Monday, October 17, 2011

Sex Ed

By Diane Forrest, RN

Family Sexuality Education Month

When I was 12 my mother told me that one day when I used the bathroom I would see blood.  She said when that happens, come tell me.   That was the extent of my sex education discussion.  I guess I fared better than my brother, who received a book.  Discussions about your body and sex were not talked about those days, at least not at my house.   They were also not taught about at school.  We got our education through the grapevine, which was about 99% wrong.

Of course you could go to the library and look up information, or use the dictionary to look up some of the words you would hear, but most of those weren't in print. Over time we eventually learned the facts of life, and there was nothing about a stork bringing me mentioned anywhere.

The world has changed since then.  While we do so much to protect the innocence of our children, details still leak out.  Questions rose.  The schools teach about body functions, and biology, and maybe some sex education, however they do not teach morality or family values.  That is the job of the parent.
While I was in nursing school, I was fortunate to work part time on the school's mobile nursing unit.   In addition to checking blood sugar and pressure, we also did a lot of teaching to kids in rural areas.   The number one topic they wanted to know about was sex.   I taught them about the basics, and birth control and mostly abstinence.  We passed out condoms after we learned how to properly apply them, and this was all done with the parent's permission.

When my son came of age, around 12, I decided that I didn't want him to learn about things in the school yard.  I decided I would take him out for a banana split at Dairy Queen, and explain the facts of life.  Of course by then I was almost too late.  He had learned most of the things from biology class.  So I just asked if he had any questions.  Having discussed this so many times with other kids, I was not embarrassed to talk to my own, well that was until the Nun walked up behind me.

This month is Family Sexuality Education Month.  Information about sex is readily available.  It’s in music, video games, television and movies and the internet.  To make sure your child is properly educated you have to take responsibility for their education.  Ignoring the "talk" will not make it go away, and waiting till they are in college is waiting too long.

Reasons for Sex Ed:
  • It works! Teen pregnancy and STI rates have been proven to decrease among students who received comprehensive sexuality education.
  • Families benefit. Youth who have an open, supportive relationship with their parents are less likely to engage in sexual activity and risky behaviors.
  • Television, magazines, and the internet provide a constant stream of sexual messages.
  • Research shows abstinence-only education doesn’t work! Youth need to be given the tools to make smart decisions regarding personal sexual health.
  • Teen mothers account for 10% of all U.S. births.
  • In 2009, more than half of high school students in Delaware reported having had sexual intercourse at least once.
  • Studies on the impact of comprehensive sexuality education on condom usage revealed a 48% increase in use.
  • It is a myth that sex education encourages sexual activity. Having accurate, age-appropriate knowledge about sexuality is the key to making healthy decisions.
  • Sexuality education includes information on abstinence as well as healthy decision making and all forms of birth control.

Objectives of Sex Education

Macnab (2004) outlined some general objectives for family life and sex education in accordance with Illinois sex education act. These include:
  • To make affection, sex and love constructive rather than destructive forces in society.
  • To develop feelings of identity, respect and responsibility as an integral part of ones own development.
  • To understand and appreciate the sexual side of human nature so that their own psycho-sexual development may occur as normally as possible.
  • To learn that human sexual behaviour is not merely a personal and private matter but has important social, moral and religious implications.
  • To learn about the dangers of illicit sexual behaviour.
  • To emphasize the case of premarital chastity as the sexual standard approved by our society because chastity provides a positive goal for teenagers linking human sexual behaviour with love, marriage, parenthood and family life.
  • To open channels of communication between children (students) and their teachers concerning the meaning, significance and potential values of sex in human life so that students will find it easier to seek information from reliable sources rather than relying on hearsay or misconceptions.
  • To understand that boy/girl, man/woman relationship of the right kind can lead to enjoyment and give meaning to their lives.
  • To develop a healthy, wholesome attitude towards sex in human beings including respect for their bodies as an integral part of their personality.
  • To appreciate the significance of sexual difference in girls and boys and male-female sexual roles in our society.
  • To understand how to deal with personal sexual problems such as menstruation, nocturnal emissions, masturbation and personal hygiene.
  • To learn the key parts and basic concepts of venereal diseases and the role of teenagers and young adults in the prevention and control of these important communicable diseases.

Virtually everyone agrees that parents and caregivers should be the primary sexuality educators of their children. Facts show, however, that most parents have abdicated their responsibility. Instead, youth learn misinformation from their peers and receive mixed messages from the media leaving them less informed and more likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection or become pregnant. 

As parents, we rightfully want to be involved in our teen’s lives. We want our daughters to come to us if they become pregnant…. And most do. But, think about it, not all teens live in homes where communication is possible. Some teens can’t or won’t go their parents.  

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