Guest post by Tiffany Anderson and Audrey Edwards
When was the last time the birds and bees got together to talk?
Our personal sexuality is a big part of our individual identity. Our bodies were made for the amazing purpose of creation. This wonderful power was also designed to be enjoyable. Learning about this natural act should not be a one-time conversation, and should be built upon a foundation of communication developed over time to allow for adjustment and understanding.
Many young people do not have the kind of relationship where they can talk to their parents about intimacy, or anything surrounding that sensitive subject. In these cases, sexual education comes from friends or movies. Many young people are not prepared me for high emotions or associated feelings that come with proximity to the opposite sex. An education consisting of real-life experience can leave youth with questions, regrets, and life-long consequences. Young people need to be able to talk with someone and learn more about the subject instead of it being such a secret adult mystery.
Who do you want teaching your children… then why aren’t you?
Parents should be the ones to teach their children sex education. Unfortunately, most parents either don’t communicate at all or they don’t give accurate details. Studies have shown that the majority of parents feel that they need support and/or professional expertise to lead the way. While 98% of parents felt youth should receive their sex education from parents, only 24% believed they were the main providers of sex education information. Seventy-eight percent of parents believed that kids received the majority of information about sex from friends and 60% saw media as the main source. Many claim that parents are ineffective in educating their children because even when enough information is given, or given often, the outcome “yields disappointing results.” It is also important for parents to advocate for appropriate sex education from other sources. Children need accurate and morally correct information. It is the parent’s right to decide what is morally correct sexual information for their children.
Sexuality is such an omnipresent topic in today’s world that our children cannot avoid hearing about it. However, most of what they hear will teach them the world’s perspective which abuses the power of procreation. Schools and other organizations can partner with parents to provide young people with accurate and developmentally appropriate education. The goal of sexual education is to help young people gain appropriate knowledge and skills so that they can make healthy decisions about their bodies and their sex lives, now and in the future. Parents need to ensure that their school’s curriculum reflects parental values.
When misused, sexual activity can have life-long repercussions, and adolescents need to know that the consequences of sexual activity without protection can be life-altering. Studies have shown that effective sexual education helps delay sexual activity, reduces sexual frequency in young adults, and increases the use of condoms and contraception. Sexual education is a layered education process. Parents, schools, religious groups, and community-based organizations all have a role to play. If we collaborate2, we can provide the sex education and sexual socialization our children need.
5 ways to walk the walk and talk the talk
The best method for teaching effective sex education is to start young and be proactive. Parents should:
- Talk with their children early and often to encourage healthy communication patterns.
- Teach proper names of body parts and functions.
- Explain what to expect from puberty BEFORE they start to develop.
- Share the emotional connection between sexual intimacy and sexual behavior.
- Advocate for appropriate sex education in schools.
Parents often have difficulty discussing these topics, but it’s important to push through any discomfort and make sure children understand how and why their bodies are changing.
Be the change you want to see in the world
If we don’t make a change to our sexual education plan we will continue, as parents and educators, to fail our youth by not preparing them for important future choices. With good, strong sexual education we have an opportunity to teach them, and give them the tools they need to make informed decisions that will strengthen their current relationships and future relationships while reducing risky behavior.
Let’s fix our families from the ground up. Let us show them that intimacy is not a secret or something to be ashamed about, but a gift to be cherished and respected. Good communication will help create a trusting relationship where young adults are more inclined to listen, ask questions, and feel safe in talking about all subjects—especially the more personal ones. If we want to prepare our children we must teach them early, often, and correctly.