform the behaviour. Strong sense of commitment to other people and to the community may be crucial in preventing anti-social behaviour.

Developing Self-confidence: People who are self confident, do better at school, get better job and have a rewarding future. YOU CAN DO IT IF YOU THINK YOU CAN. “Every thing goes wrong with me; I am unlucky; nobody likes me” is a wrong attitude. Self confidence is often a key to success. Self confidence is not inborn. It develops (or thwarts) during childhood and early adolescence. The pillars of self confidence are:




  1. Feeling Skilful You need not be the ‘BEST’— just skilful. You can be skilful if you work at it. It is a matter of trying and not giving up. Children are always terrified of failures. Therefore, they refuse to try. They need to learn that it’s okay to fail at something, and that they should feel confident enough to bounce back and keep trying. The child should know that failure is not the end of the world, and that parents still like him. To achieve big success, children should start with small ones.


  2. Feeling appreciated We gain self confidence when we feel accepted, loved, listened to and supported by other people.


  3. Taking responsibility The adolescent has to develop ability to make healthy decisions, take responsibility for their actions, and be aware of their effects on others. Remember, self confidence is something that can be developed.

Communication: Communication is the art of sharing information, feelings, attitudes and relating effectively to others. It is the art of breaking the walls that separate the people and building the bridges that help the relationship to flourish. Communication is necessary in human relationship. There are different forms of communication that include verbal (a dialogue), non verbal (a smile or a touch), sign (waving a hand) and written (letter). Verbal and nonverbal communications do not always convey the same message.

Many of the agreements or disagreements in the families and friends depend upon the good or poor communication.

Factors that improve communication:


  • Careful listening
  • Clear speaking
  • Making eye contact
  • Stating feelings
  • Trying to understand other’s point of view
  • Offering possible solutions to problems
  • Giving positive non verbal messages such as a smile

It is likely that the communication between parents and adolescents break down at this age instead of improving. When the adolescents need their parents, they do not know how to communiate that need to their parents; and perhaps parents too won’t know how to begin to rebuild the relationship with their children.

Aspects of Communication Between Parents and Children:



  1. Understanding: Adolescents have a culture of their own. The parents can’t be a part of that culture. The culture gap can become a real wall between the parent and the adolescent. It is important for the parents to understand their child’s need for a special culture. The parents also have to choose the areas of disagreement. If his choice of music, reading or TV programme is different, it is not worth disagreeing. Such insignificant issues should not build a wall between the parents and the child. Appearance and dress are similar issues and should not be protested. It may create misunderstanding.


  2. Timing: Scheduling a certain time each week to talk to the adolescent may be needed. Parents should act as if they are looking forward to them and enjoy them. Such meetings should be informal. Adolescents should feel relaxed and open up to their parents.


  3. Listening: The best way to understand the teenager and keep the communication open is to learn the simple art of asking good questions. The child should not be put on a witness stand. The questions asked should make him easy to answer.


  4. Feeling: Adolescents have feelings and their feelings are important to them. A good approach to expressing any feeling, including anger, is to begin with, “I feel.....” rather than yelling at him.


  5. Touching: We communicate also through non verbal ways. One of the strongest forms of communication is through touching. Touching is a powerful tool of communication. Touching helps provide assurance of love. It is particularly effective after a conflict.

    Negotiation: Negotiation allows people to solve a problem or resolve a conflict. It is a way to get one’s needs met without using guilt, anger or intimidation. It requires give and take on the part of both the persons. Negotiation works best when a problem of conflit is addressed in its early stages. Many relationships and sexual concerns can be resolved through negotiations.

    Effective negotiation requires




    1. Careful observation of the other person


    2. Useof positive body language


    3. Good verbal communication


    4. Imagining oneself in the other person’s position


    5. Identifying all options in a situation


    6. Reaching a mutual agreement


Most relationships have some conflict even if it is short lived. (A conflict is disagreement or a clash of some kind). Some people get angry, defensive or aggressive when they are involved in conflict. When conflict is strong, people may yell at each other, accuse each other, threaten each other, ignore or misunderstand each other. Therefore, it is important to be able to get through the confusion and agner in a conflict; and solve the problem in a way that will be satisfying to both sides.

The following “Six-step Problem-solving Process” offers a way to work through problems effectively by getting answers to the following questions:

Step One: What is the problem and the resultant feel- ings?

Step Two: What questions need to be asked to clarify the problem?

Step Three: What are all the possible ways of solving the problem?

Step Four: Which alternative are unacceptable to some one involved?

Step Five: Which solution allows both sides to “win” if possible?

Step Six: How well did the solution work?

Decision Making
During that adolescence, young people begin making decisions that will have lasting effects on their lives. The issues could be sex, drug abuse, alcohol, smoking or discontinuation of studies. The adolescents need the skills to make healthy decisions. They receive several wrong, messages through advertisements in news papers and TV. These are to be counteracted through positive decisions.

Our values affect the decisions we make. Adolescents have to identify values to make healthy decisions. They have to accept the responsibility for making their own decisions. In addition, our decisions are motivated by the things we need. A “need” is physical, mental or emotional requirement for survival and well being, e.g., food, clothing, shelter, love, attention, respect. A “need” is not a “want.” A “want” is a desire for something we could live without, but that appears to improve the quality of life, e.g., nice clothes, a good stereo, TV etc.

The Needs are:


  • l The need to survive: This comes first. Food, water, air, rest etc. are essential for survival.


