I’m on a rant. I’ll admit it. Here in Ontario, Canada, our provincial government has just brought in new sex education curriculum. Ontario sex curriculum hasn’t been changed since 1999. Before cell phones, ‘sexting’ and google. It’s a whole new game.
So how do we as parents provide great sexual health education (and we need to – knowledge is power!)? Can parents support teachers to guarantee all kids in our neighbourhoods get the same “talk”? Having a good standard education curriculum means that teachers can provide context, researched answers and support to students struggling with gender identity, body image, substance misuse, or at-risk sexual behaviour. All good things, say I.
So How Do We Do It? Without making it AWKWARD?
- We can avoid the BIG talk by having lots of little talks. While the kid is relaxing in a bath. When we are on a long car drive. In the grocery store. In the forest listening to chickadees call out for “friends”.
- We can start with the basics. There is great benefit in having simple scientific names for our body parts. It means we count all our body parts as significant and lovely (not ignored): knees, noses and testicles. If something hurts or someone hurts us, we have the words to describe the experience.
- Curiosity is wonderful. Questioning and a love of learning can take us a long way in this life. We can learn together. By answering questions we let our children know we want to have these conversations. We want to be the person they go to for answers. (Also it’s good for them to know grownups don’t have all answers all the time.)
- We can create spaces for gender fluid and understandings of gender diversity. As soon as my child started kindergarten, gender norms became a constant conversation: “Boys can wear dresses”,“ Some boys have vaginas.” We need to acknowledge difference and teach allyship. Allie’s best friend corrects other kids who use the wrong pronoun. I love this little activist.
- It’s okay to feel uncomfortable talking about SEX. As children, we probably didn’t get adequate sex education. We can acknowledge this with our kids. And we can do better.