Sex Education for Children: Teach Them at Home!
It's The Parents' Job
It absolutely is the parent's job, not the schools', to educate their children on the various functions of our bodies. The problem is, the schools tried to step in when it became apparent that many parents were not doing their job, and it began as an effort to slow down the rate of teen pregnancies. To borrow from today's teenage vernacular, "Epic fail!"
When I was in school, that class was very much a big why-bother joke. We were segregated by gender, and each class was taught only about their own gender.
Unfortunately, at home, my own mother didn't do any better, however: she taught me "what happens" to girls, and the fact that babies "could happen" was mentioned, but she studiously avoided any discussion of mechanics. Looking back, I realize all she did was read to me out of the informational booklet that came with the "feminine hygiene" supplies. I only learned "the mechanics" on my wedding night!
Granted, she grew up in an era where "such things" were simply not discussed in polite company, and girls were left to find out when they married. It was referred to only in terms of "doing your duty to your husband." Before that, you were considered 'not old enough to know.'
There was the nebulous, "Watch out for boys--they're only after one thing," caution...but that "one thing" was never properly defined. I think, once, as a child, I saw a couple of dogs "at it," and mom brushed off my question with an answer of "they're just playing."
You Cannot Outlaw Nature
The unfortunate and long-lasting influence of the Victorian Era is still tainting our society. Things that should be openly discussed and learned are still shoved under a veil of secrecy and taboos. It is the main reason behind the fear and ignorance that are at the root of prejudice and bigotry we see against those who are "different."
Apparently, we as a society have failed miserably to learn that the more under-wraps and forbidden a thing is, the more it will attract attention and sneaking around to access that very thing.
We see it all the time with illegal drugs, and we saw it in a very big way with the Volstead Act, more commonly known as "prohibition," back in the 1920's. That law played a major part in the rise of organized crime and professional gangsters, a.k.a. "The Mafia."
Trying to legislate how and when children should be taught about their own bodies is foolishness of the first degree. This is not "prohibition" of an illegal or "dangerous" substance; it is Mother Nature itself, and it cannot be controlled by laws.
Our Sexuality Is Part of Nature--Deal With It!
You cannot outlaw Mother Nature; you cannot make her designs "taboo." Like it or not, whether we want to admit it or not, we are sexual beings, and all the rules society cares to impose on the matter are irrelevant.
While we live in an era that desires to keep our kids as "little children" as long as possible, and well past the age when they have matured sexually, that desire is misplaced and causes the very problems we seek to solve or prevent.
Kids are going to experiment, and there is little parents or laws can do to stop them. From the kindergartners "playing doctor," to the teens "in love," kids are going to find ways to find the information if it is not forthcoming from their parents.
Parents may indeed disapprove of the kids' methods of discovery, but the key ingredient in raising one's kids into responsible, mature adults without falling into the minefield of teen pregnancy or worse, STD's, is simply open, honest communication.
Allow questions of all kinds; answer them honestly. If you don't know an answer, don't offer a BS explanation or brush off the question. Worse, don't allow nervousness or embarrassment to lead to making a joke of the issue. Instead, admit that you aren't sure, and offer to look up the answer together. Kids have super-sharp BS detectors, and know when they are being brushed off or lied to.
If your teen has found someone with whom they feel compatible, it is far better to offer them useful information, and that includes information on contraception and disease prevention than to simply freak out, and try to keep them prisoner to prevent "anything" from happening.
If teens want to have sex, they're going to find a way, and there's not much a parent can do about it. The stronger the parental hounding, objections, pressure and lectures, the more likely the result will be the opposite of the intent.
A Pervasive Reason for Parental Prohibitions Is Religion
If the idea of contraception runs afoul of personal religious beliefs (I'm sorry), then it's even more important to be open and honest about all of the mechanics, the risks, responsibilities and potential damage to one's future plans should a baby enter the scene.
To that end, it is best if kids are not kept in the dark about the family's means. If they understand income and expenses, and where the family stands within that sphere; if they understand credit and its uses and dangers; if they are made aware of the realities of employment potential for school drop-outs, and so forth, they are less likely to have a pie-in-the-sky romanticized view of how they will cope, and will be more likely to be careful based upon their own analysis.
Changes in Society
Our societies have changed at a very rapid pace; our bodies have not changed at the same rate. While medical science has succeeded in prolonging our lifespan, it has not been able to postpone the age of sexual maturity.
Instead, it has begun happening ever younger, as our children are fed meat pumped full of growth hormones. Those don't go away; they are still in the meat, and they affect the maturation rate of the children consuming those products.
Back when people were considered aged 'wise men' of the village if they lived to be 50, children were undergoing "manhood" and "womanhood" rituals at ages between 10 and 12 years. They were mated by the time they were 13. As recently as our own Colonial days, a girl still unmarried by age 15 was pretty much considered doomed to remain single: a spinster.
Those were the days of a more agrarian culture; the pre-industrial age. Yet, even though they were 'married off' by their families, sometimes, the young girls had not yet reached childbearing capability, so they had at least a couple of years to learn how to run a household before finding themselves becoming a parent.
Even so, the bigger majority of young women had reached maturity by the time they married. There was no reliable contraception, and it was not entirely uncommon for a newlywed girl to become pregnant on her wedding night, and to start popping out babies in rapid succession thereafter.
This was the era of large families, partly to insure survival of the family due to high infant mortality rates as well as deaths from illnesses and farming accidents, and partly to guarantee enough hands to run the family farm.
But Kids Didn't "Do It" Before Marriage Back Then!
Don't kid yourselves--pregnancies out of wedlock did happen, and often, even back then. The penalties were severe: the young woman was usually sent out of town ostensibly to "visit distant family," or to "recover from an illness." No one was fooled, however; those were common euphemisms of the day. (Sometimes she was disowned, as well!) The baby was taken away and either sent for adoption or to an orphanage to be raised.
Alternately, there would be a forced marriage, hence the term "shotgun wedding." It meant the father of the young woman marched the young man responsible to the church at gunpoint to be certain that he would go through with the marriage and make an "honorable woman" out of his daughter.
Sadly, our current technological and industrial advances in how societies live has failed to alter the age at which our "children" reach sexual maturity. Our contrived society is at odds with Mother Nature. We are forcing a prolonged childhood onto our young, well past the age at which they used to be considered well and fully able to run a farm and home.
Is it any wonder they rebel? They are simply following Nature's design, and are caught in the middle of the conflict between society's expectations and natural biological urges. No wonder the teen years are so difficult and fraught with drama and angst.
Having Reference Books Available Is a Useful Aid in Teaching Children About Their Bodies
When my kids were young, I had pre-purchased just such a set of books, divided into four volumes. I had planned to sit down with them and read, and help explain when they began asking questions.
However, the questions never came. I found out later that they had been reading the books on their own, being too shy or embarrassed to ask me. I put that down to just their personalities, as I'd never shut down any lines of communication.
There are many such books available, and one of the better ones is Our Bodies, Ourselves. Written by the Boston Women's' Health Book Collective, it is available in versions from teen to pregnancy and menopause.
© 2012 Liz Elias