Sexuality education for children and adolescents

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Sexuality education for children and adolescents

In recent years, society (especially the Western regions and more advanced locations) has come a long way in its understanding of sexuality, gender and identity, relationships and many other long-misunderstood aspects of the human experience. Dealing with this area of information can be highly sensitive when considering the age ranges involved. This is especially true regarding children who may have traditional or cultural roots which stigmatize sexuality and make it something to be ashamed of. Many parents simply object to sexuality education for children and adolescents on moral or religious grounds, believing it is their duty to inform their child about these things.

 

While all of this is perfectly understandable, there are also many other motivating factors in the quest to equip children and adolescents with the knowledge and information necessary to develop a normal and healthy sexuality. This includes everything from accepting themselves no matter to whom they are attracted to being able to be who they are at home, school, work and in any social setting. There are also a number of parents and educators that believe something as important as human sexuality, which consists of a great deal of science, be taught by knowledgeable professionals.

 

Why Is Sex Education Important for Children and Adolescents?

Beyond the reasons touched on previously, there are also several other benefits and advantages to beginning to teach your child about their sexuality at a young age. AAP offers a simple-yet-informative guide on how to begin helping your child understand and embrace their sexuality from newborn to 21 years old.

 

The short and long-term benefits to providing a healthy environment and educational structure for your child to develop a healthy sexual identity are plenty. Specific examples of the way sexuality education for children and adolescents can help them as they begin to express and explore that part of their life include having the confidence to relate their interest to potential romantic partners, as well as understanding and accepting complex sexual identifications or attractions. As we begin to learn more and more about sexual health, mental health and the roles that each play in the our overall wellness, we must also begin to teach the science and psychology which accompanies it to our children.

 

The younger we begin to learn these principles and how they relate directly to our own sexuality, the sooner hurtful stereotypes and unhealthy perceptions can begin to disappear as well. Many pregnancy and reproductive health experts also claim that the number of unexpected and accidental pregnancies is reduced when there is greater access to sexual education in the childhood and adolescent years.

What Are the Differences in Teaching Various Age Groups?

Something else that is essential in properly educating youth and young adults of any age is to always present an appropriate curriculum for their range. It would make little sense to teach advanced anatomy or biology to elementary students. At the same time, that may very well be the perfect age to start talking about things like finding other people attractive or embracing the growing curiosity regarding sexual thoughts and behaviors. No matter how complex or how simple the information is depending on the age of the child, the underlying principle of the entire sex education curriculum is to instill a sense of self-awareness and acceptance of sexuality; both theirs and others.

Younger Children (11 and Under)

Even though you can breakdown the different methods and techniques practiced at every level, most children aren’t even starting school until they are 5 or 6 years of age, so everything before that point is left up to the parents. The best way to distinguish the right ages to teach the simple and basic principles of sexuality, as well as the more complex and advanced aspects of it is to separate the pre-pubescent and post-pubescent groups. The fact is that the most beneficial and essential information concerning sexual health and wellness for an individual child varies greatly from the first grade student to when they are a senior in high school.

 

For younger children in the elementary age range, their training begins with nothing more than being able to ask open and honest questions both in class and in private. Children have to be trained early on that curiosity about sexuality is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. It is so crucial during the formative years that children don’t develop some type of complex from a traumatic or otherwise impactful event at a young age. Those kinds of memories can last a lifetime and have a tremendous effect on a person’s psychological makeup for years. At this level, little more than learning tolerance and inclusion for how children may feel concerning their developing sexual identity is practiced.

Preteens, Teens & Adolescents

As can be imagined, the responsibility of accurate and practical information is always necessary. This is even more so in the age range where many younger Americans are becoming sexually active. According to that same AAP study, one-third of respondents from grades six through twelve stated they had had sexual intercourse prior to entering the 9th grade, with nearly half of them overall claiming the same by the end of high school.

 

This means that an important emphasis must be placed on reproductive health and safe sex practices. One of the biggest advantages of a quality sexuality education for children and adolescents is the fact that it has such a positive impact on unplanned pregnancies. Another focus of post-pubescent education is understanding the different types of sexualities and teaching adolescents how to come terms with their own. Asking for and receiving consent, learning about STDs and how to prevent them and several other topics are covered with older children, including the various sciences and psychologies that is also part of the study of human sexuality.

How Can Parents Get Involved in the Process?

As previously mentioned, fostering and nurturing a healthy attitude about sex is something that begins long before the child asks any questions or the subject is broached in school. From the moment a child is born, they are beginning to develop in every way. This means physically, mentally and emotionally.

 

They will begin to do things such as touch their genitals during bath time or diaper changes. This should not be discouraged or shamed. Do not move your child’s hand away or say no. Instead, assign a playful and appropriate name to use along with your child and treat it like they were playing with their fingers or toes. This is just one of the countless ways you can practice nurturing sexual health education and development with your children.

 

  • Patrizia Dantes