There's No Place Like Home for Sex Education: 5th Grade (page 4)

— Advocates For Youth
Updated on Apr 21, 2014

Tell Me I'm OK

Many 5th graders are anxious about the rapid changes they're experiencing, both physically and emotionally; they're worried about their bodies: am I too short? too tall? Why am I so flat chested? When will my penis grow? I hate my nose! They feel uncoordinated as arms and legs grow, completely out of sync with one another; their moods are erratic, for no apparent reason. Of course, it wouldn't be cool to ask anybody about this stuff, so they frequently just suffer in silence. No wonder self-esteem can take a nosedive during puberty! Self-esteem is something which parents have nurtured (or not) in their child since birth. In fact, it's during the very early years that children develop a sense of their OK-ness. For example: If they're angry about his behavior, mom and dad reassure Jay they still love him—this promotes a positive sense of self; Lisa is encouraged to attempt new skills, to stretch her abilities, and then is praised for the trying—this promotes self-esteem; David is reminded that his differences from others (whether physical, intellectual … whatever) make him the unique and special person he is—that builds self-concept. At this stage, parents would do well to be especially aware of their children's need for encouragement and support. Young people have a difficult lesson to learn: self-esteem is not and cannot be based upon what others think of them. The bottom line is how a person feels about himself. As one father told his daughter: "Annie, not everyone is going to like you. And that's ok. What counts is that you like yourself." That's a difficult concept for adults to accept, much less children! As parents, we can offer our children encouragement, understanding, trust, praise, and appreciation. We can help them feel successful, acknowledging their successes, and teaching them to learn from the failures. Along with this, we can provide complete and accurate information about growth and development about the physical, emotional, and sexual issues which are all part of puberty. With factual background, the unknown becomes less scary, less likely to cause confusion and worry which so often threaten self-esteem. Research tells us that the sexual decisions and behaviors of adolescents are greatly influenced by self-esteem. High self-esteem correlates with more positive, healthy, and responsible choices. Young people sometimes operate under the illusion that a sexual relationship proves they are loved, worthy, etc. They may agree to or even seek out sexual activity in a misguided effort to prove their self-worth. Yet premature sexual activity can leave young people hurt, confused, guilty, scared—perhaps even pregnant or infected with a sexually transmitted infection. Needless to say, the ultimate outcome can sometimes be the further erosion of self-esteem. We owe it to young people to discuss these issues with them in depth; to share our perspective about the place of sexuality in one's life; to answer their questions; to listen to their thoughts, opinions, and concerns. Rather than assume that your 5th grader has plenty of time for such discussion, realize that children are growing up much faster these days. We must prepare them to grow up safely—informed and self-assured.

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