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Who should do the sex education?

Posted Apr 02 2009 11:06am

The parents.

I want to make it very, very clear that I strongly believe that the parents are the first and primary sex educators for their children, and in an ideal world would continue to be the primary sexuality educators through adolescence.  Most of what I do is help parents learn how to be open and honest with their kids about sex.  This is the path I have dedicated my professional life to!

Yesterday’s post about a trip that I took a group of middle school students on to buy condoms garnered many comments.  Many of the early comments were angry, name-calling, incorrect-fact-providing, assumption-making rants.  I did not post them.  The comments eventually evolved into a very interesting conversation about religion and parental rights.  If you weren’t still reading into the evening yesterday, highly recommend you go take a read of the rest of the conversation.

But now I want to address one substantial assumption the early comments made: That I do not support parents educating their own children about sex.

Who should do sex education?  Parents should.  And parents do.  All parents, regardless of intent, educate their children about sex through their words, actions, reactions, body language, and so much more from the very beginning of life.  The way we, as parents and adults, interact physically with each other and with our children starts the sex education process on an informal level at birth.

When parents are ready and want to take up the scepter of formal sex educator and perform those duties, it is wonderful!  It takes a substantial amount of self-knowledge to be able to talk openly with your children about their developing sexuality, and I applaud people who manage to walk that path!

However, as parents, we cannot do everything.  We cannot fill every pair of shoes our children need filled.  Sometimes we don’t feel comfortable in a particular role, or do not feel knowledgable enough.  Sometimes we do not have the kind of relationship with our children that would allow us to fill a particular role.  This is where I, as a sexuality-educator-for-hire, come in.

Parents who want me to talk with their children want the full, comprehensive sex education that I advocate for.  I have never had a parent ask me to do less.  Generally parents who want something else go to someone else.  I am very up-front about what kind of sex education I know works well, what kind of sex education has been shown to work well through research and many years of experience.

Ideally, I help parents provide this kind of sex education themselves.  But I am always happy to provide it when that avenue, for whatever reason, isn’t completely available.

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