There's No Place Like Home for Sex Education: 3rd Grade
It's Time to Talk
How was the subject of sex handled in your family when you were growing up? Was it a fairly open topic? Were your parents willing to talk about sexual issues in a frank and honest manner? Did they encourage you to discuss questions or concerns you might have?
If the answer is yes, consider yourself fortunate—and unusual. Those raised in families which placed a high priority on open, honest communication about sex are truly a rare breed.
Traditionally, sex education in America has been of the "too little, too late" variety. Perhaps it was assumed that "when the time comes, the kids will figure out what they need to know." That approach didn't work well then—and it certainly doesn't work now. So … how many of you want to do things differently with your children?We live in a sexually explicit world. Children hear all kinds of sexual references and (mis)information at an early age. If parents were privy to the schoolyard conversations of typical 3rd graders, they might well be shocked! Sexuality is fascinating to these kids—a subject they chatter about with significant inaccuracy. This isn't surprising, considering their two main sources of information tend to be each other and the media. Not a comforting thought.
So you see, the issue is not "sex education: yes or no?" but "sex education: when and by whom?"
First and foremost, parents need to be the "whom." After all, as a parent, you are the expert when it comes to passing along family values around sexuality. You are the one who can best speak from the heart, offering guidance and support to the children you love. This is not to say that accurate, useful information is unavailable elsewhere. But certainly parents need to be the key providers of that education.
Ideally, the "when" would be from birth. Truly, this is the time to begin establishing a conscious and loving family environment designed to promote positive attitudes toward sexuality. Remember that parents communicate—in both verbal and non-verbal ways—perceptions, beliefs, and judgments about sexuality. This communication begins, often unconsciously, with the birth of their child. And it has powerful, long-term impact on that child's developing attitudes.
Children raised in families that value and promote open communication about sex are more likely to form a positive, respectful outlook toward sexuality. We know this from research, from experience and from just plain common sense. We also know that over the years, this translates into greater ability to make positive, healthy, and respectful decisions about sex.
It may be tempting to shrug all of this off with "Hey, I didn't get much sex education from my parents—and I turned out ok." But keep in mind: our world has changed dramatically since we were kids. What may have sufficed in the past is grossly inadequate now.
Keep in mind too that you needn't go it alone. There are many excellent resources to support and assist you. Check with your local Planned Parenthood, health department or physician.
Talking with Your Child About Sex
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Reprinted with the permission of Advocates for Youth.
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