Dear reader: Before you go any further into this post, may I proudly announce that I have just been published on the Fit Mama website! Follow this link (click here) to read about my experience with fitness!
The recent distribution of a sexual health education leaflet by our school to its students (Grades Primary to 5) has created a general outcry within the community.
Some of the reactions, by parents upon opening school bags, read as follows on the social media:
"I almost died!"
"This is disgusting! [Sex ed] shouldn't happen until they're 12."
The parents (mostly moms) were going to the barricades about this leaflet. I hadn't opened it yet, so this strong reaction definitely piqued my curiosity. What horrors was I going to find in the leaflet?
Turns out the outcomes for elementary school children were very, very reasonable:
- What makes up a family/diverse family structures
- How to identify a safe and trusted adult
- The proper names for body parts, including what areas of the body are private
- Concepts related to sexual abuse
- Gender and gender identity
- Body image
- Physical and emotional changes associated with puberty
- To think critically about media messages
- That sexual orientation is part of our personal identity, and that homophobia has harmful effects
One mom protested "But those topics have nothing to do with sexual education!"
Unknowingly, this mom had put her finger on one of the biggest challenges when it comes to teach our children about sexuality: in many adults' minds, the word sexuality evokes genitalia in particular and sexual intercourse in general.
But sexuality encompasses much, much more than that!
The first time I opened a book about sexuality with my daughters, I was ready to explain, in a matter-of-fact way, how "babies are made". To my surprise, however, my daughters showed very little interest in the actual "mechanics" of it. They wanted to know how you name each body part, what happens when people of different ethnic origins have kids together, etc. Not much about "the act" itself.
So I did as my friend the sexologist always advises: I simply answered their questions, as clearly and honestly as I could, without putting any embarrassment into the equation. And I did not get ahead: I let them lead the discussion. Because children will only ask a question when they're ready to hear the answer.
In any case, I've always approached the topic keeping in mind that the reproductive system is just another one in the body, along with the digestive, the circulatory, the respiratory. Why make a big deal out of it? Keeping taboos usually doesn't yield great results.
Sounds simple enough to me.
Now the issue might be that we, as adults, are not always entirely comfortable talking about sexuality, especially to children. But asking ourselves "Am I, as a parent, ready to explain those things?" is irrelevant. Children deserve honest answers, and we would be selfish to let our own discomfort with this topic get in the way.
Plus, if those things aren't explained in a respectful and age-appropriate way (at school or at home), how do you think our kids will learn about them? And when? (Knowing that puberty happens earlier and earlier! Wait until they're 12, as the above mentioned mother suggests, and you will likely have missed the boat altogether!)
Not knowing what to expect, thinking "it's disgusting", or learning about it in the wrong circumstances, could be a passport to having an unhealthy relationship with one's sexuality. Who would wish that for their kids?
Luckily, some parents who reacted to the leaflet had it right. One said "Maybe it's better she learns the info properly from her teacher than on the playground". Another said "I'd rather my child learn this stuff than be in the dark and have no clue".
- Have you talked about those topics with your kids? How did you go about it? How did they react?
- Did you learn about sexuality in optimal, respectful circumstances when you were younger?