In our opinion!
Being aware of our body allows us to understand its processes and be responsible for it. Accurate information delivered in an understandable way is the basis for making informed decisions.
We feel strongly that building body confidence, understanding sexuality issues and fertility awareness/responsibility starts young: it involves not only education about the physiology of the body but also an understanding around the psychology and sociology: a teaching of emotional intelligence if you will. We believe this information should be a two-way flow between home and school; a partnership of care ideally.
For this to occur parents and care-givers require information too. Times have changed and we can't expect a generation that was bought up quite differently to have all the answers to questions and problems they may not have encountered themselves & may have little or no comprehension of.
We find parents are sometimes put off allowing their children to participate in 'sexuality' education because of concerns about what their young children are going to hear in regards to the first three letters in the word! Sexuality education means a whole lot more than information around the act of sexual intercourse, STI info and pregnancy prevention.
At primary school level it means learning about physical changes associated with puberty, learning correct words for the body, learning about safe relationships/building friendships, keeping safe, body image, respect for self and others, diversity and understanding a simplistic message about consent without necessarily using the word or associating it with sexual consent/drugs and alcohol.
At intermediate level we can expand on these concepts adding a deeper level of understanding, talking about peer pressure, OK/Not Ok consent, internet safety, media manners and relationships and again, respect! It's generally at high school where there are more specific topics including STI and pregnancy avoidance information (and asides from keeping safe and avoiding pregnancy it is also important for youth to be aware of their fertility and how to protect it) along with topics such as drugs and alcohol, consent, communication skills, ethics, healthy relationships, keeping safe, internet and media discussions (including avoidance of internet porn, sexting etc), body image and self esteem playing a vital part of the programme.
In amongst all this a true understanding of how our body works and what signals it gives off can be enlightening and empowering. It assists our youth in understanding urges and feelings and responding to them in a way that honours self and others. It is about respect! This awareness of what their body is telling them means they can be tuned in and responsible. This applies to physical and emotional signs and signals.
We strongly believe all aspects of sexuality education should be designed age appropriately and holistically with parent (or caregiver) interactive and within the NZ Curriculum guidelines.
If we can provide the building blocks from primary, into intermediate, on to high school we are ALL set to gain from this knowledge, emotional intelligence, respect, understanding, acceptance and appreciation.
We advocate professionals providing specialist sexuality education for Parents, Teachers and Students. This way Parents can be fully informed and reassured as to the content of classes (via a Parents Evening) and are able to access information to continue conversations started at school. With this knowledge they can decide if they wish their child to attend. Teachers are included in the specialist class(es) and are given the resources to enable ongoing activities on a regular basis at school allowing Students a continuous programme delivered to all types of learners.
Robyn Fausett RGN
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