School is back for the year here is Australia (hear that? It’s the collective sigh of relief from parents around the country!) and it is time to have a chat about how YOU can improve the state of Sexuality Education in this country.
Teachers have it tough at the moment. Teaching sex ed in the current climate is a hot bed of political pitfalls. Teachers I have spoken to are feeling overwhelmed and under-resourced, and frankly, unsupported for most of the time.
They need your help.
One of my major goals for the Courageous Conversations Parent Seminars was to bring conversations about sex, love and self esteem back home. To encourage families to talk about these things, with ease, and within a cultural context that is relevant to each family.
Let’s face it – teachers cannot teach everything, in line with each and every individual set of values and ethics. It is impossible.
But you can help them, and your own kids, in a few simple ways. It’s a new school year, and there a few questions you can ask your school in order to be an ally for them, whilst creating excellent opportunities for relevant conversations with your kids.
These are the questions you can be asking straight away…
** What, if any, sexuality education is scheduled to be taught that year? It may be developmentally focussed (puberty), it may be reproduction focused. It might even have a relationship focus.
** Who will be delivering that content? In primary school, it might be their ordinary teacher, or an outside company.
** WHEN will this be happening? This one is a biggie. Some schools send home letters giving parents a day or so notice that tricky topics are coming up – some parents have no idea. Some kids will come home and share their experience, but some kids will be so mortified they will not say a word in the hope that it will all just go away. Knowing the timing of these lessons will allow you to do some gentle prep prior, as well as explore more detailed themes that cannot be covered in a classroom situation afterwards.
** You can ask for a copy of the resources or curriculum your school will be using to create the lessons. You can learn what is going to be taught, and in your opinion, what is going to be missed. Rather than adding to the load of an already overloaded system – be the one that can fill in the gaps for your family. Being prepared means you have time to consider what you would like your child to know, and what your personal values and ethics are. Because honestly – that is not for a school to teach, ever.
** If you feel totally overwhelmed, you now have time to engage some help. Talk to other parents, share resources. Share stories. Have the conversations yourself before you have them with your kids. Do your research, and get some help if you need it.
All of the above is also totally relevant for each year in high school, but as your child heads into the upper levels (year 10 and above) you might want to start considering some of these points as well.
Contraception & STI prevention.
How is it being taught and by whom? What forms of contraception are being covered (PS: preaching abstinence is not educating teenagers about contraception!)
Are free condoms available at the school? If so, where? If not, why not? (Yes, I know how uncomfortable this makes most parents, but for those kids who are in high school and sexually active, you want to be sure they are not choosing to ride bare back due to a lack of availability)
Counselling & rape crisis services
Does the school have a counsellor on hand? How many days a week? How do kids get sessions? Can you? Do they have information about date rape, drug and alcohol issues and sexual assault readily available and how can young people access that information?
Online porn, bullying and sexual harassment
What are the school’s internet access policies? Where can young people go if they are experiencing any issues in the cyber world? Will there be information sessions during the year about these issues? Are there sessions for parents? If not, can there be? Or where can they recommend you get more information?
Not all of these things are going to be relevant for you and your family, but I strongly encourage you to start being an ally to your school and teaching community by filling in the gaps. The only way this is going to happen is if you get brave and start having the conversations.
Good luck – and remember to reach out if you need help!
If you are a teacher – you can always request we come and run a Courageous Conversations Parent Seminar at your school. Drop me a line and lets talk.