Adequate sex education begins at birth. Contrary to what most of us believe, parents need training in order to function optimally as teachers in their children’s lives. Very few parents actually receive any of this guidance. The years leading up to school are crucial in normal sexual development. The school-going years are equally crucial as children now start to discover peer approval and seek it quite diligently.
While curiosity begins as early as age 2, the pre/primary school years see children showing a deeper interest in theirs and their peers’ bodies. It’s now when they have questions that require a little more detail and, maybe, even visual aids.
The major responsibility of all adults interacting with children is to foster a healthy sense of self. Reprimanding a child who masturbates or shows curiosity about the body of the opposite sex (e.g. Playing doctor) is harmful to that child’s psychological and sexual development. That creates an unhealthy relationship with one’s body. It also creates a sense of guilt and self-deprecation in a child who is responding to natural impulses that aren’t understood to be private or inappropriate. They learn that they are wrong and abnormal for being curious. They learn that they must never discuss their bodies. This creates the complex false dichotomy wherein teenagers can have sex but feel uncomfortable with it. They understand this to be appropriate–the discomfort. Any amount of sex education at this point, with a shaky foundation, is almost pointless.
The major tasks of teachers who want to facilitate sexual health are thus.
1. Do not reprimand or shame a child who is curious about sex and sexuality.
This will burn a hole in their memory that they should never ask question, even later in life when they would like to explore their sexuality legitimately as adults.
2. Don’t show deference or preference towards any group. Bias is bad.
This teaches children that some are better than others. This exists particularly highly in gender/sex relations. It allows children to, more easily, accept that men like and deserve sex and women need to keep “it” safe or “give it up” out of respect for their man/men. It also makes it easier for children to accept that other ways of being (e.g.homosexual, transsexual, transgender, various fetishes etc) are wrong. This will always create false polarities that result in sexual dysfunction–including sexually irresponsibly decisions.
3. Gender should not be crafted or forced upon children
All children develop their own gender-specific behaviours. Enforcing these behaviours teaches kids that who they, intrinsically, are is wrong. When they rebel as teenagers, they rebel even against themselves. This can result in irresponsible behaviours–a self-destructive nature.
It’s inappropriate for us to shame teenagers for getting pregnant when we don’t teach them self-love and sexual responsibility. We teach them silence. We teach them that normal sex is acceptable but any variations are not. We teach them that discomfort is normal and that they should push through it.
Again. We never teach them sexual responsibility. We don’t teach them that sex is great. The only way for them to find out is to try it; explore their grown-up side. Their mistakes are our short-fallings. We teach them fear of things that they don’t understand (and, therefore, CAN’T fear). Decisions made from coercion and fear seldom make sense and seldom stick.
What we need is a revamp of the training of our teachers. But more on this later.