6 Barriers to Sex Education Every Parent Needs to Know
So many parents become anxious when the subject of sex comes up in relation to their children. It can feel incredibly awkward to try to explain to your child all aspects of the birds and the bees. How do you know what it is appropriate to say when? If you leave it to the school to teach your child, how can you make sure that your child is learning all the facts that are important to you? Are your children learning from watching pornography? In online chat rooms? On Snapchat? From other children whose knowledge is questionable?
Does your child’s school teach sex education at a young enough age? Is it taught in a way that the children can relate to? What values are being taught along with the science? In many cases parents have no input into how or when sex education is taught to their children.
A client’s child’s school delayed teaching sex education until the children were already 12 years old. By that point, most of the girls and all of the boys were in puberty. There were a couple of the children in ‘relationships’ and they were engaging in some sexual behaviour. I expressed concern that these children had no good information about consent, the emotional aspects of sex and didn’t even have information about birth control and prevention of disease. She asked me to speak to the school and to offer to come in and talk about boundaries, consent, sexual orientation, gender and relationships. The school felt the children needed to wait until at least 14 before these topics were addressed.
Here are 6 barriers to sex education that every parent needs to know so that their children are able gain access to all the knowledge they need to engage in safe, healthy and pleasurable sexual relationships once they are mature enough to do so.
- Abstinence Only remains popular in many schools, in part because the people who provide this education usually do so for free and simply take over the lessons. It saves the school money and also relieves the teachers of a task that many prefer not to undertake.
- There is little training for teachers before they qualify and also following qualification that specifically covers teaching sex and relationships education. In the UK, there is a unified (national) framework as a guide to teaching sex and relationships education. This was instituted for the first time in 2000. This is, however, only guidance. It clarifies what is required by law but there is significant leeway for schools to decide what to include and how to teach. In the US, there remains no system of accountability or standardisation even in the public schools.
- Time and funding issues. All schools suffer from funding issues. Privately funded schools suffer less but they still suffer. The amount of information and the number of subjects that must be taught as part of the full curriculum exceeds the amount of time available. Covering the material thoroughly is often impossible in the time allotted. There are also restrictions on funding for these programmes.
- Parental lack of information is also a barrier to sex education. Parents who have limited information regarding sex and relationships find it difficult to become involved in discussions about sex education with their children and the schools.
- The wide variety of parental opinions as to what it is appropriate to teach. This is one of the biggest barriers to comprehensive sex education in schools. Many parents do not wish sex education to be taught in school at all. Schools find themselves at the mercy of the parents, the governing bodies and various government bodies. Most sex education programmes neglect to talk at all about the pleasure involved in sex, orgasm and problems with orgasm.
- The biggest barrier to sex education is the belief that sex education will lead to more sex. Research highlights that for ages 15-19, sex education decreased the likelihood of pregnancy by 50% over abstinence only education. Further research looked at 48 comprehensive sex education programmes and found these positive effects: 40% of the children delayed becoming sexual, had fewer sexual partners and when they did have sex, they used condoms. There was a 60% reduction in unprotected sex. Fourteen programmes were able to demonstrate a statistically significant delay in the age of first sexual intercourse. In addition, large studies of the abstinence only programmes in the 1990s demonstrated that they were completely ineffective. They also highlighted that amongst the teenagers who took the pledge to stay virgins, 88% broke the pledge and had sex before marriage. Those who did so were less likely to use contraception or condoms than were their peers who didn’t take the pledge in the first place.
Sex education is an essential part of helping our children to create healthy sex lives that bring them pleasure without doing them harm. If you know the common barriers, you can find ways to make sure your child gets the sex and relationship education they need.
Email me to tell me what you believe the most important things that need to be taught as part of sex education are. Sign up for a free 30 minute strategy session with me here and we can look at what help you may need in planning a sex education programme for your child(ren) that will give them all the tools they need as they enter the world of sex and relationships.