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Sex and Children

The Basic Elements Of Sex Education

OBJECTIVES

1. To inform parents on the truth about sex education;

2. To persuade parents to fulfill their duty and right as primary educators of their children;

3. To emphasize the basic requirement of a normal family, governed by love, as a necessary ingredient of good sex education.

Introduction

Today, children are exposed to the misuse and abuse of sex, even at a very early age. They know about rape; they see varying degrees of pornography; they hear words and phrases like pre-marital sex, condoms, pills, abortion, live-in, bisexual, etc. Advertisements and pop music promote a distorted view of sex. Sex is projected to our children as merely pleasure and devoid of love. They are being told, “If you are going to have pre-marital sex, try not to get pregnant or to get AIDS.” All these are in the movies, television, newspapers, tabloids, billboards, books, magazines.

Some Fallacies About Sex Education

Fallacy No. 1: Sex education is a lecture at school. Some parents think that sex education is just a lecture on the human reproductive system given by the school when the children are in the intermediate grade level.

Fallacy No. 2: Sex education is a solemn talk by a parent at home. Some parents think that sex education is just summoning the child aside to have a one-time private talk about “the birds and the bees”.

Fallacy No. 3: Sex education is another term for “how babies are made.” Some parents think that sex education merely consists of giving biological information to the child.

Fallacy No. 4: Sex education should start just before puberty. Taking off from fallacy no. 3, some parents think that sex education should start just before the child begins to experience bodily changes at puberty.

These are either incomplete or wrong notions of sex education which parents should discard from their way of thinking. Using any of these could be harmful to the child. Proper sex education is providing biological information, spiritual truths and training.

Components Of Sex Education

Instruction

Instruction is giving the child information on human sexuality which includes biological, emotional, moral and spiritual information. Instruction actually starts from infancy as the child experiences his mother's constant care - bathing him, changing his diapers, etc. Then when he is about three or four years old, the child first observes or asks about the difference between a boy and a girl, or about where babies come from. The characteristics of good instruction are:

Good instruction is positive. The child is taught to look at sex not as something dirty but as something noble and holy. He is instructed on its truth and goodness as planned by God, despite the distortion our culture is promoting.

Good instruction is individualized. It considers the uniqueness of the child; therefore, adjusted to his mental and emotional capacity. The intimate aspects of sexuality is discussed on a one-to-one basis to enable the parent to gauge how the information is being received by the child. An anxious child can then be reassured.

For example, discussing where babies come from cannot be done at dinner table because the ages of the children vary. An explanation to one child will not be appropriate to another.

Good instruction is gradual, continuous, and progressive. Instruction is not given to the child all in one instance. Only the information appropriate to the level of the child is be given. The parent considers the child's age and readiness to receive information so as to prevent awakening his passions too soon and to minimize shock.

For example, the father's role in conception can be discussed with a ten-year-old but not with a four-year-old.

Good instruction is spontaneous. Occasions in daily life are used as much as possible as opportunities to give instruction. Care is exercised not to overemphasize nor to avoid discussion on sex. This will deliver the message that sexuality is a natural part and parcel of life and will erase the notion that sexuality is taboo.

For example, mother can point out to her eight-year old child a pregnant woman in sight and remark, “Look! She will soon have a new baby. How excited their family must be.”

Good instruction is repetitive. Children, specially the younger ones, normally forget what is taught them, hence instruction is repeated every so often. This goes along with the precept that occasions in daily life should be used as opportunities to give instruction.

For example, respect for life can be taught in many different manners using day-to-day situations.

Good instruction anticipates the need of the child. Information is given ahead of the event when it will be needed, so that the child is prepared, not shocked or fearful when it comes.

For example, a daughter must be taught about menstruation two years before it is expected to occur which is as early as ten years old; and a son must be taught seminal emissions before the average age that it normally occurs which is around 14 years old.

Good instruction is clear and adequate. Information given to the child is straightforward and is just the right amount needed to ensure that the child recognizes the event when it happens. Too detailed and imaginative descriptions are avoided.

For example, when talking about menstruation to an 11-year-old daughter, care should be given by the mother that she does not scare her off with an overly imaginative description of the blood.

Good instruction is within the context of love, marriage and family. Biological, emotional, mental or spiritual information regarding sexuality are always provided in the context of love, marriage and family according to God's plan. The family environment is rightfully the place for accomplishing sex education.

For example, a teen-aged child should be made to understand that sexual intercourse has both procreative and unitive functions, hence should only be done by a married couple.

