Sara Dimerman

Sara Dimerman is a psychologist and provides counselling to individuals, couples and families. She is one of North America's most trusted parenting and relationship experts and the author of three books: Am I a Normal Parent?, Character is The Key and How Can I Be Your Lover When I'm Too Busy Being Your Mother?: The Answer to Becoming Partners Again. Learn more or listen to advice from Sara and her colleagues by searching for 'helpmesara' podcasts on iTunes or visiting Follow Sara on Twitter @helpmesara.
Topic —  Health Ages & Stages — School Age,

How Should Sex Education Begin?

Sara Dimerman
March 09, 2015
Sara Dimerman
Where and How Should Sex Education Begin?
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Sex. It’s a topic I’ve become increasingly comfortable bantering about—especially since the writing and release of my latest book on the topic of why married couples don’t have sex. As a result, I have spent countless hours discussing this subject with the media as well as others. All this at a time when the province in which I live has produced a document detailing their new curriculum for Health and Physical Education for students in grades 1 to 8, within which they discuss changes to sex education.

The new changes, set to take place in September, 2015, have stirred a big pot of controversy among critics who feel strongly about children being exposed to certain topics at too young an age or hearing things from teachers that go against their religious beliefs or moral code.

The way I see it, there’s a power struggle as to where sex education, and in what form, should begin. In the home? At school? The new document does acknowledge that ‘parents are the primary educators of their children with respect to learning about values, appropriate behaviour, and ethnocultural, spiritual, and personal beliefs and traditions and they are their children’s first role models’. So, we may be the first but does that mean we have to be the only?

I believe that we need to work with and trust the people who we have given the responsibility of helping to educate our children. We have to assume that they haven’t just come up with a new curriculum overnight or that they have pulled ideas out of a hat. We can safely believe that they have done research and consulted with many respected educators about the development of children and what they are safely able to absorb at any given age, and how to share that information with them.

For some children, this may be the only sex education they get. I know many parents who have a very difficult time broaching the topic of sex and sexuality. They blush and stutter at the thought of even doing so. Some may even have been raised to believe that sex is dirty and bad and may therefore have a difficult time looking beyond what’s ingrained in their minds as they guide their children through their formative years. So, instead of feeling afraid of passing on shame and embarrassment, they may actually welcome having their child’s teacher initiate a discussion that they can then expand upon or even enjoy the opportunity of having their child share with them what he or she has learnt. 

For those who may have concerns about their children being exposed to material that will encourage them to experiment before they are ready, I urge you to open your eyes to what your children are already being exposed to on social media and television. I see and hear about too many children who are sending crude messages to friends and strangers at the age of 10 or 11, and of children who are watching pornographic images on YouTube before they are even teenagers. So I am not concerned that children will be negatively influenced by what at they are being shown or taught by people who are trained to understand children and their development.

After looking over the 244 page document, the Ministry is quite clear that they recognize ‘some topics need to be approached with additional sensitivity, care and awareness because of their connection to family values, religious beliefs or other social or cultural norms’. I’ve even heard that students may have the option to opt out of classes in which specific topics are being addressed.

The ideal situation is for parents and educators to work together. Knowing in advance what the teacher is going to teach your children and then working alongside him or her can only benefit your children and prepare them for the realities of the 21st century. Religious and cultural beliefs aside, human beings are all the same when it comes to basic fundamental needs and wants. By recognizing and accepting this, we can work together at raising a generation of people who are comfortable in their own skin and less vulnerable as a result of being more informed.

Images from Shutterstock.

Comments | Tagged under health, school, educational, sex
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Should You Let Your Kids Watch 'Fifty Shades of Grey'?
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Have you purchased your ticket yet? You’re not alone if you’ve bought an advance ticket to one of the most talked about movies in years, Fifty Shades of Grey. On the heels of E.L. James’ unbelievable successful trilogy (more than 100 million copies sold around the globe), we now get to see if the pictures in our heads match what’s on the screen.

In my soon-to-be-released book, Why Married Couples Don’t Have Sex…at Least Not with Each Other! I write about what I call the ‘Fifty Shades Phenomenon’: ‘Perhaps spurred on by the book itself,or, more likely, by the open dialogue about sex and intimacy that it’s encouraged, women are beginning to look beyond the bookshelf in their quest for a more fulfilling sex life.’

If erotic books and movies offer some spice at night or ideas that two consenting adults can explore together, all the power to them. But that’s not what this article is really about.  It’s about what happens when children have access to the books or see the movie (despite it having restricted access in the theatres). And it’s not just about this series of books or movie. What about all the under-agers who are watching porn—soft or otherwise—on their computers or iPhones? Will their perception of what making love or having sex is be forever distorted? Will their exposure to porn and sex outside of the box forever change their definition and expectations of sex?

So, when my fifteen year old shared that she was looking forward to seeing the movie, I turned fifty shades of grey. While I can’t blame her for being curious about what all the fuss is about, and recognize that she knows a lot more about sex than I did at her age, I’d rather she not identify with Anastasia Steele as a female role model or see Christian Grey as an example of the kind of man to lust after. I’d also rather she not identify good sex with role playing a submissive female and seek out a dominant male to do it with. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong in exploring different approaches to sex once she’s had more experience with sex and intimacy. But not yet. Not now.

Parents with children much younger than mine will often share their concerns about the sexual images their sons and daughters are exposed to, even in YouTube or music videos. Many password protect their devices so that their children are less likely to find what should be restricted to adults only, but still many do, in their bedrooms or when they’re with their friends.

So, while I may be able to stop my daughter from going to Fifty Shades of Grey in a movie theatre, I know that she’s beyond me when it comes to knowing how to download a movie on her computer and that forbidden fruit is very powerful.

I’m thinking that perhaps, rather than just forbidding her from seeing the movie, it may be better to find the right time to talk to them about our concerns and why. In my case, this means talking about why I’m concerned about the portrayal of sex in Fifty Shades becoming her benchmark for what sex is all about and then, if she does see it, she will at least (hopefully) hear my voice in her head. But before I do that, please excuse me. I’m off to purchase my advance ticket. For research purposes only, of course.

Image of Fifty Shades of Grey from Shutterstock.

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