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We have all watched a scene in a movie or a TV show where a confident parent tries to prepare their growing child for the changes to come. As the child sits there in horror not wanting to have such a conversation.
Whether or not these types of conversations happen within households is beyond me, but I know that it is not spoken about enough within our Muslim community. Such things are considered taboo and often result in parents withdrawing their children from classroom lessons relating to this topic. I do not see a problem with taking charge as a parent and deciding at what age what content is taught to your child. Some parents, however, do not provide the information themselves. Instead they shelter their children from the whole subject completely. Let's be honest our children are growing up in a world so fast-paced with much more exposure. As parents, should we then not mold our own lessons to fit our religious beliefs and teach them about the changes to come and what to expect? In a world where information is at our fingertips, as much as we try, we cannot monitor everything our children do. Therefore, we should focus on creating a safe space for dialogue as they are growing up.
In some of the households we grew up in, this topic of change was probably never brought up. Honestly, I can't blame our elders and parents either, as they grew up completely alien to the concept of being able to ask such questions to their parents. Many of them just dealt with situations as they came, which can be a very scary thing.
I was once told a story of a 12-year-old girl in Somalia who had been crying for hours sitting in a pool of her own blood; she thought she was dying. One of her older sisters eventually walked in and asked why she was sitting on the floor. The older sister still confused tried to lift her off the ground and noticed the puddle of blood she had been sitting in. She explained to her that this was normal and part of life, that when girls get to a certain age they bleed from there and feel discomfort for a few days. She told her she was not going to die, but had become a woman. Another story told to me was of a young girl living in the UK who also thought she was dying. She thought the two lumps protruding from her chest were tumours and not her body changing into womanhood.
Imagine being that young and thinking you are going to die?
For all those 90s babies, who grew up with limited access to the internet and mute parents, they probably have many stories that they now laugh at. Thankfully, my mum prepared me when she thought I was the appropriate age. Being the eldest child, she gave me this talk of what changes to expect at around the age of 10. Despite my mother being my best friend, having these conversations started off awkward, as one would expect. However, once that wall came down I was very comfortable going to her with all my questions and worries.
This is such a big and important topic often not addressed, and this cycle of silence is not healthy. We need to provide the younger generation with the tools to prepare for what is to come. We as parents need to create a timeline for our children, teaching them what they need to know from an Islamic standpoint. Growing up I would never associate intimacy and Islam. The only Islamic reference provided was that we are responsible for our actions after we hit puberty. Islam has given us answers to everything so that we may live our lives accordingly but many of us were not exposed to it.
We (the current generation) who have become parents need to be able to create these safe spaces within our homes. You have your child’s best interest at heart, the same can't be said for public schools who mold their lessons on the values of the current society. Let's show our children that they can be just as prepared as their peers. Let us eliminate the concept of taboo, and encourage them to come to us with their questions—not the internet.