Talking to your kids about sex- And sex in Ontario, everything you want to know

Ed I did another speaking engagement at Boomerang Kids (a cool kid chain) about "Talking to your kids about sex".  I am always amazed at the response. Parents live in fear that they are going to scar thier kids by either speaking/or not speaking to their kids about sex. Lots of parents of 6 year olds wondering how to introduce the "penis in the vagina thing" I've attached my list of stages for parnets as to when is the best time to tell them what. But in the meantime, here is my response to the proposed (and then withdrawn) sex ed curriculum for the Province of Ontario.

When I first started as a sex educator in 1992 in schools in Eastern Ontario, I had questions like” How do I know if I’m in love”, and “does losing your virginity hurt?”  It has been at least ten years since sex questions were that innocent. Lately at school presentations I get inquires like “how do you give the best oral sex” and “what’s a money shot?”

We haven’t had a change to the sex education program in Ontario since the Mike Harris government tweaked it in 1997. Since that time roughly the same number of teens are getting pregnant per year and the age of first sexual encounters hasn’t moved. As well, ill prepared gym teachers continue to stammer through another set after set of what I call “these are your fallopian tubes” lectures in grade 9.

Last week we had the Dalton McGuinty Liberals trying to update a pre-internet sexual health curriculum. The Premier himself was quoted as saying “why wouldn’t we recognize we live in an information age and why wouldn’t we try to present this info in a thoughtful, responsible, and open way?”

At the time I thought it was long over due and proactive of him. Now I think he was easily manipulated by special interest groups. Good job by the lobbyists to confuse the issue for parents. Instead of what was proposed: a curriculum that gave age appropriate sexuality information (such as body part names, what are good touches and bad touches, and how babies are born), parents were scaremongered into thinking that grade one students would get anal sex information. The truth is that the proposed curriculum changes covered everything from what is a healthy lifestyle to fitness, drug and substance abuse and sexual health. This information was targeted specifically to each grade level, and included a section on masturbation and sexual orientation which is vital information as kids explore their bodies and feelings in a complex world.

Because of changes to our diet and environment, including increased estrogens from plastics, hormones in dairy and social conditions such as blended families, kids are hitting puberty earlier than ever. You have children dealing with daily sexual images, increasing peer pressure, and their changing bodies about the time they are learning how to multiply 4 times 3.

Do you remember what it felt like to hit puberty? The reality is that kids are programmed to be sexual. Some are going to be sexual sooner rather than later. As a parent I hope my kids are going to be late bloomers. But if they are not, I want them to have the facts to make informed decisions about what is the right time and situation for them. Just like “driver education does not cause accidents”, sex education does not cause pregnancies or promiscuity. The more education, the more likely kids will be sexually responsible. Every study done in the last twenty years has confirmed this fact.

I believe it is worth noting that in a perfect world it is parents that teach kids about their sexuality and impart their own values. However the 2009 survey of 1200 teens in Toronto said that “teens are mainly getting sexual information from friends”. When I ask teens directly where they got their sex education, less than 10% tell me that their parents were their source for sexuality information.

I spend my day trying to help people interpret their sexuality without feeling like there is something wrong with them.  With a generation of young people learning about sex from well endowed internet porn stars, and siliconed young starlets in compromising situations, I can’t help feeling that we are setting up our kids to feel inadequate and be badly misinformed.