In our hyper-sexualized world, it is more important than ever for parents to take an active role in teaching sexual health education to their children at home. Leaving these conversations to chance leaves our children at risk. Gratefully, through the B.C. Physical and Health Education curriculum, schools can support parents with the delivery of this sensitive material.
As a Certified Sexual Health Educator, I see myself as a catalyst for conversation between parents and their children, between staff members within schools, as well as administrators and parents. This opportunity is made possible through generous funding from the school’s Parent Advisory Committee.
For some, talking about these sensitive issues is second nature, for others, due to upbringing, past experiences, shame and embarrassment, these topics can be taboo.
So, the question arises, why teach sexual health education and why teach it early?
We are sexual beings from birth to death. The importance of early sexual health education cannot be overlooked.
Here are my top 10 reasons for teaching sexual health education right from the start:
1. Sets the foundation for the development of positive attitudes about sexuality and encourages children to see themselves as sexual beings.
2. Gives children an opportunity to develop accurate vocabulary for sexual learning.
3. Enables young people to receive accurate, age-appropriate information about the questions they are likely to ask.
4. Reduces the secrecy behind male and female sexual development
5. Children gain control of their small world by naming it. With each new private body part word, the child grows in understanding and power. Once a sexual part is named, the child can talk about it, ask questions about it and understand its specialness.
6. Knowing the private body part names, being aware of the difference between private and public spaces and knowing the difference between safe, unsafe and secret touch, increases abuse resistance in children. They are less attractive to a sexual predator.
7. Shuts down mythical information that the child may hear on the school playground, internet, media and from friends.
8. Allows children to set healthy sexual boundaries for themselves. When boundaries are crossed, a child is more likely to report the incident to a trusted adult.
9. More likely to see a doctor as an adult if they experience reproductive challenges later on in life.
10. Establishes the parent as the child’s number one sexual health educator. Building a strong foundation of trust allows for frank conversations when children enter the teen years.
As schools continue to be the main source of Sexual Health information for children and adolescents, they can support parents in the following ways:
1. Currently in B.C., there is very little sexual health training for new teachers. It is helpful to bring in an expert in this area.
2. Books are a great way to open conversations around difficult topics. Library funds or school fundraisers may be allocated to purchase books for both students and parents.
3. Provide a parent information night before the sexual health curriculum is taught.
4. Send a letter home that advises parents of the timing and delivery of the sexual health program. Encourage parents to attend these classes if time permits.
5. Make the contact information of the sexual health provider easily accessible to parents through the website, school newsletters, etc.
When parents, teachers, mentors and caregivers talk openly and honestly about sexuality, children and teenagers will have the comfort, knowledge and support they need to achieve healthy sexual lives. We want this for all of our children.