Planned Parenthood believes that parents and guardians should be the primary sex educators of their children. As with other complex issues, many parents may need support, resources, and expertise from schools and other organizations. It is important that young people receive age-appropriate sexual health information and develop practical skills for keeping healthy. Educators can help families by providing culturally meaningful learning opportunities in safe and non-judgmental environments so that young people can learn about sexuality in a healthy and positive context.
Sometimes, people mistakenly believe that “sex ed” refers only to sexual behavior (e.g., sexual intercourse) and not the full array of topics that comprise sexuality. These include information and concerns about abstinence, body image, contraception, gender, human growth and development, human reproduction, pregnancy, relationships, safer sex (prevention of sexually transmitted infections), sexual attitudes and values, sexual anatomy and physiology, sexual behavior, sexual health, sexual orientation, and sexual pleasure.
Sexuality is an integral part of each person’s identity. Learning about our sexuality and achieving sexual health and well-being are lifelong processes that begin at birth and continue throughout our lives. Although parents and guardians are the primary sex educators of their children, children also receive messages about sexuality from many other sources. Some of them may have more negative than positive impact. Schools and other community-based organizations can be important partners with parents to provide young people accurate and developmentally appropriate sex education.
The goals of comprehensive sex education are to help young people gain a positive view of sexuality and to provide them with developmentally appropriate knowledge and skills so that they can make healthy decisions about their sex lives now and in the future. Medically accurate sex education is an investment in our children’s future — their well-being. Our “return on investment” could be a generation of young people who have heard more helpful messages about sexuality than the provocative media images and/or silences they currently witness. It could be a generation of women and men comfortable in their own skin; able to make well-informed, responsible decisions; form healthy relationships; and take care of their bodies.
It can be normal to feel overwhelmed by the task of developing and implementing comprehensive sex education in your school or program. Some educators find it helpful to talk with other professionals — mentors and/or supervisors — who have already implemented comprehensive sex education. It is important to get support from your school or organization.
While this may feel like a huge undertaking, break it down into discrete steps such as:
- Assessing the needs
- Researching solutions
- Garnering support
- Developing a plan
- Developing or selecting a curriculum
- Creating lesson plans
- Gathering resources
- Having fun!
It may help to keep in mind that you may be the only adult who will ever talk to a young person about sexuality in an honest, accurate, and nonjudgmental way. Your good intentions, your positive, healthy attitude, your nonjudgmental tone, and the information you offer may be more than appreciated — it may save a young person’s life.
Armed with knowledge about comprehensive sex education, you now need to jump in! Talk with a mentor or colleague, browse your local library, or surf online to become acquainted with the breadth and scope of resources available.
Contact Planned Parenthood educators near you to talk with and learn more about this important topic. Many Planned Parenthood affiliates provide consultation and training to assist with implementing sexuality education programs.