Parent, children close relationship vital | Daily News
Love, sex and schoolchildren

Parent, children close relationship vital


The lack of access to sexual and reproductive health knowledge is one of the reasons for sexual health issues among youth in Sri Lanka. Following are the excerpts from an exclusive interview conducted with Senior Registrar in Community Medicine, College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka

Dr. Dilini Mataraarachchi on one of her researches conducted on ‘love, sex and schoolchildren’.


Q: Is it normal for the schoolchildren to have love affairs and be involved in sexual relationships?

A: With the onset of puberty and rise in the sexual hormone levels, sex, love and romance become co-dimensions of a young person’s life. Attraction to the opposite sex or the same sex is very much common during this age. Following puberty they become interested in forming romantic relationships.

According to a recent study over one third (36%) of adolescents reported having engaged in a romantic relationship by the age of 13, and 70% by the age of 19. Furthermore, puberty is accompanied by an increase in curiosity to explore sex. Most young people tend to explore sex information by searching the internet, watching porn videos and magazines, and discussing with peers.

According to research 2% of adolescents across the world are sexually active at the age of 12 while the rate climbs up to 71% by the age of 19.

Q: What is the health impact of sexual relationships on schoolchildren?

A: The data show that sexual activity among teenagers and youth are on a rise. A study conducted among unmarried youth in Sri Lanka in 2022 indicates that 10% of the teenagers (15-19 years) had sexual intercourse with an unknown person. In 2016, there was one teenage mother among every 20 pregnancies that occurred in Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, the authorities have observed a recent rise of HIV/AIDs incidence among Sri Lankan youth. In addition to this, sexual abuse and coercion among young persons are common everywhere in the society; at home, at school, at work and even in public places. These have led to various negative physical health outcomes in teenage girls and adverse mental health impacts among youth such as depression and anxiety and social health impacts like school withdrawal, unemployment and poverty, which will ultimately push the child into prostitution and other long-term health risks.

Q: What are the reasons for sexual health issues among youth?

A: It is found that lack of access to sexual and reproductive health knowledge is a main reason for sexual health issues among youth in Sri Lanka. Evidence across the world suggests that early SRH education is associated with reduced sexual risk behaviour among youth.

However, in Sri Lanka social taboos, cultural beliefs and stigmas have become a major obstacle in providing sexual health knowledge to youth. Although sexual and reproductive health education has been a part of the school curriculum for nearly three decades, we do not see much advancement in sexual health knowledge, attitudes or practices in our youth. Studies have identified that many Sri Lankan adolescents lack the expected level of knowledge on sexual health and depend on unreliable sources in getting sexual health information such as peers (55%).

Q: Do you think Sri Lankan youth have adequate knowledge on love and sex?

A: Sexual and reproductive education has been a part of the Sri Lankan school curriculum for nearly three decades now. However, the level of implementation of the sexual health component in school curriculum is questionable. Not many students are satisfied with the current school sexual health education. In addition, many teachers have expressed reluctance and lack of self-confidence in delivering the content. Compulsory, comprehensive sexuality education for all Grade 12 students is currently at the piloting stage.

Although sexual awareness programmes for and life-skills programmes for adolescents are being carried out at the Medical officer of Health (MOH) level on an ad-hoc basis, consistent delivery of such programmes is not to be seen.

The road to SRH education of Sri Lankan children is paved with longstanding taboos and socio-political restrictions. Even though the health authorities have tried to introduce new methods of sexual health teaching into the school curriculum, it has not been successful so far due to the resistance from the society.

One important thing we need to know is that along with knowledge it is more important to improve young people's attitudes and skills to prevent negative consequences of love and sexual relationships. Children should be provided with skills to say ‘no’ to what they don’t like, to communicate, and to manage emotions.

Research carried out so far has shown that the majority of the Sri Lankan youth lack knowledge or healthy attitudes over sexual health matters including pregnancy, contraception, or sexually transmitted disease. It was also found that estate sector youth’s knowledge on pregnancy and contraception is even more deficient than the urban youth.

