I’m passionate about this topic for many reasons. When I decided to gain further education in sexual health I thought I was going to become the first sexual health teacher for highschools. Not a gym teacher that shows a birthing video and hands out some pamphlets on Chlamydia for 2 weeks in grade 9, but a full-semester, every day, sexual health educator. With the complete understanding that this position does not exist, nor does it appear that it will exist any time soon, I was determined to make it happen.
But I don’t blame her. She didn’t go to school to be a sexual health educator. She went to school to become a phys-ed teacher, and she was excellent at her job. She taught us how to do crunches so we wouldn’t hurt our backs. She taught us how to run long-distances so we wouldn’t run out of breath. She taught us what she was trained to teach. I don’t know how much sexual health training phys-ed teachers get for the 2 weeks in grade 9 we’re supposed to cover pregnancy and STIs/STVs, but it doesn’t matter how much training you have, 2 weeks is not enough time to do the subject justice and I can’t imagine much training for 2 weeks worth of out-dated hand-outs and inaccurate diagrams.
Yes, there is an updated sex ed curriculum, and that’s great (and about time). But the problem is not every teacher gets proper training on how to teach sexual health unless they proactively seek-out that training themselves. I truly believe that teachers who are trained in sexual health should teach sexual health. Math teachers went to school for math, and music teachers went to school for music. It’s a wild concept, I know, but what can I say, I live on the edge.
Here are some other problems with leaving it to the school system entirely with no parental guidance:
- The type of school your child goes to (i.e., religious vs. public vs. private school) will greatly impact the type of sexual health education they receive, and may not align with the values and beliefs you’d like to pass on to your child.
- Sexual health classes may in fact be completely absent from your child’s school, depending on which areas of the curriculum are overlooked, your child may be home-schooled, or if your child has changed schools often they may have missed sexual health classes.
- If your child experiences difficulties with their sexual health and these topics were never discussed, they may not feel comfortable approaching you when they are in need causing problems to worsen over time.
Although I believe sexual health should be taught in schools by properly trained sexual health educators, it is up to parents to communicate to their children their personal values and beliefs about sexuality. What you can teach your child outside of the classroom will never look the same as what they will learn inside the classroom. You might not know a quarter note from a treble cleff and a music teacher could gladly teach your child the difference. What you do know is the magic of The Beatles or the power of Adele, and what’s the point of learning music without the magic?
Like any other aspect of your child’s health and well-being, sexuality is no more or less important. Accurate information from a loving and attentive parent will not only help your child make safe and informed decisions, but will also bring you closer together as a family. Many parents shy away from the subject matter because they haven’t had to address the topic aside from their own personal experiences, positive or negative. This can leave caregivers feeling confused, nervous, and even guilty depending on their experiences.
But It’s not about battling demons and becoming a perfect, unwavering, sex-positive leader (I mean, hey, if you want to shoot for the moon knock yourself out). My hope for you is by taking the time to consider a variety of topics you may not have otherwise considered, you’ll become more confident with the subject matter and have a better understanding of where you’re coming from and where you want to go. As my one professor put it, “you don’t need to figure your shit out, you just need to know what your shit is.”
Here is a list of great sexual health resources for kids to get you started!
Planned Parenthood Toronto, www.ppt.on.ca
Cory Silverberg Books/Website, http://www.what-makes-a-baby.com/
For more grown-up and quirky folks (don’t let the name fool you, there’s so much more here than just sex toys!), http://www.ohjoysextoy.com/
- Tynan Rhea received her education from the University of Waterloo in Psychology and Sexuality, Marriage, & Family. She currently works as a Sexual and Reproductive Health Consultant and studies under Tracey Tief, certified Natural Health Practitioner at Anarres Apothecary.
Tynan is a Doula with the Sisterhood Wellness Collective in the GTA area. Tynan also works one on one with families to help start the conversation on talking about sex with kids.