Why is sex education important? How can parents and teachers work together?
Sex Education is the process of acquiring information and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy. Sex education is also about developing young people’s skills so that they make informed choices about their behavior, and feel confident and competent about acting on these choices.
Teaching about sexuality encourages students to develop a coherent set of personal values based upon respecting themselves and others. Students who understand and value themselves and others are better equipped to develop meaningful and respectful relationships. They are able to take a positive approach in managing their lives and develop the necessary skills to prepare them for current and future life challenges.
Sexuality education lays the foundations for students by learning the correct names for parts of the body, understanding principles of human reproduction, exploring family and interpersonal relationships, learning about safety, and developing confidence. These can then be built upon gradually, in line with the age and development of a child.
Sex education encompasses a range of relationships, not only sexual relationships. Children are aware of and recognise these relationships long before they act on their sexuality and therefore need the skills to understand their bodies, relationships and feelings from an early age.
Ideally, talking to your child about sex is an ongoing process that begins when they are very young. It’s best not to think of sex education as a single lecture given when a child reaches puberty. By the age of four, most children are curious about certain sexual issues and they need clear, honest and brief answer to their questions.
Don’t think that telling a child about sex makes them sexually precocious. On the contrary, research indicates that children who have a clear understanding about certain sexual issues are more likely to behave responsibly, for example waiting until they are older before they start having sex. If you talk to your preschooler about sex, it paves the way for open communication about sexual issues as they get older.
At home and in school the goal of sexuality education is help our young people develop a positive view of sexuality, provide them information to take care of their emotional and physical health, and help them develop skills to make healthy decisions now and in the future.
At home, young people can easily have one-on –one discussions with parents which focus on specific issues, questions or concern. They can have a dialogue about their attitudes and views. Sex education at home also tends to take place over a long time, and involve lots of short interactions between parents and children. As young people get older, advantage can be taken of opportunities provided by things seen on television for example, as an opportunity to initiate conversation. It is also important not to defer dealing with a question or issue for too long as it can suggest that you are unwilling to talk about it. There is evidence that positive parent-child communication has a positive effect about child’s sexual behavior in the future.
In school the interaction between the teacher and young people takes different and is often provided in organized blocks of lessons. It is not as well suited to advising the individual as it is to providing information from an impartial point of view. The most effective sex education acknowledges the different contributions each setting can make. School programmes which involve parents, notifying them that what is being taught and when, can support the initiation of dialogue at home.
Parents are the primary educator of their child’s sexuality education. That is why it is essential that parents and schools work together to ensure that consistent messages reach our youth. The most important predictors of the current and future health status of our young people are consistent messages from home, school, and community coupled with knowledge, skills and the belief that one can use the skills to change one’s life.