Q: What is the parent’s responsibility towards a young person’s love and sexual health matters?

A: Parents are the primary educators of children. Their ability to individualize sexual health information according to the needs of their children, and the religious, cultural and family expectations make parents a good source of sexual health information to children.

The level of closeness and support children have experienced with their parents and siblings influences the quality of their romantic relationships in future. Parents should keep close contact with their children and encourage children to come-up with day-to-day problems they are facing including those related to love and sex. This should be initiated by the parent without waiting for the child to communicate first.

A recent study found that a majority of Sri Lankan adolescents are keen on sharing their sexual health matters with their parents. However, they fear parental perception and criticism they might receive when discussing these issues with parents. Besides, they are uncertain about the parent’s ability to respond to their love and sex related queries.

The same study found that many Sri Lankan parents are keen on providing sexual health information to their children and perceived their role as primary sex educators to children. However, parents limit their discussion to less embarrassing topics like menstrual and puberty while they avoid topics related to love and sex. Furthermore, parents fear providing contraceptive information to their children thinking that this will encourage the children to engage in sex. Lack of self-confidence is one main barrier to communicating sexual health matters with children as pointed out by many parents.

Parents should break the traditional boundaries and start discussing these topics with their children. It is important that they practice a non-judgmental approach when discussing these topics. Besides, the parental behaviours within the family context also affect their children’s relationships.

Parental conflicts and separation can alter young people’s views of commitment in their own relationships. Exposure to serious conflicts between parents can also make a child psychologically disturbed and lead to perpetrate or be victimized by sexual violence.

Q: What are the things that can be done to improve parent’s involvement in their children’s sexual health matters?

A: Studies across the world have shown that parent’s communication with their children about love and sex can have a protective effect among adolescents and promote their health. Sri Lankan parents need to be equipped with required knowledge and skills in order to improve their engagement and communication with their children regarding sexual health matters. It is important to implement parent awareness and skill-building sessions in parallel to sexuality education of adolescents. Parents should be empowered to come out of their traditional thinking and to openly discuss these matters with children.

Q: How can we deal with various types of myths and issues related to love and sex?

A: Love and sex are ‘hush-hush’ topics in our community. This is a main reason for developing myths and issues related to love and sex in South-Asian countries like ours. We need to ensure that our children are receiving correct sexual health information from appropriate sources. School-based sexual health education is a very good way of providing sexual health information to children. Currently the sexual health components are being introduced into the vocational training curriculum as well. However, effective implementation of school and university based sexual health education needs to be ensured by continuous training of teachers and by introducing new teaching methods into the curriculum.

Family-based sexual education is the other way of dealing with these issues. Parents need to be open-minded and knowledgeable about various types of love and sex related issues faced by their adolescent children and be ready to help them whenever they are in need. Maintaining a close relationship with your children from a very young age is important. If communication between parents and children is positive and supportive in childhood and early adolescence, youth are more likely to interact positively with their parents when they are grown-ups. Moreover, communicating with them about topics related to love and sex at a younger age will help to lower the embarrassment related to discussing these topics and motivate your child to come-up with their issues related to love and sex when they have grown up.

Along with knowledge improvement it is very much important to improve a young person’s skills on handling problems related to love and sex. It’s not just sex education but life skill-based sexual health education that we need to provide to our children. They should be equipped with communication skills, decision making skills, resilience and creative and critical thinking skills.

Q: What are the services available for children who face various sexual health issues?

A: Youth friendly health services are being carried out via every MOH office in Sri Lanka. In addition, there are Yowun Piyasa centres attached to 36 hospitals islandwide at present. These centres are equipped with a medical officer and a nursing officer who are especially trained to handle health issues faced by the young persons. Any child who is facing any kind of physical, mental, and social health issues including those related to love and sex can be referred to these centres. They can even just walk into these centres and get the services offered by experts in the field.


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