  • l The need for safety: This is next important. We have to be physically and mentally safe and secured.


  • l The need to belong: Once we are assured of being alive and safe, there is a need for acceptance and love.


  • l The need for respect: Once the above three needs are well met, we need recognition and respect. This need has two parts: The need for self respect (thinking well of ourselves) and the need for respect from others (others thinking well of us).


  • l The need to make the most of ourselves: We need to become as much as we can in life and develop our potential through physical, mental, and emotional growth.

How to Make Healthy and Positive Decisions: People are not born with the ability to take wise and healthy decisions. They learn through trial and error. It is possible by learning critical-thinking and decision-making skills.


  1. Step One: Identify the situation.


  2. Step Two: Look at alternative courses of action.


  3. Step Three: Consider the informatin you have. Examine the probable consequences (negative/positive).


  4. Step Four: Decide on the best possible course of action.


  5. Step Five: Evaluate the results of the decision.

Risk-taking decisions we make: There are decisions which are associated with different types of risks. Physical Risks: Swimming, driving, drug, sex, hiking, mountain climbing etc. Legal: Stealing, running away, shop lifting, carrying a weapon etc. Social: Revealing someone’s secret, criticizing someone etc.

Cross-cultural: Adapting a new culture, experimenting with new social behaviour etc. Why people take such risks? – For pleasure or thrill – To prove yourself – Possible benefits – Experience of something new – Out of commitment to others – To show off – To achieve goal – To gain approval – Because of deep belief Remember, taking risks can lead to both positive (e.g., a contest) or negative (e.g., smoking) consequences.

The best decision is one that:


  • Is consistant with one’s values
  • Does not involve risk to one’s health.
  • Does not involve breaking of law.
  • Does not have negative social implications.

Assertiveness
Assertiveness is communicating feelings and needs while respecting the rights of others. You are assertive when you stand up for your personal rights without putting down the rights of others. Everyone has rights. It is alright to tell your feelings and needs. Assertiveness is a skill and can be learnt and improved. Most women are not assertive in our culture. Both men and women should be assertive.

People always have the right to refuse any person’s request for any type of sexual behaviour or use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Successful persons are often assertive in their personal and work relationships. Sexual partners need to communicate clearly about their needs and limits.

Behaviour that helps people to be assertive includes:


  • To be honest
  • To be spontaneous in communicating feelings and needs using assertive body language.
  • To speak for oneself
  • To take responsibility for one’s feelings and needs.

Assertiveness is different from aggressiveness and passiveness.

Passive Assertive Aggressive



  1. Takes no action Stands up for his Stands up for his to assert his own rights without rights with no right. putting down thought about the rights of other person others


  2. Puts others first Respects himself Puts himself first at his expense. as well as the at the expense of other person others


  3. Gives in to what Listens and talks Overpowers other wants. others.


  4. Remains silent Expresses positive Gets his own goal, when something and negative but at the expense bothers him. feelings. of others.


  5. Apologizes a lot. Confident but not Always pushy and pushy. never apologizes.

When a friend asks him her to buy whisky/cigarrettes/drug or have sex, he/she would respond in three ways. 1. “Well, I don’t know... I don’t think it is a good idea... we might get in trouble...” —(Passive response)
2. “You dummy, don’t you know we could get in trouble?” —(Aggressive response)
3. “No, I won’t feel right doing that. I don’t want to get in trouble. Let us go and get a Pepsi instead.” —(Assertive response) It is not just what you say, but also how you say to someone is important to let that person know that you don’t want to be pressurised. In assertive response l An “I” statement similar to “I feel” l A reason for saying “No” l A suggested alternative l The person maintains an eye contact l Stands up straight l Speaks clearly l Sounds confident Remember, Passive people are not respected, aggressive people are disliked and assertive people are respected and they respect themselves. Advantages of being assertive: Can say “No” without feeling guilty Avoids arguing Has better relationship Others will respect him Disagrees without being angry Feels better about himself Has respect for himself

Seeking Help:



  1. People are faced with problems in life.


  2. Clothing, habits, mannerism, recreation, religious/social customs, choosing vocation or friends or a life partner may pose problems and may lead to conflicts between adolescents and parents.


  3. Addiction to alcohol/drugs, money, violence, abuse, love, sex, health are some examples of problems that may need help.


  4. Some solve their problems by themselves. Some need help from others. Some seek help from friends.


  5. Family members help each other to solve the problems. Family members who have communication with their childern find it easy to solve problems. Some family members do not communicate or have angry exchange of words. Then the adolescents withdraw from their parents. “Old good; new is bad” is the opinion of seniors. Progress is possible in life only by changes. Every new generation learns from old generation and tries to adjust. 6. When parents and childern cannot resolve the problem, a third person is required. If parents can’t help, one should ask help from a friend’s parents, teacher or a trusted adult.


  6. There are community agencies also that can provide help. Some agencies have a telephone crisis line (hot line) so that people can talk about the problem to someone.


  7. Sometimes there are problems in the family that require professional help. Trained counsellors, sex therapists, doctors, teachers, religeous heads, advocates, psychologists or psychiatrists may provide necessary help.


  8. The services include counselling, medical aid, health and sex education, sex therapy, psychotherapy, legal advice, family planning, adoption, foster care, loan, rehabilitation, care of unwed mothers, de-addiction, etc.


  9. It is difficult for people to admit that they need help. Asking for help is a wise decision. To seek professional help can be a sign of strength.
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