Training

Training is providing the child religious and moral guidelines, lessons on male and female psychology, warnings on dangers, preparation for marriage, and development of virtues, specially those that regulate the sexual appetite (purity and modesty, temperance and fortitude).

Training can be done in different ways, namely by talking about it clearly and directly, by the example of parents' own attitudes, and by the day-to-day family life of the child.

“A mother who values her maternal vocation and her place in the home greatly helps develop the qualities of femininity and motherhood in her daughters, and sets a clear, strong and noble example of womanhood for her sons. A father, whose behavior is inspired by masculine dignity without 'machismo', will be an attractive model for his sons, and inspire respect, admiration and security in his daughters.” (The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family)

Much can be learned by the child in the day-to-day atmosphere of his home. His parents' show of affection for each other; kindness, respect, service to all members of the family; desire to have children and take care of them; steadfastness in times of suffering; modest speech and dressing; temperance in eating - all these model in a very concrete manner the guidelines and virtues within which sex education should be placed.

The Duty And Right Of Parents

Sex education is the parents' responsibility because they are the first and most important educators of their children. “Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children.” (Second Vatican Council) Ideally, instruction must be given by the fathers to their sons and the mothers to their daughters, because they are more aware of the role, emotions and problems of their own sex.

There are cases where the parent cannot undertake the responsibility because of his physical absence or incapacity, which may be spiritual or psychological. Before the child's puberty, the available parent, even though he is of the opposite sex of the child, is still the preferred teacher over any other person. Starting from the child's puberty, a trustworthy person of the same sex as the child may be asked. This may be well-formed educators, in the school, parish or Community.

The Role Of Schools

Nowadays, schools are taking a more active role in the sex education of children and there are two reasons why the schools are doing this. Firstly, they perceive a delinquency on the part of the parents in performing the task. Secondly, the government has a plan to make sex education in schools mandatory. This is part of their population control program.

Classroom instruction is not recommended because the teacher has no way of monitoring the readiness and reaction of each of her students. Earlier we said that good instruction is individualized.

Even when the child is exposed to instruction in school, it is still a good idea for the parents to go over the material with him even if it is a repetition of what he learned in school because the experience of hearing it from the parent has more value. This is also a good chance to see how he understood it and to clarify some things with him.

It would still be even better for schools to push parents to do their task instead of taking over. The school can set up seminars and give parents guidelines on how to go about giving sex education to their children.

Psychological And Emotional Content Of Sex Education

Parents transmit their own attitudes on femininity and masculinity, pregnancy and family life in their day-to-day life at home. Some examples: A mother who is self-fulfilled and happy - even when she is on her 5th pregnancy - is sending strong messages on womanhood and her attitude on childbearing. A father who shows great respect for his wife, who exercises gentle but firm leadership is making a strong statement about his own attitude towards women and his masculinity. Parents who are relaxed, open and reverent in talking about sex can easily convince their children about the goodness and beauty of sex. Parents who have visible affection for each other shown through many acts of service are the best teachers in self-giving required in marriage.

Parents must explicitly teach their children the personality differences between the male and female. Generally, men have the following natural tendencies: analytical, detached and rational, abstract and general, adventurous, rigid, stands for specialization, while women have the following natural tendencies: intuitive and sensitive, emotional, affectionate and sympathetic, concrete and detail-oriented, conservative, flexible, stands for universality. Also, it should be pointed out that men are sexually aroused more easily by physical stimuli such as touch, pictures or movies, while women by a romantic atmosphere and a feeling of being loved.

The Challenge To Parents

To teach the purpose of human sexuality as God created it, to put human sexuality in its proper religious and moral context, is really the essence of sex education. Parents cannot teach this if they themselves are unclear about the correct moral criteria to follow. They themselves should have the correct attitudes towards femininity and masculinity, marriage and family. They themselves should live out the virtues of purity and modesty, temperance and fortitude. “You cannot teach morality without being committed to morality yourself.”

Moreover, the effectiveness of any effort of the parents to give sex education to their children lies in the extent of confidence that their children have in them. And confidence is a value that one never imposes on people, but is gained through their friendship, understanding and good example. Parents will succeed in discharging their responsibility to the extent that they win the friendship of their children. On the other hand, attempts by the parents to talk to their children about sex can initiate the building or strengthening of friendship and confidence.

Providing good sex education to their children is a challenge every parent faces, but there are no options to taking or not taking on the challenge because it is a duty.

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