5 Important Components of Healthy Sex Education
How a child views the opposite sex, approaches the many differences between them and interfaces with their own sexuality is essential to their self-image and their attitudes and approaches to this aspect of the human relations throughout their entire lives.
What is healthy sex education?
We often associate ‘sex education’ with those classes we had back in grade school which clearly did not do the subject justice. The main reason for this, is that schools are a great introduction to the mechanics and dynamics of sex, whereas ‘sexuality’ is a topic we are introduced to since the day we are born and modeled by the characters we see as we grow.
It is essential that children are well prepared for the changes they will experience in themselves as well as in the ways they view and approach the sexuality of others. For a parent, verbally communicating these healthy perspectives can be a touchy subject.
On the one hand, parents may themselves be uncomfortable with the subject and fear they may pass this discomfort to their kids, others may fear that a completely open and “nonchalant’ attitude toward the subject may cause unbridled sexual promiscuity.
The pre-eminent ingredient in any healthy sex education will be non-verbal communication. It is important to have a clear line of communication to answer questions and interface naturally, but by setting healthy examples you can address the attitudes that will form their sexual identity in the future.
1. The Power of Touch
Human contact is the very beginning of sexuality. From the moment the child enters the world he or she will find themselves surrounded by warm affectionate individuals or cold distant icebergs. Holding, caressing, maintaining eye contact and breastfeeding are the best ways to teach a young person how good it is to touch and be touched.
They will begin to understand that human contact is a common human need as well as the primary way to express deeper affections for another person and this is a healthy approach to deeper feelings like love and desire.
2. Celebrate and Honor Your Sexual Differences
There was a common trend in the past for the mother to be the child’s primary caregiver and dad to be the one who attended to business. Perhaps the greatest changes in our cultural society is the total absence of this type of gender classification.
Today mom and dad are there to shower their little ones with love and affections; today’s babies lay against breasts and tug on beards. This sends a powerful message that nurturing affection and care is not a “female” responsibility but comes in a wide spectrum from male and female members of the family.
As the first “Man” and “Woman” in your child’s life, how your children balance their sexuality will be based largely on the samples you, as parents, set and the way you interact and honor each other’s sexuality.
3. Being Different does not Affect Intrinsic Value
The sexes are different, very very different, and it will only be a matter of time before the questions of comparison are posed to your wisdom. As the sexes mature they will begin to notice that the other sex seems to be at a disadvantage in certain tasks.
It is important to communicate the need for sexual equality in the home. This does not mean that the sexes are the same but that they are respected for their differences and individual strengths.
There will always be someone who is physically stronger, professionally smarter, a better driver or a savvy negotiator, but it is the way parents use their strengths to build their partner that teaches children how the differences between the sexes should be approached.
4. The Gender Approach
Pink sheets and dolls or blue blankets and cars? Parents, and just about everyone else, seem reluctant to abandon traditional gender-appropriate behaviour even in this modern age. This could be for many reasons, fathers may roughhouse with their son and play gentler games with their daughters, in hopes of raising strapping boys and delicate little maidens.
Nothing wrong with this in itself, it does lack the element of sensitivity to the individual though. It is important to remember that emphasizing gender differences as well as gender blending, can be equally damaging. In other words, playing rough with your daughter just so she won’t feel discriminated against is not a good idea either.
5. Fostering Healthy Sexual Identity
We live in a crazy time let me tell you that. By the time kids hit the ages of four and five they are already sure to notice something’s different between them and just about half of everyone else. As they get older they are going to be introduced to increasingly more complex questions of sexuality.
The best way to foster healthy sexual identity, is to downplay the competitive approach kids naturally feel when faced with a difference. Differences are there to be explored and cultivated with tolerance and enthusiasm, not to be placed as a price tag over someone’s head and certainly not discriminated against.
Furthermore, assuming that girls will be one way or boys another, robs them and yourself, as a parent, of experiencing and cultivating a beautiful identity for themselves.
This begs for a reiteration of this point, take your cues from the temperament and interests of the child, remember they are perfectly capable of making their own decisions and only need the proper examples,reassurance and acceptance to do so as they see fit.
The most important elements of healthy sex education begin in the home. The early impressions children develop revolve around the way they see sexuality respected, accepted and developed in the home around them with parents siblings and even fictional characters.
With this in mind, be sure you begin constructing your child’s sexual identity from day one by considering what your actions are teaching them with every interaction be it a touch, smile, look or word.