5yo Friend to my 8yo: You are wearing a ring. Are you married?
My 8yo: No. I’m not even a teenager. I’m too young to get married
Other friend: You can have babies when you are a teenager, but you have to wait until you are an adult to get married.
5yo: Yeah, when your stomach is ready a baby can just grow in there.
My 8yo: No. a man and a woman have to have sex to make a baby.
8yo sister of 5yo: We know all about the sex
5yo: Yeah, I know all about the sexing.
8yo sister: Our parents don’t like us talking about the sex in front of my sister. She is too little.
This was the conversation I encountered last week among my daughters and a number of their friends after school while they were digging a rather sizeable hole in the sand. I didn’t interrupt to change the subject until my daughter’s friend indicated her parents’ preference. I was curious to see where the conversation would go an find out what they knew/didn’t know. I know all the parents of these girls and know that we are all reading the same sex ed books with them so I wasn’t concerned that any of them would learn something they hadn’t already discussed with their parents.
Health and Physical Education Curriculum
Apparently this week in Ontario schools there will be parents who are keeping their kids home from school in protest of the revised Health and Physical Education Curriculum which will come into effect in Ontario schools in the fall of 2015.
Unfortunately many parents are making this decision based on misinformation about what exactly is in the curriculum. They are operating on rumour and deliberate misinformation. I have heard and read parents who believe that the new curriculum is going to be teaching children how to masturbate and demonstrate how to do it in class, among many other incorrect and frankly ridiculous things.
What Does the Research Say?
There are also many parents who are concerned that teaching children about sex and sexual health will, in effect, give them permission to go out and have sex. I understand that concern. Research shows that in fact the opposite is true.
Don’t be Afraid
As adults and parents we all have lots of hang ups and biases about sex. Most are a result of the sexual health education we received – often of dubious quality. Others are passed down from previous generations with specific views on sex, often taught from a place of fear.
We all want what is best for our kids and things like STI’s, teen pregnancy and the resulting abortion, adoption or parenting, sexual assault, etc. are not the best things. As such many of us are afraid what might happen if we talk with our kids about sex. We are afraid of what might happen if they engage in sexual behaviour and some parents pass that fear on to our kids through threats and a general lack of information.
We need to recognize that while we would all prefer to be the first to talk with our kids about sex and sexual health, we sometimes wait too long. We generally have no idea what kids are talking about and what information/misinformation they are sharing with each other at school. We need to provide our kids – either directly or through the school system – facts about their bodies so that they can be the ones on the playground correcting misinformation and so that they can be confident about their own bodies, understand how they are going to change and be prepared for relationships. It is not possible to keep them in a bubble of ignorance.
There is lots of information floating around out there on the internets about the revised Ontario sex-ed curriculum and some of it is totally incorrect. That information is unnecessarily scaring parents.
Read the Sexual Health Education Curriculum
Pulling your kids out of school is unnecessary and will not help you. It may however provide you with opportunities to talk with your kids about sexual health when they ask why they are not going to school…
Ignorance is a preventable condition. Educate your kids and educate yourself on what the curriculum actually includes as well as the associated parent guides. Then you can talk to your kids about your values as they relate to the info that will be taught in each grade.
Educators teach facts; Parents teach values.